AiShinKai - Harmonious Heart Association - Achieving Peak Performance in Daily Life
Self-Mastery - Character Development - Leadership - Team Management - Conflict Resolution - Global Citizenship

Heroes: A Pantheon of Inspiration


Extraordinary contributors to our understanding of humanity's potential.
Personal sources of inspiration to Dr. Bannister

Tesshu Yamaoka (1836-1888)
One of the most famous samurai of the Bakumatsu period who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration. He is also noted as the founder of the Itto Shoden Muto-Ryu (No-Sword School) of Japanese swordsmanship.  A master of Kendo, lay Buddhist preacher of extraordinary power and influence, and a prolific Shodo calligrapher who brushed more than one million pieces in his lifetime.  Tesshu was demonic in his training habits, yet supportive and kindly to all in need of aid.  Chamberlain, advisor and teacher to the Meiji emperor, he was instrumental in negotiating the peaceful surrender of Edo castle to imperial forces.  He remains an inspiration to martial artists of all persuasions, especially those pursuing sword arts.  A scroll by Tesshu hangs at AiShinKai headquarters.

Ueshiba Morihei
Founder of Aikido (Way of Spiritual Harmony), a modern martial way that emphasizes
self-mastery and the application of a sophistocated concept of Ai-Ki to create peaceable resolutions to conflict.  A master of Kito-Ryu jujutsu and Yagyu Shinkage-Ryu swordsmanship, as well as spear and Daito-Ryu jujutsu, Ueshiba's studies transcended technical matters to include a moral and philosophical view of the world based on harmony in the face of aggression. Of the many branches of aikido in existence today, virtually all trace their lineage back to him.  One of the most famous martial artists of his age, Ueshiba taught many officers of the armed forces before WWII.  During the war, he retired to  farm in Iwama, determined that Aikido should not be used for violence.  After the war, his became one of the first schools to be approved for reopening.  Ueshiba had always felt that Aikido should have an egalitarian purpose - his dojo was the first to admit women and foriegners as equals - and the higher purpose of his art was very much in keeping with the reinvigorated, peaceful, character-developing purposes of modern Budo.  His art prospered throughout the 1960s and 70s, and today is widely practiced world-wide.

Nakayama Hakudo

Founder of Muso Shinden-Ryu Iaido. He is the only person to have received both judan (10th degree) and hanshi (master instructor) ranks inKendo, Iaido, and Jodo from the All Japan Kendo Federation. In addition, he held an instructor's license in Shinto Muso-Ryu and menkyo kaiten in Shindo Munen-Ryu making him the 7th Soke of that system. He was the 18th and last Soke (head master) of the Shimomura-ha (branch) of  Hasegawa Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu.  By the mid-1920s, Nakayama was one of the most famous swordsmen in Japan with more than 3,000 students.  He was made a leader of the committee that drew up the sword curriculum for the Toyama Military Academy, and is considered by many to be the father of Toyama-Ryu swordsmanship.  He was a close friend of Aikido founder Ueshiba Morihei, and provided critical support to assist that art's expansion.

The ethics of swordsmanship . . . is not in aggressive manslaughter. It lies primarily in psychic training. In the same manner in which the Yogis developed their physical inhibition to attain meditative states for higher psychical conditions, Kendo trains the nervous system to respond, making awkward conscious efforts into reflex. The instrument, the sword, is necessary to give that serious frame of mind. What is more serious than life as forfeit for mistakes or inattention? The cold, mirror-like glimmer of the blade facing you, you cannot but be serious. The behavioristic school of psychology is well in accordance to this principle.

Nakayama was an active promoter of New Swords (e.g., modern swords made in the traditional fashion). Often, this involved cutting demonstrations. For example, on July 10, 1934, Nakayama publicly demonstrated the strength of New Swords by using one to cut an iron bar about the thickness of a man's finger. The bar had been wrapped in straw, and Nakayama cut it with a single stroke, without leaving a mark on either the table or the blade. 

At the end of WWII, Nakayama was quick to advise Japanese people to greet Allied troops with grace.

In fencing we call this spirit 'ohen' or adapting one's self to the change. In other words, it is a condition where after realizing and acknowledging the natural tide of affairs, all past ambitions are given up and a state of nothingness is reached. This requires magnanimity of heart. It is the ultimate meaning of the art of fencing. We must greet the Allied Army with just such a spirit. Yesterday they were enemies but today they are no longer so. If we cannot think of them as being no longer enemies, then it cannot be said that we truly understand the spirit of Bushido.

If there is the least feeling of ill-will harbored in our hearts and if we cannot take a broad outlook, it is bound to show in our faces and attitude, giving reason for others to think of us as cowardly. I believe that the greatness of a nation lies in its broadminded attitude.

Nakayama lived this advice himself, and as such, he was involved in the establishment of the postwar All Japan Kendo Federation.

Nakayama was also a poet and calligrapher. A sample scroll reads:

Flowers need water and shade
Bamboo needs the moon shade
Beautiful woman looks best through the shade of a screen

Nakakura Kiyoshi
Nakakura Sensei began studying Kendo as a boy and entered the Daidokan Dojo at 17 with the goal of becoming a kendo professional, he rapidly became one of the top students of famous swordsman Hakudo NAKAYAMA. Entering the infamous YUSHINKAN DOJO in January 1930 at age 19, he joined the famous teachers Haga Junichi and Takano Sasaburo, who collectively were known as the samba garasu (three crows, roughly equivalent to the "Three Musketeers") of kendo fame in the 1920s and 1930s. He became the adopted son and designated successor of Morihei UESHIBA in 1932 and assumed the name of Morihiro Ueshiba upon his marriage to the founder's daughter, Matsuko. The two were divorced about five years later. Nakakura left the Ueshiba Dojo to return to kendo. Nakakura had a long and highly successful career in competitive kendo and IAIDO that lasted into his 70s. Nakakura was a ninth dan HANSHI in both kendo and iaido and one of Japan's leading swordsmen. He was active as the head kendo instructor at Hitotsubashi University until his death. A 20-time All Japan Kendo champion, he never last a match in 60 tournaments.  This is especially remarkable considering that he severely injured his left foot in combat during WWII, and consequently had to relearn Kendo with his left foot forward.  He became so famous for the dominance of his jodan sword stance that he generally refused to use it in competition, thinking it unfair to his opponents.  Nakakura Sensei was a friend and mentor to Yoshimoto TRENT Sensei, who described Nakakura's last days in hospital, and recounted how he found the great sensei on the hospital roof two days before his death, swinging an iron pipe with tremendous ki-ai shouts, going out of this world and into the next, a swordsman to his last breath.  When asked what made Nakakura a great man, Trent Sensei replied that Nakakura never had anything bad to say about anyone, and whenever there was a need or opportunity to help someone in Budo, he was there.  The AiShinKai has in its collection an orginal painting by Nakakura Sensei, as well as his sword Dai, given to us by Trent Sensei.

Trent Yoshimoto (Don)
Friend, mentor, and teacher of countless students of Kendo and Iaido, Yoshimoto (Don) Trent (Kendo nannadan kyoshi, Iaido nannadan renshi) served the United States with distinction in the army, and later the air force, from which he retired at the highest possible non-commissioned officer grade, Chief Master Sergeant.  He served on the International Committee of the All Japan Kendo Federation, and tirelessly supported the development and practice of Kendo and Iaido.  A ferocious competitor, he was nonetheless kindly to all, especially children and animals, and his graciousness to the many members of the AiShinKai Iaido program who visited his home and dojo in Japan is remembered with great fondness.  Trent Sensei was instrumental in supporting the foundation of the AiShinKai, and  he generously contributed a large sum to assist rebuilding of our headquarters following the disastrous flood in 2007.  A photograph of Trent Sensei hangs in a place of honor at the AiShinKai.  He is greatly missed.


George Washington (1732-1799)
The dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1797, leading the American victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander in chief of the Continental Army, 1775–1783, and presiding over the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. As the unanimous choice to serve as the first President of the United States (1789–1797), he developed the forms and rituals of government that have been used ever since, such as using a cabinet system and delivering an inaugural address. The president built a strong, well-financed national government that avoided war, suppressed rebellion and won acceptance among Americans of all types. Acclaimed ever since as the "Father of his country", Washington, along with Abraham Lincoln, has become a central icon of republican values, self sacrifice in the name of the nation, American nationalism and the ideal union of civic and military leadership.

Historians give the commander in chief high marks for his selection and supervision of his generals, his encouragement of morale, his coordination with the state governors and state militia units, his relations with Congress, and his attention to supplies, logistics, and training. Washington is given full credit for the strategies that forced the British evacuation of Boston in 1776 and the surrender at Yorktown in 1781.  After victory was finalized in 1783 by the Treaty of Paris, Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief rather than seize power and returned to his plantation at Mount Vernon; this stunned aristocratic Europe and prompted his erstwhile enemy King George III to call him "the greatest character of the age". Historian Gordon Wood concluded that Washington’s resignation at that critical moment in the new nation’s history was the greatest act of his life.

Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of his dissatisfaction with the weaknesses of Articles of Confederation that had time and again impeded the war effort.  It was clear at the time that if he had wished it, his popularity could easily have catapulted him into the role of America's new king, but that did not fit with Washington's vision of a great and powerful nation built on republican lines using federal power to improve the lives of its citizens.  Washington became President of the United States in 1789. Once President, he successfully brought rival factions together in order to create a more unified nation. The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment, to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary.  Washington set a precedent by retiring from the Presidency after two terms, regarding that as an important limit to executive power.  His farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.

Washington died at his Mount Vernon home in Virginia on Saturday December 14, 1799, aged 67. His last words were "'Tis well." Throughout the world, men and women were saddened by Washington's death. Napoleon ordered ten days of mourning throughout France; in the United States, thousands wore mourning clothing for months.  Representative Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, a Revolutionary War comrade and father of the Civil War general Robert E. Lee, famously eulogized Washington as follows:

    First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to
    none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate, and
    sincere; uniform, dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around
    him as were the effects of that example lasting...Correct throughout, vice shuddered in
    his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character
    gave effulgence to his public virtues...Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.

Lee's words set the standard by which Washington's overwhelming reputation was impressed upon the American memory. Washington set many precedents for the national government and the presidency in particular, and was called the "Father of His Country" as early as 1778. During the United States Bicentennial year, George Washington was posthumously appointed to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States by congressional joint resolution Public Law 94-479 passed on January 19, 1976.  With an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976., this law restored Washington's position as the highest-ranking military officer in U.S. history.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Third President of the United States (1801–1809) and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was one of the most influential Founding Fathers, known for his promotion of the ideals of republicanism in the United States. Jefferson envisioned America as the force behind a great "Empire of Liberty"[3] that would promote republicanism and counter the imperialism of the British Empire.  Major events during his presidency included the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804–1806).

As a political philosopher, Jefferson was a man of the Enlightenment and knew many intellectual leaders in Britain and France. He idealized the independent yeoman farmer as exemplar of republican virtues, distrusted cities and financiers, and favored states' rights and a strictly limited federal government. Jefferson supported the separation of church and state and was the author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom (1779, 1786). He was the eponym of Jeffersonian democracy and the cofounder and leader of the Democratic-Republican Party, which dominated American politics for 25 years. Jefferson served as the wartime Governor of Virginia (1779–1781), first United States Secretary of State (1789–1793), and second Vice President of the United States (1797–1801).

Jefferson achieved distinction as, among other things, a horticulturist, political leader, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, musician, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia. When President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House in 1962 he said, "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House – with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." To date, Jefferson is the only president to serve two full terms in office without vetoing a single bill of Congress. Jefferson has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the greatest of U.S. presidents.

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