NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

How to Grow the Art? A Study in Multiplication Through Division

By Jonathan Wilson

22 April 2015

If you stop to consider the Ueshiba influenced strain of Aikido and their organizational structure (see Aikido geneology table for your consideration for reference). You’ll note at least 10 fractures and splits in which leadership disagreed on a particular point, and endeavored to go it alone with their understanding of Ueshiba’s Aikido ~ than reconcile core beliefs and philosophies.

If you consider the Ki no Kenkyukai/Shinshin Toitsu Aikido (Ki Society), you will notice that they are one of the last offshoots of Ueshiba under the heading “Derivative Modern Aikido.”  It is also noteworthy that the founder of Ki Society, Koichi Tohei, had served as the long time primary instructor at the Aikikai Headquarters Dojo.  After O’Sensei’s death, Koichi Tohei’s relationship with O’Sensei’s son (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) became strained.  At issue was a difference of opinion on how best to covey O’Sensei’s teachings on the matter of ki.

Egos clashed, and within a few short years of O’Sensei’s passing, Koichi Tohei the senior instructor (who actually outranked the second doshu) left the organization to start his own aikido association ~ known generally in the United States as “Ki Aikido” (and “the Ki Society”).  As mentioned, Ki Society seems to focus more on the aspects of ki in aikido, and they tend to roll more than breakfall, but they are doing O’Sensei influenced aikido).  Two of these Ki Society practitioners wrote “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere”).

All Ueshiba influenced aikido organizations hang pictures of O'Sensei on the shomen.  They both teach their students aikido.  If you like the idea of meditation and breathing exercises as part of your warm up (and many do) ~ which O’Sensei did from time to time ~ then Ki Society may be for you.  If you don’t enjoy those meditative breathing exercises, then you might be better off in an Aikikai dojo.

The point is that they are teaching the same art; with a slightly different emphasis of style.  This difference in style allows for a student to pick his preference ~ and the opportunity to chose a preference within the confines of the greater art itself is a big part of Ueshiba Influenced Aikido’s general overall success.  

Another amazing point in finding unity within ~ which is the whole point of aikido ~ is that rank between the various offshoots of traditional aikido are generally all recognized by the Aikikai headquarters dojo.

So, how do we apply this lesson to ourselves?  Well, first off, I think its important to define what is truly valuable.  Then when personalities in Nihon Goshin Aikido leadership do not get along (over something that is actually important), and have different ideas about some aspect of the art [eg:  “The Classical Technique of the Wheel Throw should finish in an extended Hamni instead of a regular hamni” ~ as if it really matters, or as if you would actually perform a “Classical Version of the Wheel Throw” on the street and “stick the finish (whether extended hamni or regular hamni)” rather than immediately recover to look for the next attacker, etc.), o] if you have a different notion of what should be done or not done for a junior youth curriculum (eg:  "Tiny Tot Aikido" is a business decision for many unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos as a way to generate more revenue to the dojo ~ but a 4 year old isn't going to be able to do the official kids’ curriculum, or whatever) ~ the point is all these things probably still fall within the realm on Nihon Goshin Aikido.

Do small differences matter so much that if a group of 4-6 year olds never learn the Slap to the Side of the Head?  Is it okay that they learn something more age appropriate? ~ Like how not to get hurt when you fall down on the playground by rolling or executing a breakfall? (Of course not.), Etc.  

That said if one is saying it must be this way, and you believe otherwise, then you need to leave the organization, and join a new one, or form your own organization, etc.  Keep in mind that leaving the organization has nothing to do with your ability to continue teaching the art, or your respect for Master Morita, Master Nara, Shihan Bowe, etc.  Continue to honor them in your new dojo, or in your associations new dojo.  Whatever you do, never stop teaching the art.  If you stop teaching, the art loses.

In my humble opinion, as long as the 50 Classical Techniques are taught, you are teaching NGA, but just for fun ask yourself this question:  "What other techniques would Master Morita have added by now had his life not been cut short?"

Fixing the art in place is a good thing in one sense ~ and that is consistency of teaching, but it is also likely that Master Morita would have adjusted his curriculum also.

Multiplication by division is commonplace and unavoidable.  To pretend otherwise is to deny natural law.

As we see it at NGA Experience (,

the most important thing is not the dojo affiliation, but that the art itself is practiced and understood.

Perhaps a few metaphors:  

Example #1:

Imagine a cherry tree.  Left to its own devises, it will yield its fruit and that fruit will drop directly underneath the branches of that single tree.  While a simple phenomenon to the obvious, the business manager in me has to point out that what is natural is in no way considered effective in growing a cherry orchard.  

That said, what if you pruned some of the branches from the main tree?  If you did, you could "re-root" them, and gain a cherry tree foothold in new territory ~ which would drop fruit in the vicinity of its newly location ~ increasing the available cherries in an near unlimited variety.  This is multiplication by division (pruning) ~ in the oldest profession known to man (farming).

Example #2:

Consider all the Baptist churches in your town. Good, well meaning people attend all of them.  Generally speaking, they believe basically the same things, but there is a reason they do not all go to one big church.  That reason of course is not all that significant in terms of the big picture.  

One church member wants a contemporary worship experience that has a guitar player, bass player, and a drummer, and plays hymns that were written 6 months ago. Another church member has the belief that only songs written by John Wesley and played on an organ are divine.  

In its simplest terms, the preferences of each individual church goer can not be met within the context of a single service. So, rather than deny their faith ~ which is something neither member can do, one member strikes out on his own, forms a new church to suit his preferences (and the people that agree with his tastes follow him).  

Bring up anything that two people are passionate about, and you’ll find disagreement at some point between them.  Sometimes people disagree ~ but that doesn't mean they are not still true to what is most important to them.  

The same thing can be said with our art.  Therefore, if ever personalities within Nihon Goshin Aikido lose their ability to coexist, the art must win ~ and for the art to win, personalities must separate themselves (to stop teaching the art would mean that the art loses ~ to continue the promotion of the art ~ these forces must recognize the irreconcilable nature of their relationship and divide forces so that the art can be advanced).  

This happens all the time in real life why should it be any different in our dojos? Loyalty (for loyalty’s sake) can only take you so far.

The idea of adhering to a standard of exclusivity ~ to claim that IF you are not currently tied to Mr. Bowe (when we ALL come from Master Morita) then you can not represent Nihon Goshin Aikido, goes against the grain of common sense.

One thing is certain:  Master Morita did not develop his legendary skill in a vacuum.  

Consider these points:

  1. At some point, Master Morita split off from his instructor(s) to open his own dojo ~
  2. He combined techniques from many styles and synthesized them into one art ~
  3. Whose pictures were hanging on the wall in Master Morita’s Chitose dojo?

Let me ask you:  Was Master Morita’s art considered an apostasy by his former instructors?  I should hope not!

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General Thoughts On the Growth Of Nihon Goshin Aikido:

If ever personalities within the leadership of Nihon Goshin Aikido lose their ability to coexist, the art must win ~ and for the art to win, the personalities in conflict must separate themselves.  

To stop teaching or studying the art would mean that the art loses.

To continue the promotion of the art, forces must divide when they can no longer coexist.  The art must go forward.

Those who would see politics and ego trumpeted over the expansion of the art itself may need to reevaluate their priority list.

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