December 5th 1927 – March 15th 2005
Shoji Nishio’s lifetime of accomplishments included numerous rankings
and honors in Japanese martial arts including 8th dan in aikido (Aikikai
Shahan), 7th dan in Nihon Zendoku iaido, 6th dan in Kodokan judo, 5th dan
in Shindo Shizen-ryu karate as well as training in Shindo Muso-ryu jodo
and Hozoin-ryu yari.
In 2003 Nishio sensei received the Budo Kyoryusho award from the Japanese
Budo Federation for his lifetime contribution to the development and advancement
of aikido throughout the world. Nishio sensei received the Budo Kyoryusho
award from the Japanese Budo Federation for his lifetime contribution to
the development and advancement of aikido throughout the world.
Shoji Nishio sensei was born in 1927 in the Aomori Prefecture of northern
In 1942, at the age of 15, amidst the chaos of WW II, he moved to Tokyo
where he began working for the Ministry of Finance in the Japanese Mint.
At the same time he started practicing judo in a nearby dojo. The war ended
August 15, 1945 and on September 1st he went to join the Kodokan, the world
headquarters of judo. Nishio recalls with amusement that he was the first
person to join the Kodokan after the war. In Kodokan Nishio trained under
the famous Kyuzo Mifune (1883-1965) 10th dan judo, the fourth of only eighteen
10th dan’s ever awarded by the Kodokan. Mifune was considered one of the
greatest judo practitioners ever. Nishio liked the hard training, but by
the age of 23 he was becoming dissatisfied with the practical limitations
that competition placed on judo. So he began training in karate under Yasuhiro
Konishi (1893-1983), one of the first karate teachers in mainland Japan.
Yasuhiro Konishi was a leading force in the development and acceptance
of karate in Japan. Konishi was the founder of Shindō jinen-ryū (神道自然流)
karate. Konishi also studied aikido under Morihei Ueshiba, a relationship
that extended back to the 1930′s when Ueshiba was teaching at his Kobukan
Dojo in the Shinjuku ward of Tokyo. Inspired by Uehiba’s frank comments,
Konishi developed three kata, Tai-sabaki Shodan, Tai-sabaki Nidan and Tai-sabaki
Sandan, all based on the same principles inspired by Ueshiba. Konishi said
that Ueshiba was the best martial artist he had ever known.
Ueshiba’s reputation became known to Nishio a couple years after he began
training with Konishi. In 1952, a senior instructor at Konishi’s dojo,
Toyosaku Sodeyama, mentioned to Nishio, now just 25 years old, that he
had seen a martial artist who was like a “phantom!” Nishio says,
“I was amazed that there was someone that even Sodeyama Sensei couldn’t
strike. It was O-Sensei (Morihei Ueshiba)… Anyway, I went to see aikido
and immediately joined the dojo. I was told to go and take a look at aikido,
but I never went back to karate!”
Aikido training at Hombu dojo was not conducted by O-Sensei, but by Kisshomaru
Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei. It was a year and a half after starting aikido
at Hombu before Nishio would see the famed Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei, for
the first time. O-Sensei spent most of this time in the country in Iwama.
When Nishio finally saw the founder in action he was impressed by his lightening
fast swordsmanship and deft handling of the jo. Even so, Ueshiba offered
little explanation about what and how of his aikido. This left many unanswered
questions for Nishio. And when he asked his teachers about the role of
the ken (sword) and jo in aikido they did not give him an adequate answer
After seeing the Founder’s ineffable use of these weapons his interest
to learn more was kindled. Nishio took things into his own hands and in
1955 he started iaido under Shigenori Sano (10th dan Muso Jikiden Eishin-ryu),
and then jodo under Takaji Shimizu (headmaster of Shindo Muso-ryu). Informed
by his combined experience in judo, karate, iaido and jodo, Nishio’s Aikido
started to take on a distinctive flavor which did not always meet with
the approval of his aikido teachers.
Nishio sensei felt that atemi was an essential aspect of any true martial
art, but it was entirely absent from post-war aikido. He felt that it was
misguided to say that aikido could function as a martial art without using
strikes. Atemi based on both karate and sword movements were integrated
into every technique.
In 1980 Nishio sensei retired from his government job at the mint and
was free to devote himself fully to his training and teaching. He began
traveling abroad to the U.S., Scandinavia and Europe and continued for
the next 20 years.
His decades of work in iaido and jodo developed into a thoroughly integrated
approach to combined empty hand, ken and jo. Nishio sensei developed a
new form of iaido called Toho Iaido which illuminates the deep relationship
between the katana (Japanese sword) and techniques in aikido. Toho Iaido
continues to evolve in the hands of Nishio’s successor, Koji Yoshida shihan.
The methods of Nishio sensei are thoroughly rooted in the traditional use
of these weapons. The sword work performed by Nishio sensei sword is otonashi
(音無し) or silent, meaning that the contact between blades is minimal and
movements are done in the gaps of the opponents attack.
The ken and jo are central to Nishio Aikido. Nishio sensei said that,
“ O-Sensei said that ‘Aikido is the expression of the principles of the
sword through the body.’ Therefore, understanding Aikido without first
understanding the sword is quite strange. It seems to me that those who
claim there are no weapons techniques in aikido have not understood the
founder’s words.” Nishio sensei was not only diligent about the technical
aspects of aikido, he was faithful to aikido’s philosophy. He did not merely
attempt to imitate the founder’s art. He took O-Sensei’s teaching to heart
and combined it with his broad knowledge and skill resulting in a highly
ethical as well as effective form of budo.
Shoji Nishio shihan passed away on March 15, 2005 at the age of 77.
with abridgement taken from nishikazeaikido.org
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