Shoji Nishio
(西尾 昭二)

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 Japan.
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 either.
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.

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