What is Yoshinken?

= To bring up, to cultivate, to support.
Shin = Spirit, feeling of a new meaning.
Ken = Sword, (feeling), way of the fist as in Taikiken ( Kenpo ).

Yoshinken was founded and established in Sweden during summer 2002 by Marshall McDonagh based upon his background and experience in Japanese budo and Chinese Wushu, in particular Takiken (Japan) and Yiquan (China).

This martial way and philosophy has two distinct directions one being for health and well being, the other being development in the Neijaquan or internal martial art systems, however both directions have the same foundation, having an identical beginning to every training.

The principles of Yoshinken are those of Taikiken (Headmaster Soshi Kenichi Sawai 1903 – 1988) which are to individually and actively develop your life energy ( ki or chi ) in harmony with nature and your surroundings throughout your life. Special features are :

• Can be practised almost anywhere, preferably outdoors close to nature, trees, and water.

• No special clothes are necessary

• Not limited to any particular time of day although early morning is recommended.

• After the initial entry into the art, we use no fixed forms (kata)

• Can be practised alone or in a group.

• Uses the eastern classical concept of teaching and grading (menkyo system).

• Students are only accepted on recommendation or after personal meeting.

Yoshinken includes a special form of standing meditation, slow defined movements to stimulate the flow of ”Qi” including different stretching exercises methodically and carefully working the joints, and tendons, resulting in a refreshed, recharged, well-being condition promoting a good balance between mind and body.Yoshinken together with a basic knowledge for balance in daily living and diet, all combine to make



What does this mean to us today ??
Over the centuries, original descriptions and meaning are quite often lost, and the above headings are no exception. I would like to give my perspective and try to give those who are kind enough to read this through some thoughts which may make an explanation possible.

A military force to be successful must have apart from their weapons, use, and tactics, a very strict discipline, a code of honour and allegiance to their highest officer and country.

These are the necessary basics which are in:

“Bushido”= The Way of the Japanese Warrior
Certain weapon disciplines such as using the sword, halberd, bow & arrow, staff, knife etc. also grappling, strikes, kicks, attacking vital points in unarmed combat, when the weapons have been dropped, or broken, can be called :

“Bujutsu” = Classical Martial Arts of Self-protection
Today many fighting disciplines exist both with and without weapons, many of these are grouped together under a common name of:

“Budo”= Classical Martial Ways of Self-perfection
Since Budo has become the modern interpretation of the Way of the Warrior which received its acceptance after World War 2 as a character building system with high discipline through the training with weapons and associated unarmed combat, the main goal being to develop a high moral, honesty, respect all the aspects of a good citizen, but not the training of a professional soldier. A thorough warm-up programme, training in perfect conditions, tournaments, these were definitely not part of the old way, and the professional warrior did not have these luxuries. So already here a considerable difference can be seen between Bushido/Bujutsu and modern day Budo and so-called Martial Arts – Martial Way is a more appropriate name.

So what has come from the old original training and way of the “samurai” ?

In answering this I must use the written words of two highly respected masters “sensei” of their time Yamamoto Tsunetomo and Donn F.Draeger.

The first - Yamamoto Tsunetomo born 1659 was samurai turned Zen monk who through his devoted student “deshi” Tashiro Tsuramoto dictated a collection of approximately 1300 lessons and examples related to the way of the samurai. This was compiled into 11 volumes and called:

“The Hagakure” (Behind the Leaves) - A Code to The Way Of The Samurai.
Very deep in meaning this work showed the bond between Lord and Retainer with a supreme form of loyalty which is very difficult to understand or even accept today. Confucianism plays an important part, and Zen´s emphasis upon fortitude and discipline is understood completely by the samurai who must focus 100% on combat and nothing else.

A few examples of this code :
• Know the meaning of Bushido
• Complete, without exception loyalty to ones Lord/Master
• Be prepared for every situation
• No end to lifelong training
• To know the limit of ones wisdom
• To show tact when correcting others shortcomings
• Be a considerate guest
• Cover a yawn
• How to fight in a street fight
• Give words of encouragement
• Be resolute
• Look in the mirror – appearance-clothing-personal hygiene
• Careful of your words and language
• Learn by observing
• Be pure and simple ( not complicated )
• Fear not the rain
• The Four Pledges:
1. Never be behind the others in the pursuit of Bushido
2. Make your self useful to the Lord/Master
3. Discharge your filial duties
4. Labour for the good of others with a most benevolent soul
• Raise a samurai´s child properly
• Observers see more than the players
• Think not of yourself as established
• Know your limits and capacity
• Fear not failure
• Move heaven and earth
• Be always modest as though first met
• Never be slain in the back

To each and every quotation is given an explanation or example.

Reference : The Hagakure – A Code to the Way of the Samurai
Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Translated by Takao Mukoh
ISBN 0-89346-169-5

Secondly in more modern times Sensei Donn F. Draeger (1922-1982) – the first and only non-Japanese to hold the rank of “budo kyoshi” or full professor of the classical martial arts and ways. Sensei was also the creator of the recognised academic discipline of hoplology ( the study of weapons and fighting systems ) with the International Hoplological Research Center and published its newsletter. He held high dan grades in many disciplines.

Sensei Draeger gives a much better picture than I of how modern Budo developed as he was personally involved in the very critical period after World War 2 when it was very uncertain if the Japanese would be allowed to continue training in the way of the samurai.

The incredible interest shown to date not only in Japan and Asia but throughout the world
where Jujutsu-Judo-Kendo-Aikido-Iaido-Kyudo-Kobudo-Kenpo, the many styles of Karate from Japan, Wushu-Kung-fu-Shuai Jiao from China, Silambum-Kalari Payattu & the fighting arts of India and Burma, Muay Thai from Thailand, Tae Kwon do from Korea, Silat from Malaysia & Indonesia, Escrima-Kali from the Philippines, Capoeira from Afro-Brazil altogether have millions of devoted practitioners.

Reference : Classical Budo Volume 2 – The Martial Arts & Ways of Japan
Donn F. Draeger
ISBN 0-8348-0086-1

Modern Bujutsu & Budo Volume 3 – The Martial Arts & Ways of Japan
Donn F. Draeger
ISBN 0-8348-0099-3

Asian Fighting Arts – Donn F. Draeger / Robert W. Smith
ISBN 87011-079-0

All the major karatedo and other ryu or systems have a strict code of behaviour, with detailed etiquette rules as to how one should act in the training hall “dojo” even reciting a training oath “dojo kun” after every training session, there are set social etiquette rules of how the karateka should behave away from his or her dojo. If the code of behaviour is broken in the dojo a reprimand is given by the instructor “sempai-sensei-shihan” in the form of pushups, squats, punching/kicking a bag, or sitting on the knees “seiza” - physical punishment or to contemplate what went wrong, and to renew ones attitude and effort. A good instructor will probably listen and talk with the student depending upon the severity of the mistake.


Typical Training Hall (Dojo) Etiquette.

• Remove outer clothes, hat, shoes, before entering the training area

• Bow and in several ryu “Osu” both entering and leaving,

• If higher grade persons enter with you, let them go first,

• Acknowledge Yudansha (black belts) with a bow and “Osu”

• Mutual respect is important. This applies both in and out of the dojo.

• Always address your sempai/sensei/shihan with his/her title, in the dojo, and private unless asked to do otherwise.

• Line up according to rank, if the same the order of date graded and age decide, for the greet always go onto the left knee first then right. Your senior grade should begin kneeling first.

• Training times should be respected, however if late, after changing, enter the dojo, sit in seiza at the back of the dojo and wait for a sign from the instructor for you to join, bow and respond with Osu and join the group with vitality.

• If you need to leave a training early notify the instructor before the training.

• Always address the instructor according to his or hers grade with Sempai-Sensei-Shihan-Kaicho. If in doubt ask if possible before training begins otherwise normally Sensei is fully accepted for black belt from 3rd Dan and above.

• If you have any reason for not fulfilling all the training sequences due to some injury or physical handicap the instructor should be informed beforehand.

• If anything should happen during the training requiring you must stop or leave the training area the instructor must be informed as help maybe required.

• The higher grades must always show a good example to the others both in technique quality, spirit, understanding, and assistance with encouragement.

• Talking should be kept to an absolute minimum, explanations should be done afterwards. Always stand and sit in a correct manner.

• Never turn your back to the sempai/sensei/shihan when instruction/advice is being given, your full attention is required, so that no misunderstanding is made and possible injury can be avoided, respect should be shown to the sempai/sensei for his/her knowledge.

• If you need to make a break during the training e-g. To tidy your dogi- training uniform, go down on your left knee, facing away from the shinden/kamiza, but not placing your back to the shinden.

• In many dojo after the instructor has demonstrated the next technique or made
a comment / adjustment for improvement, the class replies with Osu as a reply of understanding and appreciation.

• At the end of training it is normal with the traditional line-up, often a summary made by the sensei, maybe a carefully selected short meaning for all to contemplate, maybe some information of future activity, followed by the dojo oath.
Then Zazen meditation, finally the greeting “rei” and thank you in appreciation for the training.

• Dojo comes from a word meaning “a place of enlightenment” as well as training hall, so the building is treated with due respect, keeping it clean and well looked after, This means all equipment, training area, changing room, showers, toilets etc.

When one reads the newspaper and the news seen on TV it is shocking to see how needless and brutal, sick violence is increasing the world over, even children are involved both as aggressor and victim. All serious Budo organisations have a responsibility to ensure that every precaution and effort is made to see that their members are made fully aware of the code of behaviour and the consequences, we must do everything possible to set exemplary standards which can give good guidelines to an honourable way of life, and not only to be a champion within the budo art itself.

There are considerable differences in Yoshinken as compared to the traditional modern Japanese Budo systems, these being ;

• Training (Keiko) is held normally with very rare exception outside, close to nature. No permanent dojo with inside training.

• The traditional training uniform (Dogi) of Karatedo, Judo, Kendo, Iaido is not used. Normal sport clothes can be used.

• The Kyu grading system is not used.

• No formal grading is held.

• No tournament fighting is trained or encouraged.

• The normal warm-up and conditioning training is not done, as in Karate.

• In being close to nature you are also closer to your natural self, you appreciate the finer details which otherwise often go unnoticed, to be accepted by nature without fear such as by animals puts another dimension to your personal development.

With these points alone gives a similarity to the Bujutsu way, so therefore several of the dojo etiquette rules do not apply.

• Since we normally train in sport clothes ( the official Yoshinken uniform is black
dogi trousers and Black or White Yoshinken Shirt ) these should be kept clean and in good condition.

• Finger nails cut short, no rings, chains etc, worn during the training.

• The instructor is always to be given his/her title of Sempai/Sensei unless told otherwise.

• In arriving to the place of training (keiko) greetings to the Sempai/Sensei or if not present commence with Standing Meditation (Ritsu Zen).

• We use the bow of Japanese budo and the sign of respect as in Chinese Wushu.

• When the Sempai/Sensei is giving instruction the correct courtesy must be always given of no talking and attention paid to what is being said or demonstrated.

• A correct position should always be held during keiko – no hands in pockets, relaxed but alert, open and prepared for anything.

• If requiring to leave early the Sempai/Sensei should be informed before.

• If unable to attend the regular training it is courtesy and respect to contact the Sempai/Sensei, showing that you still have the interest.

• Absolutely no unauthorised demonstration, representation, training of Yoshinken.

• However if ever a situation should occur always notify sensei as soon as possible.

• Any visitor/guest to our keiko (training) should be properly introduced.

• Any intending member should give a CV of his or hers background.

• We respect nature and therefore take responsibility in being a “caretaker” particularly around our “dojo” area. Paper, tins, etc. all rubbish to be removed.

• Always show an interest in helping new members, and encourage all who are in need of it.

• During “Kumite” fighting practice always respect your partner, advanced members must take into consideration an inexperienced person, the same applies to those with any handicap. Start and finish every partner training with a bow and appreciation for the time spent together.

• Remember true Budo starts and finishes with respect.

• Always try to see the application of training to everyday life.

• Eat and drink with good taste and feeling, cigarettes and smoking are not encouraged, drugs definitely have no place in Budo.

• In critical situations always look for the most effective way to handle the aggression where in retrospect you can summarise that you reacted well, physical force is not always the answer.

• Keep a good sense of humour, a good laugh, this eases tension on both sides.

• Keep your belief, spirit and energy high do not be lead into ways that contradict these.

• We have a tradition in Yoshinken after every keiko to enjoy a cup of tea & cake together to stimulate a good healthy dialog between all members, to discuss keiko, Budo/Wushu, in fact all topics.

In conclusion it is of utmost importance that we who are Shihan/Sensei, Sifu/Laoshi respected leader of any serious martial way, all the training hall/place etiquette, code of behaviour rules apply to us, even to a greater extent since we must set the example, an open hand and ear to all contact between those who have identical goals and share the same respect is vital if we are to make any impact on this senseless killing and misery caused by
those who have lost their way.

• Knowledge
• Honesty
• Dedication
• Respect
• Humbleness
• Loyalty
• Harmony

Marshall McDonagh
Kyoshi Taikiken
Yoshinken Sweden
29th May 2005


Photos from Paul von Stroheim