Archive for the ‘History’ Category
Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) in 1950 when he first called his Budo “Aikido
At the onset of the feudal age, the Samurai were peasant-farmers who fought for their Lords as well as they could when the occasion arose. As conflict between landlords became more frequent, it became necessary to train armed groups to protect the respective boundaries. At this time, these armed groups were called Samurai or Bushi, but their status in society was not established until a military government (the Shogunate) encouraged austerity and the pursuit of martial arts and related disciplines for the Samurai. These studies were eventually codified and called Bushido — the Way of the Samurai.
Early Development of the Martial Arts (Bugei): 1000 A.D.
As the feudal era advanced, the Samurai came to occupy the uppermost strata of Japanese society. Their principal duty was to learn and practice many martial arts, the skills necessary to fulfil their allegiance to the feudal lord for whom they were expected to fight and die. A favourite saying among Bushi at that time was “Master eighteen martial arts”. Among the numerous arts, “Bujutsu
By degrees, unarmed combat techniques developed into different systems and styles (ryu). The varying battlefield situations and technical requirements of feudal warfare led to the establishment of various ryu which were controlled by, and passed down through, the large powerful families. One of these systems was aikijujutsu. It is not completely clear where Aiki techniques originated, but the Aiki system is said to have originated with Prince Teijun, the 6th son of Emperor Seiwa (850-880); it was passed on to succeeding generations of the Minamoto family. By the time the art reached Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, the younger brother of the Yishite Minamota, it seems that the foundations of modern Aikido had already been laid.
Yoshimitsu was a man of exceptional learning and skill, and it is said that he devised much of his technique by watching a spider skilfully trap a large insect in its fragile web. His house, Daito mansion, has given its name to his system of Aikijujutsu, which came to be called Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.
Yoshimitsu’s second son lived in Takeda, in the province of Kai, and his family became known by the Takeda. Subsequently, the techniques of Daito Ryu were passed on to successive generations as secret techniques of the Takeda house and were made known only to family members and retainers. When Kunitsugu Takeda moved to Aizu in 1574, the techniques came to be known as Aizu-todome (secret techniques).
During the 16th century, Japan was embroiled in civil wars. Each feudal lord (daimyo) struggled to maintain a powerful, independent position within the country. In order to do so, each daimyo had to create a stable, unified force of his own, which required a very strong bond between the Lord and his Bushi. Bushido, the code of the Samurai, encouraged the development of combat techniques; along with qualities of justice, benevolence, politeness and honour; above all, it inculcated the idea of supreme loyalty to Lord and cause.
It was during this period of independence and feudal isolation that combat forms developed into the numerous ryu.
The next two and a half centuries (Tokugawa period) were relatively peaceful for Japan.
The Samurai, as a class, saw little combat, though they continued to practice and refine the various martial arts of kenjutsu, iaijutsu, bajutsu, and forms of jujutsu. Ju is a Chinese word meaning pliable, harmonious, adaptable, or yielding; jutsu means technique. As a collective term applied to all fighting forms, jujutsu came into existence long after the forms it describes originated. The golden age of Jujutsu extended from the late 17th century to the mid-19th century.
As the martial arts (and all of Japanese culture) became strongly influenced by Buddhist concepts, the fighting arts were transformed from combat techniques (Bugei) into “combat ways” (Budo), inculcating self-discipline, self-perfection, and philosophy. The dimensions of the martial arts expanded beyond the simple objective of killing an enemy to include many aspects of everyday living. Particularly after the decline of Samurai class, the martial “techniques” became martial “ways” and great emphasis was placed upon the study of Budo as a means of generating the moral strength necessary to build a strong and vital society.
Until Japan emerged from isolation in the Meiji period, Aikido was known by many names, and remained an exclusively Samurai practice handed down within the Takeda family. The Meiji Revolution (1868) brought not only the return of Imperial supremacy, but also westernized culture, to the political and economic way of life in Japan. The Bushi, as a class, virtually disappeared under a new constitution that proclaimed all classes equal. The essence of Bushido, cultivated for many centuries, continued to play an important part in the daily lives of the Japanese. Budo, being less combative and more concerned with spiritual discipline by which one elevates oneself mentally and physically, were more attractive to the common people and were readily taken up by all classes, and people of every social stratum. Accordingly, kenjutsu became kendo, iaijutsu became iaido, jojutsu became jodo and jujutsu became judo.
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.
GOZO SHIODA SOKE-SENSEI
Gozo Shioda was born in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 9 September 1915. His father, Seiichi Shioda, was a prominent paediatrician and medical academic who, having a penchant for the martial arts, had constructed a dojo, known as the Yoshinkan, at his home in Yotsuya, Tokyo. Various teachers were invited to demonstrate and instruct there, and the young Gozo was soon taken with the prowess of the newly emerging Judo. He enthusiastically began to practice, showing the determination and superabundance of energy that were to characterize his entire approach to life. He was naturally talented and made rapid progress, quickly advancing to third dan. While in his early teens, he liked nothing so much as to challenge police judo teachers to test his technique and push himself to the limit.
A turning point in his life came at the age of seventeen, when his father sent him to Ushigome to watch a class led by Morihei Ueshiba at the Kobukan, Ueshiba’s dojo. Ueshiba’s school was then somewhat exclusive. It was said to offer a powerful martial art to those who could provide suitable guarantors of good character, and stand the disciplined atmosphere.
On his initial visit, watching Ueshiba throw his opponents about so easily and without any apparent effort, Shioda felt sure he was witnessing a fraud, but was invited to try his judo skills against Ueshiba to see for himself. On launching an attack he found himself flying through the air, hitting the ground head first, without understanding what had happened. He was immediately convinced that this was the real thing, and the very next day, the 24th May 1932, joined the Kobukan Dojo and commenced his Aikido career as an Uchi-deshi or “resident disciple.”
Shioda trained with Morihei Ueshiba until 1941, when he also graduated from Takushoku University; at the end of that year he married Nobuko. He spent the war in an administrative support capacity in China, Taiwan, Celebes and Borneo, eventually returning to Japan in May 1946. After a brief period at Iwama, (Ueshiba’s country residence, dojo and farm, to revive his strength after wartime privations), he returned to Tokyo and worked for the Nihon Kokan Steel Company. His involvement with the company led to an invitation to teach Aikido to its employees commencing in 1952.
In 1954, the ban on the practice of martial arts, which had been imposed by the MacArthur government, was lifted. The Nippon Sogo Budo Yaitai, of Life Extension Association, sponsored the first post-war demonstration of Martial Arts. In front of an audience of fifteen thousand spectators, Shioda was awarded the grand prize for the best performance. He also attracted the attention of a number of prominent businessmen who proposed that he establish his own dojo. In this way the Yoshinkan, named after his father’s dojo, and with its first location in Yoyogi Hachiman, was born.
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