History Of Aikido
O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba:
The Founder of Aikido (1883-1969)
Morihei Ueshiba was born on the 14th of December 1883, in the fishing and farming village of Tanabe located just below Osaka. Morihei Ueshiba was the youngest and only son of four children. His father Yoroku was of Samurai heritage, his grandfather was renowned for his martial arts.
As a youth Ueshiba was greatly influenced by the discipline, philosophy and traditions of both martial arts and religion. The local area where he was brought up was known for its ancient Japanese mysticism and its many shrines. All this consequently had an enormous effect on the course of his later life. At the age of twelve he watched as his father was forced to defend himself against a group of thugs, who had been sent by political rivals to harass him. This singular incident was significant, as it impressed on Ueshiba the need for greater strength and martial prowess.
In 1901, his father sent him to Tokyo to started his life as a merchant; but this was short lived and he soon returned home. While in Tokyo, he enjoyed instruction in different martial arts amongst them: the staff style known as Hozoin-ryu, and Tenjin Shinyo jujutsu, both taught by Takisaburo Tobari.
In 1903 Morihei was called to serve in the Japanese armed forces. The Russo-Japanese War (1904) provided Ueshiba with a real situation to develop himself mentally and physically, in accord with the principles he had learned during his martial arts training. Ueshiba the soldier spent most of the war years in the harsh climate of Northern Manchuria. By the end of the war, his health had deteriorated considerably; he was discharged from the army at the conclusion of the war in 1905. During his time in the army Ueshiba studied the sword style known as Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, with a teacher named Masakatsu Nakai and received a teaching license in 1908.
At this time Ueshiba’s farther built a dojo on the family property and invited a noted Judo instructor. With characteristic vigour, Ueshiba regained his vitality, through long hours-spent training, and in outdoor labour. In 1912 Ueshiba was engaged by the government to lead a group of immigrants to Hokkaido (the northern island of Japan).
Another adventurous young man also made the move to Hokkaido; his name was Sokaku Takeda (born 1860), head of the Takeda family. Ueshiba and Takeda had already met in 1905; subsequently Ueshiba began his study of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu under Takeda-sensei. Morihei received his teaching licence in Daito Ryu in 1916. In addition, he continued to practice the other arts he had learned in Tokyo, particularly kenjutsu and jojutsu (spear techniques).
Travelling home to visit his ailing father in 1919, Ueshiba met Onisaburo Deguchi, leader of the Omotokyo religion. Ueshiba was so impressed with Deguchi that he subsequently became a disciple of Deguchi. Although his commitment led him to further develop his mind, his martial arts studies were not neglected. In 1925, at the age of forty-two Ueshiba attained satori (awakening, enlightenment, intuitive understanding), after a kendo match with a naval officer. The navel officer an expert swords-man gave up the contest in frustration after Ueshiba choosing to be unarmed, was able to evade all of his attacks.
In 1925 Ueshiba organised his own style of Aikijujutsu, largely for his own spiritual and physical development. During the next decade, Ueshiba’s students (Tomiki, Mochizuki, Shioda, and others) were active in building a foundation for present-day Aikido. Ueshiba, however, was interested in seeking the true martial way, the essential spirit of Budo. In his search he left the dojo to work at farming. Through his closeness with nature and continued training, he tried to unify his spiritual and physical being. In 1950, after the Second World War, Ueshiba returned to Tokyo dojo with a mature, modified art, which he then called Aikido.
To contribute to the evolution of martial “arts” to “ways” – Bugei to Budo — Ueshiba diligently applied himself to the reworking of the techniques he had been taught, and synthesized them into a form that enphasized harmony and love, rather than violence and decimation. In this way he was able to integrate his spiritual beliefs and his great technical proficiency.
Ueshiba proclaimed that the true Budo way (the way of the warrior) was the way of peaceful reconciliation. He dedicated himself to the design of an art that would teach technical prowess and strength, and commitment to self-discipline needed for personal growth. He dubbed this new art form Aikido.
Ueshiba continued to instruct until his death in 1969, earning the respect and admiration of all that met him. Before his death he received a government award as the designer of modern Aikido, and general acclaim for his efforts to bring peace and enlightenment to all.
His concern and energy touched the lives of the many students he worked with, consequently several styles of Aikido have evolved. The most notable of these styles would be Yoshinkan (Gozo Shioda), Tomiki-ryu (Kenji Tomiki), Aikikai (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) and the most recent, Shinshin Toitsu (Koichi Tohei). The founders of these styles are all dedicated men committed to the precepts set down by Master Ueshiba. Each has developed certain elements of O-Sensei’s teachings, so each style differs from the others while maintaining an essential sameness.
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