Frozen in Motion: Rinjiro Shirata, 9th dan, at the All-Japan Demonstration

“The result is as an eerie strobe effect that
highlights the dazzling motion of the technique.”

This photo of 9th dan Rinjiro Shirata was taken at the All-Japan demonstration in Tokyo c. 1988. I was among the photographers allowed on the floor of the Budokan and snapped this photo during Shirata Sensei’s performance. The interesting thing about this photo is that, apart from the fortunate timing capturing this dynamic moment of the technique, a second flash went off at precisely the same instant. The result is as, you can see, an eerie strobe effect that highlights the dazzling motion of the technique. It’s one of the best shots I’ve ever taken and much of it was purely due to chance!

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 1932. 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.


  1. Thank you! Beautiful. Rick Rowell is working on things that look a lot like that.

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