The Iaido Journal  Jan 2004

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Review of Shioda Gozo Jikiden

By Paul Laxon

Originally a set of 10 VHS video tapes, these 10 volumes have been collected onto a 3 DVD set with a total run time of more than 3 hours. I purchased the series on-line from Mugendo Budogu for $135 US.

This series of master classes taught by Gozo Shioda Kancho was videotaped over several months in 1989. Each volume is comprised of the instructional time of two classes (about 30 minutes per volume).

Now for the disclaimer—the entire series is in Japanese…and I don’t speak Japanese. But, despite this obvious barrier to getting the most out the videos, I think they are a worthwhile investment.

Each class starts with a few minutes of Kancho in seiza, talking (if you don’t speak Japanese either you can fast forward past this). The bulk of the time is spent demonstrating technique with an uke, but even here he is talking constantly. Fortunately the video quality is very good. There are clear close-ups of his hands and feet as he points out and exaggerates the movements of what he is trying to show.

By “technique” I do not mean any of the standard set of Yoshinkan kihon or even oyo waza. All of what he shows comes from uke grabbing. Grabbing wrist, elbow, shoulder, chest, belt—even legs at one point; the grabs are with one hand and two, with one person, two, sometimes three or four. He is showing more than just how to take uke’s balance, he is showing how to drop them like a stone to the mat with a turn of the wrist, a bend of the waist, a drop of the hips. At other times he uses a whip-like twist of the hips to launch uke into the air. He was 74 years old when this was filmed, and still incredibly powerful.

He was the master, and I’m not sure anyone could do what he does. But that never stops people from trying. In some ways there might be an advantage to being forced to watch the movements very closely without the “interference” of his monologue.

What would have really helped me, not being able to understand what he is saying, would have been more shots of students working together with Kancho correcting what they are doing. There are only a few of these, but it also gives some reassurance when even experienced senior students are having difficulties executing the technique they have just been shown.

You could look at the process as trying to “steal the secrets” of the master by just watching what he is doing (with the advantage of being able to pause, rewind, and play it over frame by frame). It would be a good idea at some point to watch the video with some other people and discuss (and then try out) what he is showing.

So, even if you don’t have a friend who speaks Japanese to help you interpret, I think this DVD set has great value. They are things to come back to and watch again and try out as you gain more experience in aikido (even if it is not Yoshinkan aikido).

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TIN Jan 2004