“Seigo Yamaguchi Sensei (1924-1996): Consigned to oblivion?” by Stanley Pranin


“This means these videos are rapidly deteriorating, and in a few more years, will be unviewable… lost to the dustbin of history!”

Seigo Yamaguchi was one of the most highly respected teachers of the first postwar generation of Aikikai shihan. His inimitable style of aikido dazzled and baffled three generations of aikido devotees. He was especially popular among French practitioners. The best known of his foreign students is the stellar French instructor Christian Tissier.

Why do I speculate that Yamaguchi Sensei may be consigned to oblivion? He published no books. He disliked interviews, and repeatedly refused to be interviewed by Aikido Journal. To my knowledge, there are no published interviews of Yamaguchi Sensei extant.

There are a few home videos of his techniques to be found on youtube, usually of poor video and audio quality. Aikido Journal was able to rescue one of these long-buried videos and convert it into what I believe to be the only commercial video of Yamaguchi Sensei available. The originals of these old videos are mostly in private hands in VHS videotape format. This means they are rapidly deteriorating, and in a few more years, will be unviewable… lost to the dustbin of history!

So what does the aikido world do about this sad state of affairs? Nothing? This despised word “nothing” is not in my vocabulary. I know exactly to do with the video unearthed by Sakura Mai on youtube and featured in today’s newsletter. This video is of better video quality than most from this era, but the real surprise is its relatively clear audio. This is highly unusual!

So here’s what can be done and what I would like to do. I can download the video, isolate the audio track and greatly enhance its quality making it quite easy to understand. The audio content is outstanding and we can begin to reconstruct the teachings and philosophy of this great teacher based on his words here so that he does NOT fade into oblivion!

I need one native Japanese aikidoka who will transcribe the Japanese audio track of the video into a subtitling software program. I already have a tutorial available on the use of this program. Any volunteers?

Do we make the effort to piece together his genial legacy as a community? I certainly hope so!


  1. Robert Keith says:

    Pranin Sensei,

    I absolutely agree and support your effort. I unfortunately, am not a Japanese speaker, however I strongly believe that the expertise and legacy of Yamaguchi Shihan needs to be preserved for current and future generations of Aikidoka. I will help any way that I can.

    Thank you for your work and dedication to this pursuit.


    Robert Keith

  2. Nice Proyect! I’m from Argentina, and I can only offer myself to make subtitle translation from english to spanish.

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