Shojin-ryu is a derivative (style) of Nihon Goshin Aikido, which is mainly derived from Daity-ryu Aiki-jujitsu.
Nihon Goshin Aikido was founded in Hokkaido, Japan by Morita Shodo. Master Morita had trained in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujitsu, Karate (perhaps Shotokan), Kodokan Judo, some weapons arts, and some other arts. Our knowledge of this background is limited, for reasons we will discuss shortly.
After studying multiple arts – and gaining some level of mastery in some – Morita determined that none were the complete system he wished to teach. Much of this is due to the tradition of how samurai were taught: many schools specialized in swords, empty-hand combat, etc. Morita took the best-fitting principles and techniques from each art he had studied and combined them into a single martial art, which he named Nihon Goshin Aikido (fairly translated: “the way of Japanese self-defense by meeting the energy”).
A young American GI named Richard Bowe was stationed in Japan in the early 60’s. He had prior training in other arts, including extensive training in Goju-ryu Karatedo, as well as some training in Kodokan Judo and some exposure to Ueshiba’s Aikido. Bowe (6’ 4”) was much larger than the Japanese he trained with, and was frustrated by how much harder that made it for them to control him. When he encountered Morita Shodo’s dojo, he was impressed by the students’ ability to deal with his larger size. Mr. Bowe studied with Master Morita until Morita’s death in 1962, earning his black belt (and instructor certification) during that time. An interesting note: though Mr. Bowe spoke Japanese, the students and instructors at the dojo in Chitose requested that he speak English (and translate the names of the techniques) so they could improve their skills in that language.
After Morita’s death, Mr. Bowe trained for a time under Nara Tominosuke (Master Morita’s stepson, who took over leadership of the art) before returning to America. Mr. Bowe opened his first NGA dojo in the US on 12 September 1963. To adapt the art to his teaching style and the Western mindset, Mr. Bowe created a more formal structure, dividing the art’s 50 main techniques into 5 sets (thus, 5 attainable student ranks), standardizing a formal kata for each, called a “Classical Technique”.
Over the next couple of decades, Mr. Bowe and Master Nara kept in touch and corresponded about their students and their teaching. Periodically, Nara would send Bowe notification that he (Bowe) was being promoted to a higher rank, progressing to Go-dan (5th degree). Mr. Nara retired from teaching and closed down the dojo prior to his death. As far as we know, no other instructor has ever had a dojo in Japan in the NGA system.
Thus, for many years, the Nihon Goshin Aikido Association (NGAA), led by Richard Bowe, was the foundation of the development and teaching of the art. Eventually, some instructors began to diverge from the Association, for various reasons. At this writing there are three significant Associations that help carry NGA forward: the NGAA, the Nihon Goshin Aikido Federation, and the Nihon Goshin Aikido Yudansha-kai. There are many instructors teaching NGA or NGA blended with other arts, and most follow the mainline curriculum (the basic curriculum introduced by Richard Bowe).
Shojin-ryu is a style (“ryu” actually means “style”) of Nihon Goshin Aikido. The techniques are essentially the same as the mainline curriculum, though the organization and presentation differ markedly. Shojin-ryu also has a different ranking system (4 student ranks and 2 instructor ranks, versus 5 student ranks and 6-10 instructor ranks in most mainline systems).
The Shojin-ryu curriculum was developed by Gerry Seymour over a period of about 10 years between 2005 and 2015.
Shojin-ryu maintains the Classical Techniques from the mainline curriculum (in Shojin-ryu, “Classical forms”), though they are not the core teaching element, and are joined by multi-part kata to give students more options for self-study and practice at home. While the teaching style and emphasis is different, the techniques and movement are still much the same as within the mainline curriculum.
Shojin-ryu and Mainline Nihon Goshin Aikido
We are a part of the larger NGA family. We welcome sharing and interchange between students of NGA, regardless of their affiliation. In theory, it would be possible for a single instructor to carry rank in both mainline NGA and Shojin-ryu, but it seems impractical. Therefore, we recommend all dojos and study groups in Shojin-ryu form a secondary relationship with a qualified mainline instructor, to help build the NGA family.
We happily welcome all members of the NGA family, whether in an association or not, to train with us. While we cannot recognize the rank of a student (or instructor) if they move to one of our dojos (and would not expect them to recognize ours, either), learning the new curriculum to attain a similar rank should be a painless process for most.