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Emphasis on basics
Yoshinkan Aikido has some 150 basic techniques which are practiced repeatedly, enabling the student to master the remaining ones, which total some 3000 overall. The syllabus contains no weapons forms, although they are practiced as an adjunct to the open hand techniques. Like many styles of aikido, Yoshinkan eschews competition; instead, it emphasizes practicality and self defense applications. Yoshinkan aikido is one of the martial arts that is taught to the Tokyo police
Distinctively, Yoshinkan places heavy emphasis on basic movements, which are practiced in the form of kata. The reason for this, in Shioda Gozo's own words, is;
"Today's Aikido is so dimension less. It's hollow, empty on the inside. People try to reach the highest levels without even paying their dues. That's why it seems so much like a dance these days. You have to master the very basics solidly, with your body, and then proceed to develop to the higher levels.... Now we see nothing but copying or imitation without any grasp of the real thing...."
Yoshinkan aikido methodology is based on the idea that proper form leads to effective aikido technique and is the key to "kokyuu ryoku"; Yoshinkan's emphasis on basics and instilling them in students through repeated drills is a direct product of the difficulties encountered when Yoshinkan first began teaching exceptionally large groups, such the Tokyo police. Another reason for Yoshinkan's teaching methods, which Shioda points out in his book Shugyo, is that because modern people think more in terms of logic, no one would respond to Ueshiba Morihei's style of intuitive teaching. Ueshiba did not give exact instruction, instead he would show a technique and let everyone figure it out saying "That's fine, that's fine" to everyone's way of doing it. He would also exclaim "Become one with heaven and earth", which Shioda says would be nearly impossible to swallow for people nowadays. Shioda points out that unless precise and systematic instruction is given, people will be unable to grasp techniques, will fail to progess, and soon quit.
Another difference between Yoshinkan and Aikikai and other styles is the position of feet and hips. Most aikido styles use a kamae (generally translated as "stance", but can also be interpreted to mean "ready" or mental and physical "attitude") with the front foot pointing straight forward, the back foot at a 90 degree angle to the front foot, and the hips on a slight angle to the side. In the Yoshinkan kamae, the hips are square to the opponent (partner), and both the front and back feet are angled outwards at approximately 45 degrees (and on a 90 degree angle to each other). The Yoshinkan kamae is not intended as a combat stance, rather it is to instill and reinforce the body's "centre line" (中心線：chuushinsen).
Yoshinkan's main interest is in teaching a form of Aikido based on the sharp and clear pre-war aikido techniques of Ueshiba Morihei. In establishing the Yoshinkan Dojo, Shioda did away with much of the esoteric components that had been a part of Ueshiba's teachings, however "spirit" and attitude were strongly emphasized in Shioda's teaching.
The name "Yoshinkan" comes from the dojo his father owned - "Yo" means cultivate; "shin" means spirit ("Shin" uses the same Chinese character as "kami," which means divine, deity or god(s) - however it is generally interpreted to mean one's own "spirit" or "mind", rather than anything to do with deities in this case), "kan" means house. Thus "Yoshinkan" is the house for the cultivation of the spirit. Shioda's, and subsequently most of his disciples', teaching style is focused in the physical realm of Aikido techniques, and techniques are spoken of in terms of Centre Power (中心: chuushinryoku）, Focused Power (集中力 : shuuchuuryoku), and Breath Power (呼吸力： kokyuuroku), and less in metaphysical. Yoshinkan will talk about energy flow and power in terms of "chikara" ("力" literally strength or power) rather than in metaphysical terms such as "ki". Despite not adhering to the religious aspects of Ueshiba's teachings, however, the Yoshinkan honbu dojo does have a kamidana at the shomen (front) of the dojo.