NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

If there is a picture depicting the Trinity of Nihon Goshin Aikido, this would have to be it.  Taken on the day , Shihan Bowe received his sho-dan, the picture shows Shihan Bowe executing a side thrust kick to Master Nara, with Master Morita in the background.

Master Morita operated a single dojo with Master Tominosuke Nara, his Stepson.  The dojo was located in Chitose on the island of Hokkaido in Japan  It was here that Shihan Bowe trained and earned his Shodan in Nihon Goshin Aikido.

Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ In Japan:

Nihon (“Japanese”) Goshin (“Self-Defense,” or alternatively, “Life Protection”) Aikido

was founded by Master Shodo Morita in Hokkaido, Japan.

Soke (founder) Shodo Morita was a student of Kōtarō Yoshida in Daito Ryu Aiki Jiu-Jitsu.  In addition to training in Daito Ryu, Master Morita trained in Judo, Kodudo (weapons), Karate, and some of the esoteric arts.

After many years of study, Master Morita concluded that although each art was highly effective, a mixed martial perspective would provide a generally more well rounded martial solution.  His reasoning:  the Karate arts focused mostly on striking, the Judo arts focused on mostly throwing, the Daito-ryu Aiki Jiu-Jitsu arts focused primarily on joint locks.

In an attempt of synthesize component parts into a consistently effective system capable of weathering all manner of attacks, Master Morita consolidated principles and techniques within these unique systems.  Master Morita then combined his techniques with Daito-ryu’s aiki (circular) themed movement throughout to create a unique self defense martial art he called “Nihon Goshin Aikido” ~ the name was recognized under the Dai Nippon Butokukai “Aikido” umbrella of arts.

From a technical perspective, it is significant to note that Master Morita did not merely choose what he perceived as the best techniques from each system.  Instead he selected a variety of techniques and principles to cover every imaginable self defense scenario.  He recognized that what works well for one person may not be as effective for a second person due to height or weight differences between uke and nage, so multiple potential solutions were taught for each potential attack.  

Of further significance was Master Morita’s decision to incorporate defenses against realistic, modern attacks [eg:  while you will occasionally see a shomenuchi (as in traditional aikido), you will most often see modern attacks like the jab, or the roundhouse punch, as well has modern holds like the full nelson, side headlock, bearhug, etc.).  Another aspect of regular training is defenses against punching combinations (eg:  two roundhouse punches, or a jab => uppercut combination, etc.) into the curriculum.

Nihon Goshin Aikido is a highly effective form due to its variety of principles and provides its students with a highly coordinated system of self defense solutions (allowing for individual style development & application preferences within the art itself), capable of handling any combination of modern attacks.

Of further note was Master Morita’s approach to his training pedagogy.  Students were taught the “core principal” of a technique; essentially a prototype against a non resistant training partner (called a “Classical Technique” or “B Kata”).  Once Master Morita’s B Kata was understood, a variety of applications were next taught to cover how to incorporate the technique against a live attacker in realistic self defense situations.  

Taught in this manner, the length of time to proficiency is greatly reduced, and personal development and understanding maximized.  

Nihon Goshin Aikido ~ Coming to America:

Nihon Goshin Aikido was brought to the United States by Mr. Richard A. Bowe. Mr. Bowe was stationed on the island of Hokkaido during his military career. While there he reviewed a variety of martial arts systems, including Karate and Ueshiba’s Aikido.  He continued searching for an art to study until he visited Shodo Morita’s dojo.  

Even though a very large man relative to his training partners, Mr. Bowe was impressed with the absolute ease with which Master Morita's students were able to throw him.  This notion is not to be brushed over lightly.  At the same time in Chitose at Kuma Station Air Base in Hokkaido, where Mr. Bowe was stationed, a young and future Shihan, Hiroshi Isoyama, was struggling to throw the much larger military students in his on base aikido club (in Shihan Isoyama’s own words: “When I tried to do koshinage on some of the taller men I found that they could just step over me; no matter how I tried the technique, I couldn’t manage to throw them because the height difference meant I couldn’t get my hips into a good position in front of theirs.”    

Mr. Bowe probably experienced this initial across the board ineffectiveness of technique, but was later sold on Master Morita’s students’ skill during his first visit.

He began training with Master Morita immediately.  After two and a half years of daily training Mr. Bowe became the first American to achieve the rank of Sho-Dan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Nihon Goshin Aikido in December of 1961.

After Master Morita's untimely death in 1962, Nara Tominosuke, Shodo Morita's stepson, became head of the art in Japan.  Mr. Bowe, having received his discharge papers from the Army, had already returned to the United States and began teaching Nihon Goshin Aikido at a local karate school, also in 1962.  A year later, on September 12, 1963, Mr. Bowe opened his own dojo in Guttenberg, New Jersey.

During the period after Master Morita’s death, Mr. Bowe and Master Nara corresponded regularly about the progress of their dojos.  Mr. Bowe was never able to return to visit Japan, but every few years, Mr. Bowe would receive a letter of promotion from Master Nara.  In 1976, Master Nara promoted Mr. Bowe to Go-Dan (Shihan) shortly before retiring from public teaching.

Master Nara passed away later in 1978.  In respect for his teachers, Mr. Bowe has maintained his current rank, and as a result Nihon Goshin Aikido only has 5 dan grades (instead of 10 ~ as is typical in most martial arts schools).

It is believed that Nihon Goshin Aikido is no longer taught in Japan any longer, but dan rated practitioners from Mr. Bowe's Guttenberg dojo and the students of his students have opened numerous dojos throughout the United States.

Mr. Bowe is considered a "pioneer" in the martial arts industry for his efforts in passing on his art, and he continues to teach a Friday class for Nihon Goshin Aikido Black Belts.  Attending students must contact Mr. Bowe on Wednesday indicating their desire to attend the training session on Friday.

Clarification for Those Who Believe Nihon Goshin Aikido to Be an Illegitimate Form of “Aikido” Because it is Not Derived from Morihei Ueshiba's “Aikido:”

It must be made clear that the term “Aikido” is a general term to describe the martial arts that stress Aiki as a principle of movement.  “Aikido” was the title given to O’Sensei’s art, and those other arts that were similar in design of movement.  The word “Aikido” was coined by Mr. Hisatorri (a member of the Dai Nippon Butokukai).  O’Sensei never named his art ‘aikido’ ~ O’Sensei’s art fell underneath the style of a precontrived name (Aikido) as did Shodo Morita’s art.  

Consider this excerpt from a Stanley Pranin interview with the head of the Dai Nippon Butokukai, Mr. Minoru Hirai to prove the point.

“Aikido,” rather than being a specifically selected name, was the term used to refer to “Butokukai-Ryu” aiki budo within the Dai Nippon Butokukai. Mr. Hisatomi (a member of the Butokukai), argued for this name proposal energetically and explained that “aikido” would be a better name than “aiki budo” (the earlier name that had been given) for this new section, because it would be better to stress the idea of “michi” or “way.”  Mr. Hisatomi proposed that the name “aikido” be used as term to designate an all-inclusive budo and I agreed with him.”

“(continuing) In other words, the term “aikido” was a cover-all term that could include other things as well. Mr. Hisatomi’s idea was to intentionally select the name “aikido” so that it would not be opposed by kendo or other martial arts, but rather an inoffensive, comprehensive term to group together all of the yawara schools.”   ~ Minoru Hirai (read the entire interview here).  

Further here is a statement by Jose’ Garrido, who began studying Nihon Goshin Aikido in 1964 ~ one of Mr. Bowe’s first students upon returning to the United States from Japan ~ and a current fully licensed Daito ryu instructor.

First and foremost, Nihon Goshin Aikido has NEVER claimed to be related to Ueshiba's brand of aikido.  Nihon Goshin Aikido is a practical, self-defense oriented, martial art derived from Master Shodo Morita. I have seen Mr. Bowe’s promotion certificates from Master Morita (and master Nara), and they do read ‘Aikido.’

What is different is that Richard Bowe used American/English names for his techniques (to reduce the steepness of the learning curve for new students by eliminating the language barrier), and arranged the techniques into groups of 10 that are taught at each belt level.

“What is the same?  The techniques.  These "aikido" waza are present: ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, yonkyo, hiji jime, kotegaeshi, kokyunage, kaiten nage, shomen iriminage, sokumen iriminage, sudori.

Now the jiujutsu based waza which are also present: osotogari, ogoshi, ippon seionage, seio-otoshi, kani basami, yoko wakare, hara guruma and more.....

I started my NGA training in 1964 and I can assure you that it is an aikido system with its roots in Daito-ryu because it has some Daito-ryu techniques that can be traced directly to its Daito-ryu version without any changes.

The only other thing that I must add is that Richard Bowe is and was an exemplary martial artist and instructor. When I trained with him, he was a hard task master about correct technique. I feel that if you want to train in a practical and effective Gendai (modern) Budo (martial way) Nihon Goshin Aikido is it. ~ Jose' Garrido

For more information, please consult the Parallel Aikido History & Geanology Table.

In the beginning, there was 
only one dojo.

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Master Nara, 2nd Deshu, and Master Moritas’s step son.

Picture taken in Master Morita’s Chitose Dojo on the island of Hokkaido in Japan

Shihan Bowe Receiving his

Sho Dan Certificate from

Master Morita.

Master Morita presented his own black belt to Shihan Bowe at the ceremony.  

In the early years, Shihan Bowe presented every NGA black belt Shodo Morita’s Black Belt at their promotion ceremony, and allowed them to wear it for that training session.

Jose’ Garrido serving as uke for Shihan Bowe on the cover of the 1974 edition of the Masters of Self Defense Magazine.  

Kōtarō Yoshida ~ Shodo Morita’s Daito-Ryu instructor.

Small World Factoid:   Kōtarō also introduced O’Sensei to Takeda Sokaku.