Don Angier (1933-2014) was born in 1933 in New York, USA. His father was French and his mother was a Mohawk Indian. He was a well known American martial artist who headed the Yanagi Ryu Aiki Ju Jitsu system.
He is the only American known to have inherited the title of Soke (rather than assuming it). He was awarded the title by Kenji Yoshida, a local handyman under whom Angier studied as a teenager.
Kenji was the son of Kotaro Yoshida, who studied Aikijujutsu with Sokaku Takeda. Kotaro was a friend of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, and introduced Ueshiba to Takeda.
In his youth Don was obsessed with a Japanese movie character named 'Mr Moto' who used jiu jitsu to deal with larger opponents. Mr Moto was Don's hero, and he began to search for information about jiu jitsu.
When he was 15 or so Don saw Kenji Yoshida, who was a local handyman, and asked him to teach him a shoulder throw he had a picture of. He said no, but several weeks later said it would be difficult to learn, and he must be prepared to keep it a secret.
His training began on cardboard boxes, and moved on to a frame covered with planks and old rugs for several months. The roof over the mat area leaked when it rained, so classes focused on learning how to clean and pass swords (bokken), etiquette, Japanese language, etc.
Kenji and Don didn't have regular class times, but practised whenever they were free to. Don took plenty of notes on what he was shown, and developed a system for the art.
Yoshida Sensei stressed that the forms were just examples and the principles were more important. He began to learn at a faster rate when he was able to ignore the pain involved.
He realised that tension equalled pain!
Don Angier was told he was considered a yoshi, an adopted son, and his new name was to be 'Kensaburo Yoshida.' The significance of this became clear to him much later when he realized that he had the responsibility of finding someone to pass the art on to.
He started his own dojo in California in 1955, and found a student with talent named William Hepler who became a friend. For nearly 9 years they trained for 3 hours before the regular class, and developed a complete system with scientific Yanagi Ryu principles.
Don Angier met and became friends with martial artist Walter King in Los Angeles, who asked Don if he wanted to meet his Japanese master, who was Noriaki Inoue Sensei, who was a nephew of Morihei Ueshiba.
Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei developed the martial art of Aikido from his combat studies of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu with Sokaku Takeda, and his spiritual studies with the Omoto Kyo and Onisaburi Deguchi.
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Don Angier opened a branch dojo in California in 1962, and taught there for thirty years. He first developed a kyu-dan ranking system, but dropped it because students were too interested in grades.
He decided to teach his students slowly and precisely in very small groups of 6 or 8, and had a long waiting list of people who want to study his art.
Angier practiced and mastered the Yoshida arts for over 50 years and his knowledge of Aiki Jiu Jutsu arts is unparalleled in the West.
I have an Aiki Principles video collection that features Don Angier... he is impressive. Apart from the traditional Aikijujutsu art, he also teaches students how to generate an irresistable power through relaxation!
In early October of 2014, Don Angier, Soke of Yoshida ha Shidare Yanagi ryu, passed away. In accordance with his wishes, Jeremy Breazeale succeeded him as headmaster of his art.
Angier Sensei developed many talented students, many of whom also make excellent teachers. Breazeale Sensei has a sincere desire to be as clear as possible regarding the objectives for Angier's art.
A major objective is to support the senior practitioners of the lineage in their efforts to share and preserve Angier Sensei’s art.
He was a great teacher that Aikido students should be familiar with!