Aug
15

“Yoichiro Inoue: Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” by Stanley Pranin

Inoue with Yoshitaka Hirota c. 1935

Morihei Ueshiba is universally recognized as the founder of aikido. Historians of this martial art mention to varying degrees the significant roles of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and the Omoto religion in providing the basis for Ueshiba’s technique and spiritual beliefs, respectively. Similarly, the founder’s debt to such benefactors as Admiral Isamu Takeshita, Kenji Tomita, Kinya Fujita, and others who assisted him over the years is clearly acknowledged. Several of Ueshiba’s early students including Kenji Tomiki, Minoru Mochizuki, Gozo Shioda, Koichi Tohei, and his son Kisshomaru are also widely known for their contributions in spreading the art in the postwar period as the heads of their respective organizations. In contrast, the name of Yoichiro Inoue is mentioned only occasionally as one of Morihei’s early students who also happened to be his nephew. That such an important contributor to the development of the art has been given such short shrift in aikido histories is an inexcusable omission and one that I hope to right through the article that follows.

Because of a lack of historical context presented in Morihei biographies published thus far, one is easily left with the impression that the founder made several major life decisions that proved key to the subsequent birth of aikido primarily on his own initiative. I refer specifically to such important events as his stay in Tokyo in 1901 with the intention of becoming a merchant, his relocation to Hokkaido as a settler in 1912, and his precipitous move with his entire family to the Omoto religious community in Ayabe in 1920. The reality of the matter is that the wealthy Inoue family of Tanabe to which Yoichiro belonged played a significant part in all of these major life choices of the young Ueshiba. The Ueshiba-Inoue family link is an undeniable fact of history and the names of Zenzo and his son, Yoichiro, as well as Zenzo’s younger brother Koshiro emerge with conspicuous frequency in connection with Morihei Ueshiba from around the turn of the 20th century through 1935.

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