Motoha Yoshin Ryu Soke Yasumoto Akiyoshi was born in 1933 in the city of Yonago in Tottori prefecture. He previously lived in Nishinomya where he worked in the town hall for many years.
Yasumoto Soke is renowned for his skill in Jujutsu and his great interest in history and archeology. He has written much about the history of Shimane prefecture and their archaeological finds. He is also known for having one of Japan's largest collections of Ukiyo (woodblock prints) and Sho (calligraphy).
He was also a direct student of Kanazawa Ichizu (who was the father of Yasumoto Soke's friend Kanazawa Akira) and Nakagawa sensei the Soke of Mugai Ryu Iai which Yasumoto studied to 6th Dan.
Yasumoto Soke received Menkyo Kaiden (full transmission license and permission to become independent) in Takagi Ryu and also became Menkyo Kaiden in Hontai Yoshin Ryu in 1982 at the time of the appointment of the 18th Soke Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi.
Even though Yasumoto Soke was granted Menkyo Kaiden and free to be independant at the time that Inoue became Soke, he continued to assist Inoue Soke for many years as the Hontai Yoshin Ryu International Chief Instructor, and along with Hontai Yoshin Ryu Chief Instructor Kanazawa Akira, Yasumoto Sensei was one of the senior Jujutsu instructor at the Hontai Yoshin Ryu Sohonbu dojo, and upon request of Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi, Yasumoto Sensei accepted Inoue's student (and son) Kyoichi as his student and personal uke, Yasumoto continued in Hontai Yoshin Ryu to support Inoue senior and teach his son Kyoichi Munenori Inoue the higher level Jujutsu skills for 12 years.
During this time the young Inoue made Yasumoto Sensei a hanbo that he still uses to this day. Yasumoto, along with the 18th Hontai Yoshin Ryu Soke, Inoue Munetoshi Inoue, were the last generation of direct students of Minaki Saburoji and Kanazawa Ichizu (as one of the most distinguished apprentices of the 16th Soke Kakuno Hachiheita, Kanazawa Ichizu was assigned to become the substitute sensei of Kakuno's dojo).
Yasumoto Soke is renowned worldwide for his skill in Jujutsu and martial arts and since March 1981 he has been one of the major influences on traditional Jujutsu in the West. For several years he was the main teacher of Hontai Yoshin Ryu throughout Europe, Scandinavia and the USA. For many western students Yasumoto sensei was their first Hontai Yoshin Ryu teacher.
Yasumoto Soke remains true to the teachings of Kanazawa Ichizu and Minaki Saburoji and in 1999 he named his branch of Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu as Motoha Yoshin Ryu. The name Motoha refers to the "original" Takagi Ryu teachings of his teachers Kanazawa Sensei and Minaki Soke.
The history of Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu has several branches and with each branch there are some differences. As the early history was transmitted orally it should be considered as folklore or legend. Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu has several branches and any conflicting sources of the legend should not be considered as either incorrect or a historical fact.
Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu began in the Edo period originating in Oshu (present day Miyagi prefecture), then moving to the Shiroishi district (Okayama), then the Owari district (Nagoya), then the Tosa district (Koichi), and then finally to the Ako and Himeji districts (Hyogo). The ryu was especially prominent in the Himeji-han and Ako-han.
The founder of Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu was Takagi Oriemon Shigetoshi (also recorded as Takagi Oriemon Shigenobu), whose childhood name was Umon. Umon was born on January the 2nd 1635, the 12th year of Kannei (although other sources claim the 2nd of April 1625).
He died on October the 7th in first year of Shotoku (1711). He was the second son of the Inatobi (or Inatomi) family, serving Katakura Kojuro, the Lord of the Shiroishi castle in Mutsu no Kuni.
According to the legend Umon's father was attacked in the dark and murdered. Umon later avenged his father and embracing his father's teaching of "Yoboku wa tsuyoku, Takagi ga oreruzoyo" (a willow tree is flexible, but a tall tree can be broken) he later renamed himself Yoshin Ryu Takagi Oriemon Shigetoshi. Takagi Oriemon was well known for his great physical strength and is still legendary in the former Shiroishi district.
In 1993 (the fifth year of Heisei) the 18th Soke of Hontai Yoshin Ryu Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi and his students studied a grave located in former Shiroishi district and confirmed that the grave belonged to Oriemon. They performed kata at the spot in commemoration of the founder.
In the lineage of grandmasters the 2nd and 14th sokes were among the most famous. Takagi Umanosuke Shigesada, the 2nd soke, appears in Japanese legends as a kind and warm man as well as a great martial artist. He is famous for formulating one of the earliest styles of Jujutsu.
The 14th soke Ishiya Takeo Masatsugu, born 1845, was known as a master of masters in the Edo period. His most famous teachings are the words "1st eyes, 2nd speed, 3rd courage, 4th strength" and "Soft on the surface, strong on the inside". These two sayings remain chief teachings of Motoha Yoshin Ryu encouraging us to keep a calm heart as we continue training. He continued these teachings during his tenure as soke.
In 1980 Hontai Yoshin Ryu was chosen as one of the subjects for a series of documentaries on the existing schools of traditional martial arts. Currently in Japan there exist about 400 styles of martial arts but only a few styles have continued in an unbroken lineage into the present era.
Moto-ha Yoshin Ryu Jujutsu is a branch of the Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu lineage and continues the original Takagi Ryu teachings of Minaki Saburoji and Kanazawa Ichizu. Soke Yasumoto Akiyoshi is the first Soke and founder (ryuso) of Motoha Yoshin Ryu.
The second Soke and successor of Oriemon was Takagi Umanosuke Shigesada. According to legend he was very tall at nearly 7ft and as big as a Sumo wrestler. Along with Jujutsu he was a master of Bojutsu (staff/stick), Sojutsu (spear) and Naginatajutsu (halberd).
As recorded by the Takenouchi Ryu, Umanosuke had been offered a duel with Takeuchi (or Takenouchi) Hisayoshi the 3rd Soke of Takenouchi Ryu by Lord Mori Nagatsugu of Tsuyama.
Hisayoshi who was barely 5ft tall and of slight build easily defeated Umanosuke and tied him up with a rope. When Umanosuke regained his senses he used his incredible strength to break out of his bindings. As he did so Hisayoshi drew out his short sword and placed it against Umanosuke's neck telling him that if he continued he would be forced to kill him, when the Lord Mori stopped the duel declaring Hisayoshi the clear winner.
Although Umanosuke studied martial arts from an early age and had received permission to teach his own students, the duel made him realise that his skill was not complete and he asked Hisayoshi to accept him as a student. Hisayoshi accepted and Umanosuke became a student of Takenouchi Ryu Koshi no Mawari which he mastered and was given permission to teach.
At this point in history it is believed that Takagi Umanosuke renamed and established the ryu as Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu Jujutsu after developing and refining techniques that did not rely on an individual's strength or body size.
The third Soke was Takagi Gennoshin Hideshige, a son of Umanosuke. Gennoshin served Honda Nakatsukasa of the Himeji-han and there are records that have been found at Himeji Castle showing that he was paid a stipend of five hundred koku. Along with this record further study of the Himeji-han records conducted by students of Hontai Yoshin Ryu uncovered the location of his accommodation within Himeji castle.
It appears from this record that Gennoshin was highly regarded by the Himeji-han, as receiving the stipend of 500 koku was unusually high for a bugei expert.
Takagi Gennoshin and Okuni Kihei met in a contest (most probably a friendly contest). While Gennoshin's Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu Jujutsu was excellent it was decided that the Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu was superior to the Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu Bojutsu techniques and as the two masters had a close relationship they decided to join the schools together. Gennoshin later asked Kihei to succeed him as the 4th soke and when Gennoshin died at a young age Okuni Kihei Shigenobu became the fourth soke of Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu.
The fourth Soke Okuni Kihei Shigenobu was a master of Tendo Ryu Naginatajutsu and as he wanted to develop his own school he withdrew to practice and pray to his Uji-gami (his ancestor's spirit). During this time he had a dream that he was attacked by nine Oni (a Japanese demon) and although during the battle the blade of his Naginata broke he was able to fight off the demons with the staff. After this Kihei developed the techniques of Bojutsu naming the art Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu (kuki means nine demons). Since this time Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu has been taught as an integral part of the Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu school.
As Kihei was a Samurai of the Ako-han, Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu including Kukishin Ryu was inherited by the Okuni and Nakayama families, and was passed down within the Ako-han until the thirteenth generation soke.
The 13th Soke Yagi Ikugoro Hisayoshi was the first to open a public dojo after he lost his position in the Ako-han and became a masterless Samurai or Ronin. His apprentice Ishiya Takeo Masatsugu became the 14th Soke of the school.
The 14th Soke Ishiya Takeo Masatsugu opened schools in several regions. Along with teaching the skills he compiled and organised the teachings of Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu and along with this combined his own techniques called Ishiya-den. Takeo was said to have been a master of masters in the Edo period and is famous for the teachings; 1st Eyes, 2nd Speed, 3rd Courage, 4th Strength and also for the teaching of "Soft on the outside, hard on the inside".
The 15th Soke was Ishiya Matsutaro Masaharu, the son of Ishiya Takeo Masatsugu and it is believed that he left his home at an early age. It is thought that the 16th Soke Kakuno Hachiheita Masayoshi was actually a student of the 14th Soke Ishiya Takeo Masatsugu.
16th Soke Kakuno Hachiheita Masayoshi opened a dojo in Nagata-ku, Kobe city where he taught many students and also developed his own Kakuno style of technique which he taught separately from the main Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu. Kakuno Soke is considered to be one of the main masters who contributed to the evolution and technical development of the ryu.
The 17th Soke Minaki Saburoji Masanori was born in 1906 (the 39th year of the Meiji era). He was also known by the name of Kosyu. Minaki Soke began his training with the 16th Soke Kakuno Hachiheita Masayoshi at the age of 16 in 1922 (the 11th year of the Taisho era). He was granted Menkyo Kaiden (complete transmission and permission to become independent) in 1933 (the 8th year of the Showa era).
Even though Minaki Soke only stood around 5ft tall and was not heavily built he is considered to be one of the most distinguished students of the school. There are many stories of Minaki pursuing tough training such as breaking natural stone with his bare hands.
Minaki opened a dojo in Ushigome, Tokyo where he taught many students and also travelled all over Japan with his master Kakuno Hachiheita, both demonstrating and testing the school's techniques. Minaki Soke was very active in introducing the school to the public.
In 1939 (the 14th year of Showa) when Kakuno passed away, Minaki returned to Kobe where he stayed for a while before deciding to go on a journey to pursue further training. Minaki entrusted Kakuno's school to Tsutsui Tomotaro. On returning to Kobe, Minaki visited the Fumon waterfall as part of his training to develop his spirit. It was at this time that Tsutsui Tomotaro was declared the Soke of Takagi Ryu and Minaki became the Soke of Hontai Yoshin Ryu and Kukishin Ryu.
Faced with a changing post-war society Minaki Soke realised the need to refine the school's training methods. He retreated to the mountains in Kobe near the Fumon waterfall to meditate. Minaki taught that "Budo without the spirit of Buddha is heresy" meaning that a heart of mercy is the way to achieve the true budo otherwise one will fall into an evil path, and "that the development of budo requires creativity".
Although Minaki originally renamed his new style as Fumon Yoshin Ryu, he later renamed his school as Hontai Yoshin Ryu. He selected the Hontai Yoshin Ryu-Takagi Ryu techniques that he regarded as being the most important and organised them into the katas of Gyaku no Kata, Nage no Kata, Oku no Kata and Tanto Dori no Kata. Also incuded in Hontai Yoshin Ryu are selected techniques from Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu (chobo & hanbo), Muto Ryu (kodachi, tanto dori& tachi dori), and finally Hontai Yoshin Ryu Iaijutsu which was developed in the 1990's by the 18th Soke, Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi.
In 1982 (the 57th year of Showa) Minaki Soke divided the scrolls of Hontai Yoshin Ryu and Kukuishin Ryu Bojutsu, passing Kukishin Ryu to Matsuda Kyodo who was Soke for one day before passing the Soke title to Tanaka Fumon who is now the 19th Soke of Kukishin Ryu Bojutsu. Sensei Matsuda Kyodo is actively teaching Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo at the Imazu Budokai, which also serves as the Hontai Yoshin Ryu Sohonbu Dojo.
Minaki passed the Hontai Yoshin Ryu Soke title to Inoue Tsuyoshi Munetoshi, and Yasumoto Sensei became a Menkyo Kaiden holder (full transmission license and permission to become independent).
Yasumoto Sensei stayed with Hontai Yoshin Ryu and along with his close friend Kanazawa Akira they assisted Inoue Soke with the teaching of Hontai Yoshin Ryu. Kanazawa Akira was listed as the Chief Instructor of Hontai Yoshin Ryu in the Imazu dojo and Yasumoto Sensei was listed as the International Chief Instructor of Hontai Yoshin Ryu.
During that time Inoue Soke also asked Yasumoto Sensei to teach the higher level jujutsu skills to his son Kyoichi Munenori Inoue and for twelve years the young Inoue was Yasumoto Sensei's uke.
There are a great many stories of Minaki's exploits, one incident that is well known within the lineage dates to shortly after the Second World War when food was scarce. Many parts of Japan became lawless with criminal gangs terrorising the citizens.
One day on the path between Osaka and Kobe, a 15 to 20 strong gang assaulted and murdered a young woman who was returning home after spending days trying to find food for her children.
Minaki, upset by the incident and also that the police were unable to deal with the gang, decided to take action himself!
As Minaki walked alone along the path he probably looked like a very easy target as he was of slight build, however as the gang attacked Minaki struck them down one by one striking them with edge of his hand (shuto-ate). Once the remaining gang members fled there were eight lying dead.
After hearing about the incident, one of Minaki's students asked his teacher how he managed to kill the gang members without using weapons. Minaki walked away to return shortly afterwards with a flat stone which he then broke in half with the edge of his hand, a feat Minaki soke is said to have demonstrated only a few days before his death!