The art of Nihon Goshin Aikido was founded by Master Shodo Morita and taught by him starting in the 1940's at his dojo in Chitose, a town located east of the city of Sapporo, on the island of Hokkaido, Japan. Master Morita was probably born in the year 1900 or shortly before that, making him a younger contemporary of many well-known martial artists of the day, especially those involved in Aiki arts. It is likely that Master Morita may have encountered and possibly studied with the likes of Sokaku Takeda and Yoshida Kotaro (Daito-ryu Aiki-jujitsu), Morihei Ueshiba (Aikido) and Jigoro Kano (Kodokan Judo) during his training years, but we have no evidence that there was any formal training relationship with any of them. In addition to training in the Aiki-style arts, Master Morita also trained in judo, ju-jitsu, kobudo (weapons), karate, and the esoteric arts.
After mastering these arts, Master Morita realized that, although each was highly effective, no single style was complete. Each art focused on a separate element of self-defense: The karate arts focused on striking. The judo arts focused on throwing. The jujitsu arts focused on joint locks. Master Morita incorporated principles and techniques of each system into a new system which became Nihon Goshin Aikido. It is significant to note that he did not merely choose the best techniques from each system, but a variety of techniques, recognizing that what works well for one person may not be effective for another person due to height and anatomical differences. Nihon Goshin Aikido is a highly effective martial art due to its variety of principles.
Master Morita’s stepson, Master Tominosuke Nara, in August of 1962, informed Shihan Bowe of the news that Master Shodo Morita had unexpectedly passed away. The Chitose dojo and the leadership of the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido were passed to Master Nara.
In 1976, Shihan Bowe received the last communication from Master Nara that he would ever read. This letter contained a promotion to Godan (Fifth Degree Black belt) conferring upon him the title of Shihan - “Master” or “Teacher of Teachers”. Despite being given “Shihan” status, however, Shihan Bowe prefers not to be called “Master”. The letter also informed Shihan Bowe of Master Nara’s intention to retire from the public teaching of Nihon Goshin Aikido and the closing of the dojo in Chitose. Master Nara designated Shihan Bowe as the U.S. Director (and also worldwide director) of the Nihon Goshin Aikido Association. Out of respect for both of his teachers, Shihan Bowe has never promoted himself beyond the Fifth Degree Black Belt that he received from Master Nara. To this day, Fifth Degree Black Belt is the highest rank attainable in the NGAA, and is equivalent to a tenth degree black belt in other systems.
Shihan Richard A. Bowe was born and raised in Hudson County, New Jersey just across the Hudson River from New York City. He began his martial arts training at age 9 and was a certified jiu-jitsu instructor at the Sigward Academy by the age of 19. He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was a member of the 101st Airborne (“Screaming Eagles”) Division.
It was while stationed on Chitose Hokkaido that Shihan Bowe sought traditional, practical Japanese martial arts instruction. He visited many local dojos and reviewed a variety of systems including karate, ju-jitsu and aikido (Ueshiba lineage) but due to his previous training he felt that, although he respected them all, they did not contain what he sought in a martial art. He continued his search until he found what he was seeking in the person of Master Shodo Morita and the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido. Shihan Bowe was impressed with the ease with which Master Morita's students were able to throw him. For the entire two and a half years of his military assignment on Hokkaido. Shihan Bowe trained daily with Master Morita and Master Morita’s stepson, Master Tominosuke Nara. There are a few extant photos of Shihan Bowe’s training in the Chitose dojo, with Shihan Bowe as the lone, tall American towering over his shorter Japanese fellow students.
Shihan Bowe has stated that during all his years of training in Master Morita's dojo, he never inquired of Master Morita about his martial arts “lineage”, his previous instructors or training. Such inquiries were not considered to be appropriate etiquette in any Japanese dojo of the day. The reason that Shihan Bowe chose to study with Master Morita rather than in any of the dozens of other schools he visited was because of Master Morita's overwhelming sense of “presence”, his character, demeanor and the sense of effortlessness with which he handled every kind of attack thrown at him. Shihan has consistently stated that his focus has never been on lineage, where or from whom technique derived, but rather on how effectively those techniques are applied on the mat. Practical results are far more convincing than any lineage or lack thereof.
In early 1962 Shihan Bowe was the first American to be awarded the rank of Black belt in Nihon Goshin Aikido by Master Morita himself. Master Morita presented his own obi as a gift to Shihan Bowe as a measure of his esteem for him and the skill level he had achieved during his time in Chitose. This black belt was subsequently used in many of the black belt promotion ceremonies at the Guttenberg and surrounding dojos. For many years, every student attaining the rank of black belt in Nihon Goshin Aikido had the privilege of wearing Master Morita’s black belt during his or her promotion ceremony. Shortly after being promoted to Shodan, Shihan Bowe was honorably discharged from military service and returned to his home in Hudson County, New Jersey. On September 12, 1963, Shihan Bowe established his own dojo, the Aikido School of Self-Defense, on Bergenline Avenue in Guttenberg, New Jersey.
In August of 1962, Shihan Bowe received the news that Master Shodo Morita had unexpectedly passed away. The Chitose dojo and the leadership of the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido were passed to Master Nara. Although Shihan Bowe never returned to Japan, he maintained a correspondence with Master Nara through the years, detailing the progress of his dojo and learning the news from the headquarters in Japan. Every few years, Shihan Bowe would receive a letter from Master Nara with a promotion to the next black belt rank level.
As far as any of us in the NGAA are aware, Nihon Goshin Aikido is no longer taught in Japan as a distinct system. However, in the nearly 50 years since starting his original dojo in Guttenberg, New Jersey, Shihan Bowe has trained and promoted numerous black belts who themselves have gone on to open their own dojos in the Nihon Goshin Aikido Association nationwide.
In of November of 2018, Shihan Bowe chose to step down from the leadership of the Nihon Goshin Aikido association due to health reasons and passed the leadership role to Shihan Robert MacEwen. Shihan Bowe still acts as an advisor to the Nihon Goshin Aikido association.
One of the few people to achieve the level of Fifth Degree Black Belt in the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido. Shihan MacEwen who has been very active in promoting the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido throughout the years. Shihan MacEwen began his martial art training at age eight in late 1969, studying ju-jitsu in Livingston Manor, New York. After his family moved to Middletown, New York in 1974, Sensei MacEwen began training in Nihon Goshin Aikido under the late John Lehman. Sensei Lehman had trained directly under and obtained his Shodan from Shihan Bowe during the 1960's and early 1970's. In 1980, at the age of nineteen, Sensei MacEwen was promoted to Shodan, and opened his own dojo in Middletown, New York in September of that year. Subsequent promotions have followed through the years, including the most recent in January 2013 to Godan (Fifth Degree Black Belt). Many of Sensei MacEwen's black belts continue to teach and train, and several of them have gone on to open their own successful Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos throughout the country. Since first opening up his dojo in 1980, Sensei MacEwen has also been very active promoting the art by giving demonstrations and seminars - both nationally and internationally. In addition to the seminar schedule that Sensei MacEwen has kept throughout the years, he has also written numerous articles for various Martial Art magazines and published a series of Nihon Goshin Aikido DVDs on various application for Nihon Goshin Aikido techniques.