Video: Rinjiro Shirata — “A Catalog of Prewar Aiki Budo Techniques”

“The Bridge between Aiki Budo and Modern Aikido”

This video is one of the most important visual documents in the Aikido Journal archives. Rinjiro Shirata, 9th dan Shihan, demonstrates scores of prewar Aiki Budo techniques in commemoration of his 70th birthday. This document, nearly 30 years old and virtually unknown, will help aikido instructors and practitioners bridge the gap between the prewar curriculum of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba and modern aikido. It constitutes an excellent tool in the endeavor to track the evolution of aikido technique.

In this video, you will discover many Aiki Budo techniques you have never seen before. As with the Kanemoto Sunadomari book we released a few days ago, the techniques covered are closer to Morihei Ueshiba “Aiki Budo” film than to modern aikido.

Bio of Rinjiro Shirata

Born on March 29, 1912 in Yamagata Prefecture to a family of Omoto believers, Rinjiro Shirata was accepted into the Kobukan Dojo of aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba as an uchideshi in 1933. Known for his modest character and great physical strength, he quickly became one of the star pupils of the “Hell Dojo,” as the founder’s early school was called. Shirata later spent a short period teaching aiki budo in Osaka before being drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army. He spent the war years stationed in Burma until his repatriation.

Shirata’s training was interrupted for several years due to the war, but he began actively teaching again in Aomori in 1959. In 1962, he received the 8th dan rank from the founder. At this time his teaching activities were concentrated in his native Yamagata. Shirata was awarded 9th dan in 1972 by Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and is one of only a handful of people ever to have achieved this rank. Shirata was also active in the International Aikido Federation following its establishment in 1976. He occupied several high posts and served on the technical council. He traveled to Honolulu in 1978 in connection with the IAF and to Chicago in 1984 at the invitation of Akira Tohei Sensei. On both occasions foreign practitioners responded enthusiastically to his skillful, yet gentle approach to teaching.

Devoted to the spread of aikido and one of the staunchest supporters of the Ueshiba family, Shirata was a regular participant over the years in major Aikikai-sponsored events such as the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration, the Iwama Taisai, and the Kagami Biraki New Year Celebration at the Tokyo Hombu Dojo.

Duration: 27:27 minutes
Access: Free through Monday, December 19

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  1. Jean-Claude Meot says:

    Jean-Claude Meot

  2. Bruce Baker says:

    Two of my favorite teachers, Rick Stickles and John Stevens were students of Shirata Sensei, and over the years each of them have given me some interesting insights into aikido and the Japanese insight that Shirata sensei taught to them.

    There is just a much a spiritual part of Aikido that influences the whole person, even if the individual has a flawed character, the awareness of seeking the spiritual perfection that never ends, seeking the physical perfection of aikido that never ends, and the eventual loss of both these things because we human beings are flawed and all we can do is TRY to seek the illusion of perfection is no reason we should not keep trying.

    All we can do if we did not have the pleasure of training with the original teacher is to try to take the lessons the students have learned and see if we can use those lessons in our journey of perfection that never ends, at least until the big dirt nap when all the lights go out forever. Indeed, if there ever was a purpose to training, teaching, and the never-ending process of learning … it is that we all leave something behind in the people we train with and hopefully it is a spirit the helps to make the world a better place…. somehow… some way … despite our mistakes and the negativity that continually manifests itself in the world around us.

    Maybe that is why I continually study the lives and the practices of the many teachers that CHOSE to practice Aikido… the great masters who we students not only hold in high regard but the teachers within and outside the practice of Aikido hold them in high regard. There must be something we can gain from their practices, their wisdom, their lives that we can put into our practice, add to our wisdom, integrate into our lives that will enrich us so our path to perfection will be just a little bit easier, eh?

    I don’t know about you … but I found many interesting things to study and add to my aikido by studying with these two gentlemen who gave me some insight into Rinjiro Shirata, 9th dan when the chances became available… and you should not miss any chance to study with students of past masters who have passed along many fine lessons to their students … should you have the opportunity…. that is the spirit of Aikido .. a living message given to it’s students, teachers…. and just common people walking down the street…..

  3. …Perhaps it is good for us to practice as much of the original aikido as we can reconstruct. If techniques were later left behind, perhaps diligent practice will help us understand why.

  4. I was wondering if anyone knew about the significance of the wall hangings behind Shirata sensei. In particular, the one that says 神武元来無二道. I can read the kanji, but it is not a phrase that I am familiar with, other than that I recently saw it on the wall of a dojo in Australia and it piqued my interest.

  5. 神武元来無二道

    Something like . . .

    “The Way of God* 神道 and the** Martial Way 武道 were not originally two (different) Ways.”

    *I used the singular with respect to the influence of Omoto 大本 (Great Origin).
    **I used the singular because in my understanding of Ueshiba Morihei’s conception, based on his writings, there was one 神 way, that had one 武 way . . . hence the calligraphy.

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