Origins of the Yoshida samurai family stem from the Satsuma prefecture on the island of Kyushu. There, on the southernmost island of Japan, the samurai were known for being warriors without equal in the way of the sword. Wielding swords with uniquely long handles, they trained with ruthless intensity and fought with focused determination.

Oral tradition as passed down by the late Headmaster, Yoshida Kenji, tells us that Yoshida family martial art began first and foremost as a school of military strategy and not techniques. As time passed each generation contributed to the syllabus of the ryu, resulting in the inclusion of martial technique.

According to Yumio Nawa, a celebrated historian of martial arts, the earliest recorded dates of the existence of a Yoshida family martial art occur in the 1600’s, when a teacher from the family apparently was teaching Tessen, Jutte, and Hojojutsu to the Yagyu Ryu sword school. This particular Yoshida it seems later left the Yagyu when the direction and interest of the clan became more political than martial.

We are next presented with a serious gap in history. Yoshida Kenji’s father, Yoshida Kotaro was the inheritor of Yanagi Ryu sometime in the early 1900’s. Renowned as a martial artist of phenomenal ability he was known to have studied popular styles of the day. Kito Ryu, Ono Ha Itto Ryu, and possibly Yoshin Ryu and/or Shindo Yoshin Ryu. He was an expert in throwing shuriken and shaken as well as a master of Tessenjutsu, the art of the iron fan.

Also known is that he was a personal friend of Shigeta Ohbata and a number of forms in the Ohbata family line of Shindo Yoshin Ryu are credited to Yoshida Kotaro. These same forms exist in the Yanagi Ryu syllabus today.

Most well known, however, is that he studied in Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu under Takeda Sokaku beginning in 1915. That same year he sponsored Ueshiba Morihei into Takeda’s school allowing him to use the Yoshida family crest, which the Ueshiba family still uses today. Since Daito Ryu is a martial art based on spear and sword movements and being that Yoshida Kotaro was an excellent swordsman and proficient in his own family jujutsu, it was not long before he was very skilled in the Daito Ryu, receiving his Kyoju Dairi from Takeda. Several techniques of the Daito Ryu made their way into the Yanagi Ryu system. However, Yoshida Kotaro modified the techniques to better fit the operating system of his family art, which had a different style of footwork and was more circular in application.

After passing Yanagi Ryu Aiki Bugei to his son Yoshida Kenji, Kotaro abandoned his family for musha shugyo, wandering the country and improving his martial knowledge. This was quite common behavior for those of samurai heritage who had dedicated themselves to the martial art.

After suffering a stroke in his 90’s Yoshida Kotaro continued to teach in seiza using only his right hand. He developed a method of using his good arm and his kimono collar to capture the opponent and subdue him. He moved to Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture and passed away in 1966.

Kenji Yoshida parte hacia Argentina durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial, de allí salta a Costa Rica y finalmente llega a California donde se establece. Poco tiempo después Japón bombardea Pearl Harbor.

Tras la gran guerra, un joven de origen newyorkino llamado Don Angier, entra a estudiar Jujutsu con Kenji Yoshida. Tras años de estudio en casa de éste, Yoshida le adopta bajo el nombre de Kensaburo Yoshida y le nombra heredero de la tradición familiar.

A la muerte de su maestro, Don Angier comienza una reorganización del currículo del arte con la ayuda de su asistente William Hepler, y empieza a enseñar de manera abierta en varias academias, otorgando grados kyu y dan. Tras darse cuenta de que esto no beneficiaba al arte ya que los estudiantes se preocupaban más del color de su cinturón que del entrenamiento, cierra todos los dojo y elimina este sistema de grados, centrando desde entonces su enseñanza en el Honbu Dojo y a un reducido número de estudiantes, manteniendo una extensa lista de espera de aspirantes.

Es en el Honbu Dojo en Los Ángeles donde ingresa Jeremy Breazeale con una carta de recomendación de John Clodig, antiguo estudiante de Don Angier. Tras años de dedicado entrenamiento personal con Don Angier, Breazeale es designado Soke Dai o heredero en 2005, ocupando labores administrativas y asistiendo a Angier en seminarios. Cuando en 2014 fallece su maestro, Jeremy Breazeale ocupa su posición como Soke de la Yanagi Ryu y se dedica a la diseminación y preservación de la tradición para las generaciones venideras.

La escuela es un Sogo Budo, un budo completo, donde se estudian las siguientes materias:

  • Kenjutsu. El arte del sable. Se estudia tachi y kodachi, desde posición de envainado (Iaijutsu) o desenvainado, en seiza o tachiai, contra uno o varios oponentes.
  • Tantojutsu. Manejo del cuchillo. Empleando los mismos métodos que en el Kenjutsu, puede considerarse una aplicación del manejo del kodachi a armas más cortas.
  • Tessenjutsu. Empleo del abanico de hierro. Su empleo es similar y adaptable al manejo de armas contundentes de similar tamaño como puede ser el tambo.
  • Juttejutsu. El jutte es un arma policial que permite la captura de sables, bastones e incluso la mano vacía de un atacante. Las aplicaciones de Juttejutsu de la escuela permiten la retención de todo tipo de ataques, armados o desarmados, sin causar daños permanentes al agresor.
  • Jojutsu. El arte de las armas contundentes. Se manejan distintos tamaños como el bo, el jo, hanbo, tenouchi, etc.
  • Naginatajutsu. El arte de la alabarda.
  • Hojojutsu. El arte de atar a los prisioneros con cuerda.
  • Aikijujutsu. La expresión del arte a manos vacías empleando el concepto “aiki”.