It is impossible to mention the most influential martial arts masters of the 20th century without paying homage to Minoru Mochizuki. One of the most respected masters of his generation, Minoru Mochizuki, was the founder of the influential Yoseikan school of Budo, which unified elements of various traditional martial arts disciplines. He trained directly under the judo founder, Jigoro Kano, and the aikido founder, Morihei Ueshiba, who influenced his teachings and ideas. Opposing the growing corruption of classic martial arts into separation disciplines or more commercial sports versions, Mochizuki worked hard all his life to assemble back the old techniques of Japanese martial arts into a single structure. His dojo, the Yoeikan, oversaw the development of this unified system and was home to martial arts practitioners from all over the globe.
In this article, we will view the journey Minoru Mochizuki undertook to become one of the greatest masters of martial arts.
Early Life and Introduction to Martial Arts
Born to a family of samurais, Minoru Mochizuki opened his eyes to the world on April 7, 1907, in Shizuoka. His grandfather was the last descendent from a long line of samurais and, thus, naturally an excellent instructor of swordsmanship. Meanwhile, his father, despite being a farmer, was also an expert in Kenjutsu and Jujutsu. Growing under the shadow of his father and grandfather, Mochizuki was introduced to the world of martial arts from a very tender age. Young Mochizuku began learning Kendo and Judo at his grandfather’s dojo in Shizuoka when he was only five years old.
At the young of 14, Mochizuki moved to Tokyo with his family. Opposite his new home was a Kendo dojo with an excellent reputation ran by Master Takebe – a student of Judo founder, Jigaro Kano. Mochizuki would often play in the area behind Sensei Takebe’s dojo with other local kids. One day, propelled by curiosity to see what went inside the famous dojo, he stepped over the threshold and was completely mesmerized by what he witnessed. As his interest bloomed, he started visiting the dojo every day to watch the training going on inside. His dedication did not go unnoticed as Master Takebe soon invited him in and offered him a place in his training sessions. Mochizuki remained under Sensei Tekebe’s training for almost two years until his family set on the move once again.
Time at the Kodokan
In 1924, Mochizuki began practicing Judo in the very home of Japenese Judo, the Kodokan. There, he trained under the guidance of one of the greatest judoka and kendoka of that time, Sanpo Toku. Within a span of only six months, Mochizuki achieved his 1st Judo Dan. Due to his outstanding skills, he soon came to the notice of Kyuzo Mifune, the director of the Kodokan and 10th Dan in Judo, who invited him to become his Uchi Deshi – a live-in student and apprentice. Even though training under Mifune Sensei was intense and pushed him to his limits, Mochizuki never wavered or missed a single training session. He even took part in special summer and winter training sessions in addition to his regular training.
Thanks to the instructions of his great teachers, Mochizuki turned out to be an outstanding competitor and was personally chosen by Jigaro Kano, the founder of Judo and the head of the Kodokan, to became a member of a special section of the Kodokan, the Kobudo Kenkyukai. Jigaro Kano wished to preserve the traditional disciplines of Japanese martial arts. To achieve this purpose, he set up a special section within the Kodokan, dedicated to training the best Kodokan talents in a variety of old martial arts. Here, Michozuki studied, among other disciplines, Katori Shintō Ryū with Yazemon Hayashi, Kendo from Nakayama Hakudo, and Aikijutsu with the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.
Training Under Morihei Ueshiba
In 1930, Morihei Ueshiba asked Kano sensei if Mochizuki could train with him as his Uchi-deshi. Upon Kano’s approval, Mochizuki went with Ueshiba to study Aikijujusti at the Kobukan Dojo. He trained intensely there for one year and even assisted Morihei sensei in teaching Aikijutsu to the Japanese military. However, his stay there was cut short as illness befell him, and he had to return home to Shizuoka. Back home, he reconnected with his family and, in 1931, opened his own dojo, the Budo Yoseikan.
In June 1933, Mochizuki was awarded the Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu Okuden Inka – a set of scrolls containing the secret techniques of Daito Ryu – by Ueshiba. This award was an acknowledgment of his expected mastery of the system and thus an extraordinary feat. Not long after, in 1935, he also achieved his 5th Dan in Judo.
Time in Mongolia
In 1938, Minoru Mochizuki received a powerful government office in Mongolia, so he moved there. Initially, he held the position of the director of the School for Mongols in Paou-to, but after two years, he became the Vice-prefect of the Sei-Sui-Ga district. Mochizuki spent eight years in Mongolia and contributed to the region’s development by serving as an active education and entrepreneur of various irrigation and communication projects. He also studied Chinese martial arts during whatever time he could spare.
Back Home Post WWII
Following Japan’s defeat and the end of World War II in 1945, Mochizuki returned home. As the country lay in ruins, all martial arts practice had come to a complete halt. As attempts began to rebuild the country, Mochizuki too began re-organizing his dojo in 1950. Around that time, two Frenchmen – Claude Urvois and Jim Alchiek – arrived as students to train under Mochizuki at his dojo. After training under the tutelage of Mochizuki Sensei, they returned to their home country several years later and founded the French Federation of Karate. In the later future, they would become the pioneers of Karate and Aikido in Europe.
Journey to Europe
In 1951, Mochizuki sensei was requested to be a part of a Japanese cultural delegation invited to a UNESCO event in Geneva, Switzerland. However, due to a mishap, he was unable to take part in the actual event. Despite being forced to stay in Europe, his trip was not a complete waste. He utilized his time there to give various martial arts demonstrations in Switzerland, France, and Tunisia. Doing so, he became the first martial artist to teach Aikido in the West. His efforts in Europe laid the groundwork for international interest in the martial arts taught at the Yoseikan dojo. Even after his return to Japan, his influence in Europe, especially France, continued to spread as his son moved there. Hiroo Mochizuki promoted Yosikan Karate and his paternal martial arts in France by conducting multiple courses.
Late Life and Achievements
In 1956, at the age of 49, Mochizuki achieved his 5th Dan in Kendo and Jodo. Three years later, he climbed up to 7th Dan in Judo. He also became the 3rd Aikiddo Divison Head of the Kokusai Budoin-International Martial Arts Federation, succeeding Morheibi Ueshiba and Kenji Tomiki.
Through the 60s and 70s, Mochizuki continued his teaching in Yoseikan dojo and received the highest grades in multiple disciplines he practices. He was awarded his 8th Dan in Judo in 1977, and only two years later, he received his 10th Dan in Aikido. Meanwhile, he was also awarded his grade by a member of the Japenese Royal Family.
His age did not waver his dedication to teaching martial arts so, even in his eighties, when his health limited his movements, he continued traveling to Europe to conduct classes. Towards the end of his journey, Mochizuki sensei moved to France to spend time with his son, Hiroo, and his family. He gradually withdrew from the world prostrated by old age and drew his final breath on May 30, 2003, aged 96 years in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Mochizuki sensei’s work aimed to spread Budo as a form of education, understanding, and personal development. His influential Yoesikan dojo laid the foundation for the development of European martial arts. Even after his death, his legacy continued in the hands of his successors, his son Hiroo, Jim Alchieck, Claude Urvois, and others who trained under him and went on to spread his teachings throughout the globe.