O Sensei

This is a summary of the life of the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Serious students of aikido should read “Abundant Peace” the biography of the Aikido founder by John Stevens.

Morihei Ueshiba was born in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, on 14 December 1883. He was a fragile and sensitive child whose first year was overshadowed by illness. At the tender age of seven he began the study of Chinese classics and had an extraordinary interest in the rites of Shingon Buddhism for someone his age. To balance his mental interest with the physical, his father sent him to Sumo wrestling and swimming. In 1901, newly married, he moved to Tokyo and opened a stationery store. At this time he also began learning jujitsu, the classic Japanese art of self-defense and kenjitsu, the Japanese art of the sword. Illness soon forced his return to Tanabe.

Ueshiba entered the military when he was 20. He was the best bayonet fighter in his regiment and, in 1904-1905, took part in the Russian-Japanese War. He left the military after four years and studied the art of sword fighting at the Yagyu School. In 1912 he moved to the harsh, inhospitable island of Hokkaido in northern Japan where he met Sogaku Takeda, the master of the Daito Jujitsu School and became his student. He then left the island of Hokkaido when his father became seriously ill. On the way to Tanabe he met Onisaburo Deguchi, the co-founder of Omoto-kyo, a new religious movement in Japan. When he finally reached Tanaba, his father had already died. Despondent he began an intensive phase of prayer and meditation, after which he moved with his family to Ayabe and joined the Omoto-kyo. He opened the Ueshiba School for martial arts and worked as a farmer. In 1924 he accompanied Onisaburo Deguchi on a journey to Manchuria where they both almost perished.

In 1925 Ueshiba began to study the art of the spear, followed by intensive physical and spiritual training. In 1930 he opened the Kobukan Dojo in Tokyo. It required two written recommendations from two reliable mentors to join the dojo. The training at the Kobukan Dojo was hard and inflexible.

Deeply disappointed and disturbed by the Japanese military dictatorship during the Second World War, Ueshiba withdrew to Iwama in 1942. He recognized that the only duty of a true Samurai is to make the world ripe for peace and to protect all life. In 1948, aikido was the first martial art allowed by the occupying American forces and Hombu Dojo, the aikido world headquarters, was established in Tokyo. It was led by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, son of the founder of aikido. Morihei Ueshiba’s doctrine spread throughout Japan and in 1959 he sent his master students throughout the world. Morihei Ueshiba died on 26 April 1969.

„I didn’t create Aikido. Aiki is the Way of Kami. It is to be a part of the laws of the universe. It is the source of the principles of life. The history of Aikido begins with the origin of the universe. Do you think a human being could possibly have created these laws?”