A Talent known as the “Kobukan Prodigy”
A Contest Between Different Styles
“Fold them in two,” is a good way to put it. This certainly describes Rinjiro Shirata’s attitude. He was tough on opponents who challenged him, to the point of being uncaring. It was hard not to feel sympathy for the challenger.
Of course, he had good reason for his demeanor.
Construction of the Kobukan Dojo was completed in April 1931 on the site where the present Aikikai Honbu Dojo now stands. The dojo held 80 tatami mats and was headed by a great master of the period, Morihei Ueshiba. At the time, he was teaching a martial art called things like “Ueshiba-ryu Jujutsu” or “Aiki Budo.” Important people such as business leaders and high-ranking military officers were drawn by his fame and lined up to be his students.
At the same time, Morihei attracted young men from all over the country who came to the Kobukan in an effort to meet him. But Morihei wasn’t trying to spread his personal budo across the world. Instead, his efforts were directed toward further progress and the refinement of his personal technique. He didn’t say it was a nuisance; he just did not have much interest in having many students, especially uchideshi, or throwing his doors wide open. It could be said that, for this reason, he never admitted an aspiring student who asked to join without a proper introduction from a sponsor, and this reinforced a mystique that covered the private confines of the Kobukan like a veil.
Happily, Rinjiro Shirata, who aspired to be an aikidoka, was blessed with a sponsor and, with the teacher’s approval, became an uchideshi in 1932. A year later, he had distinguished himself among the uchideshi.
“Hey Shirata, see who’s out front!”
Whenever there was a menacing visitor, the senior uchideshi always had Rinjiro take care of it. Indeed, he had a good physique. His height was 5’ 7”, his weight, 165 pounds, and he was 20 years old. He was a son of the Yamagata “Mountain Forest King” and it showed in his countenance. His fair skin, eyes, nose and mouth projected the clear image of Momotaro, the Peach Boy, straight out of a fairy tale.
“I’ll take care of it.”