Yoji Fujimoto (March 26, 1948 – February 20, 2012) was an 8 Dan Aikikai Shihan. At the age of 23, he moved to Italy and became a big part of the Aikido history in the country.
Yoji Fujimoto was born in Yamaguchi, Japan as a fourth child in a five-children family. Yoji was involved in martial arts at an early age by his father who was an 8 Dan Kendo instructor. He picked up a Shinai even before he went to school and seemed like he was going to follow a family art…
One day Yoji and his friend went to a Hombu Dojo for a lesson. He was impressed by the O-Sensei‘s personality, the Aikido teachers around him and, of course, joined. At Hombu, he tried to follow Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Kisaburo Osawa as much as he could. Kendo’s experience helped to study Aikido fast and young Fujimoto found himself as a Shodan at the age of 14.
As a student at Nitaidai University, he founded a University Aikido group. Aikikai sent Koichi Tohei to direct that group after and it was a good jump for Fujimoto’s Aikido standards. At the later stage, Seijuro Masuda was appointed to lead the same group and Masuda ended up as a Technical Director of all University Aikido clubs in Japan. Fujimoto received a Sandan at the age of 21.
In 1971 the Aikikai Hombu Dojo sent Yoji Fujimoto to Italy. He went to Milan do deepen a work done by the Hiroshi Tada.
God! It was really tight! I took the class 3-4 times a week in a sports complex and had around 60 students. Still I couldn’t get out of it more than the few pounds to pay the rent of my flat… I used to share it with a Judo and a Karate instructor. We got used to having a continuous in & out of people of various nature, with the inhabitants of the flat constantly reaching 7 or 8 people. The agreement was that we would share the expenses: pity I was the only one to have a job, if you want to call it that way… Somehow we always had something to eat. When I got some money we would buy, for example, 20 kg of rice. I remember that once we survived for five days eating only cherries! Another time, it was summer, we fed on water melon for 2 weeks. It was hard indeed but we didn’t care. We were young!Yoji Fujimoto
Sensei spent more than 40 years of his life teaching in Italy. He established Aikikai Milano – Fujimoto Dojo which is still there following a line of a founder. During the Kagamibiraki in 2010, he received an 8 Dan certificate from Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba.
Yoji Fujimoto is one of the reasons for the huge Aikido scene in Europe. He was a regular guest in Yugoslavia, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Russia and even South Africa. That’s why he has a lot of students around the world.