Morihei Ueshiba Sensei (1883 - 1969)
Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido, was born December 14, 1883 and died April 26, 1969 at the age of 86. In his early thirties, he began the study of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu under Sokaku Takeda. He was one of Takeda Sensei's most gifted students. Ueshiba Sensei later altered what he had learned from Takeda Sensei (based on many years of hard daily training, based on his studies of other martial arts, and based on his religious studies). He completely changed the combative art of Aiki-jujutsu to a way of studying harmony with nature.
Gozo Shioda Sensei (1915 - 1994): Yoshinkai Aikido
One of the earliest students of Ueshiba Sensei was Gozo Shioda (born September 9, 1915). Shioda Sensei began studying under Ueshiba Sensei in May of 1932. He continued his training (for approximately 8 years) until he was forced to go to Formosa in World War II. It is unclear how long Shioda Sensei continued to study with Ueshiba Sensei after his return to Japan. What is clear, however, is that Shioda Sensei had the opportunity to study under the founder of Aikido early on - during the period where Ueshiba Sensei's techniques were the most active and clear.
When Shioda Sensei established the Yoshinkan Dojo in Tokyo, his interest was in teaching a form of Aikido based solely on Ueshiba Sensei's sharp and clear techniques. So, in establishing the Yoshinkan Dojo, Shioda Sensei strictly cut out all of the "religious" components that had been a part of Ueshiba Sensei's teachings. But he did not cut out the "spiritual" components. Yoshinkan, in fact is a name that he inherited from his father who owned a kendo and judo dojo by that name. Yo means "cultivating", shin means "spirit" or "mind", kan means "house". Thus, Yoshinkan is the house for the cultivation of the spirit. Shioda Sense passed away on July 15, 1994, at the age of 78.
Takashi Kushida Sensei (1935 - ): Yoshokai Aikido
Takashi Kushida was born May 2, 1935. He began studying Aikido with Shioda Sensei during the very early days of the Yoshinkan Dojo. Not long after he began his training, he was asked by Shioda Sensei to become one of the first uchi-deshi (live-in students) at the Yoshinkan Dojo. For ten years, Kushida Sensei lived in the dojo as an uchi-deshi. He became a certified instructor in 1964, but continued to focus on his own training in addition to teaching students junior to him.
For twenty years, Kushida Sensei stayed with Shioda Sensei. During this time, he was Shioda Sensei's number one uke (for demonstrations and in class). In addition, Kushida Sensei handled Shioda Sensei's administrative duties. In 1973, a request for an instructor was sent from Takeshi Kimeda Sensei, who currently teaches in Toronto, Canada. In response to the request, Kushida Sensei left his position as chief instructor at the Tokyo dojo and came to North America.
In 1976, Kushida Sensei started the Aikido Yoshinkai Association of North America (AYANA). In 1991, Yoshinkai Aikido in Japan established a group called the International Yoshinkai Aikido Federation (IYAF). Their representatives discussed the mission, policies, and activities of IYAF with Kushida Sensei. However, Kushida Sensei did not wish to change AYANA's standards to conform to those of the IYAF.
So, in December 1991, Kushida Sensei changed AYANA's name slightly - from Aikido Yoshinkai Association of North America to Aikido Yoshokai Association of North America - and began operating as an independent organization, completely separate from Yoshinkai Aikido in Japan.
Wayne Tourda Sensei (1939 - ): Mumonkan-Do Aikido of California
Wayne Tourda Sensei, born August 25, 1939, was introduced to Yoshinkan Aikido while watching a demonstration here in the United States. In 1969, he went to Japan to study at the Yoshinkan headquarters, then under the direction of Shioda Sensei. He remained in Japan for four years, studying primarily with Kushida Sensei at the Tokyo Dojo.
Kushida Sensei left Japan in 1973 and Tourda Sensei followed soon thereafter, helping to spread the Yoshinkan style of Aikido in North America. He remained in Canada for approximately four years. In 1977, he moved to Southern California to continue the spreading of Yoshinkan Aikido here in the United States. He originally taught for the UCLA Extension Program and, in 1978, he began teaching Aikido at Orange Coast College. In 1983 he, along with one of his senior students at the time, established the Aikido Federation of California.
At the same time that he was pursuing his study and teaching of Aikido, Tourda Sensei was pursuing studies in Zen Buddhism - initially with Roshi Phillip Paleau (Rinzai Sect) - later, and primarily, with the late Reverend Dr. Soyu Matsuoka (Soto Sect). He was formally ordained by Rev. Soyu Matsuoka, Roshi in the Soto Sect of Zen Buddhism.
Tourda Sensei, unlike Shioda Sensei and Kushida Sensei, was strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism. He desired to bring the Zen element into his teaching of Aikido, as many martial artists before him had done. Tourda Sensei remained loosely connected to the larger Yoshinkan organization. But, when he established the Aikido Federation of California in 1983, he did so in affiliation with the Zen Center of Long Beach rather than in affiliation with the Yoshinkan Organization in Japan. (The Zen center of Long Beach was Rev. Soyu Matsuoka's headquarters in the United States.)
One of Tourda Sensei's first students in Orange County, California was Lori Parker Sensei. In 1990, he encouraged Parker Sensei to establish her own dojo which, reflecting the Zen element, was called Mumonkan-Do Aikido of California. The loose translation of Mumonkan is the "Gateless Gate" or the "Gateless Barrier". Mu translates as "no" or "does not have", mon translates as "gate".
In 1990, Tourda Sensei left the Aikido Federation of California and began teaching at the Mumonkan-Do Dojo where he remained until he semi-retired in 1994. He continues, though, to teach at a local college.
Lori Parker Sensei (1955 - ): Mumonkan-Do Aikido of California
Lori Parker Sensei was born on the same day as Wayne Tourda Sensei (August 25). She began studying with Tourda Sensei in February 1980. She was one of the most dedicated of his early students - often times training 6 days a week and several hours a day. Though there were no live-in quarters available, Parker Sensei served as Tourda Sensei's primary apprentice and assistant for many years - assisting not only in demonstrations and classes by also in the administrative tasks.
In 1986, Tourda Sensei asked her to take over some teaching responsibilities at the Aikido Federation of California. By 1990, her nucleus of students had grown to almost 90 in number. It was these students, herself, and her teacher - Tourda Sensei - that formed the original Mumonkan-Do Dojo.
Following in her teacher's footsteps, Parker Sensei, while studying Aikido and pursuing her Ph.D., also pursued Zen Buddhism with Rev. Soyu Matsuoka. She was ordained a Zen Buddhist Priest by Rev. Matsuoka on June 15, 1992.
Though Parker Sensei is deeply involved in healing arts as well, she continues as the Chief Instructor of Mumonkan-Do Aikido of California. She has always been, and remains, dedicated to passing on both the sharp, clear Aikido techniques of the Shioda Sensei lineage, as well as the Zen Buddhism passed on to her by Rev. Soyu Matsuoka and Rev. Wayne Tourda.