Master Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei, the Aikido Master
and the Origins of Aikido!

Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei

The Origins of Aikido began when Morihei Ueshiba was born in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, in Japan on 14th December 1883.

He was a weak sickly child, who read a lot of books. At a young age his father encouraged him to do sumo wrestling and swimming and entertained him with stories of his great-grandfather Kichiemon who was a strong samurai.

Records show that Morihei trained in Tenjin Shin'yo-ryu jujutsu under Tozawa Tokusaburo in 1901 in Tokyo; Goto-ha Yagyu Shingan-ryu under Nakai Masakatsu from 1903-1908 in Sakai, judo under Kiyoichi Takagi 1911 in Tanabe.

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Morihei Ueshiba
Meets Sokaku Takeda

Master Sokaku Takeda

After moving to the northern island of Hokkaido in 1912 with his wife, as part of a settlement effort his martial arts training became more serious.

It was here that he began his study of Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu under its reviver Sokaku Takeda, who 'opened his eyes to real budo'. The technical curriculum of aikido was undoubtedly greatly influenced by this.

Morihei spent time training in Daito-ryu between 1915 and 1937. He received the majority of the important scrolls awarded by Takeda at the time including the Hiden Mokuroko, the Hiden Ogi and the Goshin'yo te.

He received his kyoju dairi certificate, or teaching license in 1922.

Takeda had not yet implemented a menkyo license, or highest level of achievement license, into his system at that time. He also received a Shinkage-ryu sword transmission scroll from Takeda in 1922 in Ayabe.

He then became a representative of Daito-ryu, toured with Sokaku as a teaching assistant and taught the Daito-ryu system to others.

From Aiki-Jujutsu to
the Origins of Aikido

Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

In the earlier years, from the 1920s to the mid 1930s, Morihei Ueshiba taught the aiki-jujutsu system he had earned a license in from Master Sokaku Takeda.

His early students documents bear the term aiki-jujutsu. Indeed, Ueshiba trained one of the future highest grade earners in Daito-ryu, Takuma Hisa, in the art before Takeda took charge of Hisa's training.

The early form of training under Morihei Ueshiba was characterized by the use of strikes to vital points (atemi), a larger curriculum, greater use of weapons, and more linear approach to technique than found in later forms of aikido.

Later, as Morihei grew away from Takeda, he began to implement more changes to the art. These reflected the differing names with which he referred to his art, first as aiki-jujutsu, then Ueshiba-ryu, Asahi-ryu, aiki budo, and...

finally aikido.

As he grew older, more skilled, and more spiritual in his outlook, his art also changed and became softer and more circular. Striking techniques became less important and the formal curriculum became simpler.

In his own expression of the art there was a greater emphasis on what is referred to as kokyu-nage, or "breath throws" which are soft and blending, using the opponent's movement in order to throw them.

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Morihei Ueshiba and
Aikido's Spiritual Dimension

Onisaburo Deguchi

After Morihei left Hokkaido he came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion in Ayabe.

In addition to the effect on his spiritual growth, this connection also had a major effect in introducing him to various elite political circles.

The Ueshiba Dojo in Ayabe was used to train members of the Omoto-kyo sect. Morihei was involved in the first Omoto-kyo Incident, an ill-fated attempt to found a utopian colony in Mongolia.

Although he eventually distanced himself from both Sokaku Takeda and Onisaburo Deguchi, their effect on him and his art cannot be overstated.

The real birth and origins of Aikido came as the result of three instances of spiritual awakening that Morihei Ueshiba experienced.

The first happened in 1925, after Ueshiba had defeated a naval officer's bokken (wooden katana) attacks unarmed and without hurting the officer. Ueshiba then walked to his garden and had a spiritual awakening...

"I felt the universe suddenly quake, and that a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body, and changed my body into a golden one. At the same time my body became light. I was able to understand the whispering of the birds, and was clearly aware of the mind of god, the creator of the universe. At that moment I was enlightened: the source of budo god's love - the spirit of loving protection for all beings. Budo is not the felling of an opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world to destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature."

Morihei Ueshiba's second experience occurred in 1940 when...

"  Around 2am as I was performing misogi, I suddenly forgot all the martial techniques I had ever learned. The techniques of my teachers appeared completely new. Now they were vehicles for the cultivation of life, knowledge, and virtue, not devices to throw people with. "

His third experience was in 1942 during the worst fighting of WWII,

Morihei Ueshiba had a vision of the "Great Spirit of Peace"...

" The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek to compete and better one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter - it is the Art of Peace, the power of love. "

In 1927, Morihei Ueshiba moved to Tokyo where he founded his first dojo, which still exists today under the name Aikikai Hombu Dojo.  

In 1942 he left Tokyo and moved to Iwama in the Ibaraki Prefecture where the term "aikido" was first used as a name for his art. Here he founded the Aiki Shuren Dojo, also known as the Iwama dojo.

During all this time he traveled extensively in Japan, particularly in the Kansai region teaching aikido. Many stories exist about Ueshiba's martial skill. It is said for example that he was able to escape a tight ring of students that surrounded him with swords and attacked simultaneously.

Many of these students would later say they had not even seen him go by them.

There is debate in the aikido world over some of these sensational stories; some dismiss them as myth generated around a genuinely brilliant but human martial artist, whereas others believe that...

Morihei Ueshiba truly achieved such feats.

To this day, Omoto-kyo priests oversee a ceremony in Ueshiba's honor every April 29th at the Aiki Shrine in Iwama.

Morihei Ueshiba had many uchideshi, or live-in students, many who have grown into great Aikido teachers in their own right.

He regularly practiced cold water misogi, as well as other spiritual and religious rites. He viewed his studies of aikido in this light. As a young man, Morihei was renowned for his incredible physical strength.

He would later lose much of this muscle, which some believe changed the way he performed aikido technique.

Ueshiba was said to be a simple but wise man, and a gifted farmer. In his later years, he was regarded as very kind and gentle as a rule, but there are also stories of terrifying scoldings delivered to his students.

He once chastised students for practicing jo (short staff) strikes on trees without first covering them in protective padding. Another time, as students snuck back into the dojo after a night of drinking and brawling, he smashed the first one through the door over the head with a bokken, and proceeded to scold them.

The Aikido master died on April 26, 1969.

Master Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei is remembered as a master of the martial arts whose studies transcended technical matters to include a moral and philosophical view of the world based around... harmony in the face of aggression.

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