Teachers that we learn from.

Morihei Ueshiba

Morihei Ueshiba O sensei



The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba was born on 14th of December 1883 in an agricultural family, in the Vakayama prefecture, now known as Tanabe. He was the only male child in a family with 5 children. From his father he inherited the samurai designation and the interest for the public events and from his mother the interest for religion, poetry and art. In his early childhood he was a weak and often sick child, which was the reason for him to sit at home and read books instead of playing outside with the other children.

He wanted to listen about the magical legends, En no Goya and Kobo Daishi, and was fascinated by the Buddhist rituals. From time to time Morihei thought of the possibility of becoming a priest. Morihei’s father, Jorki, was trying to change his son’s mind about that idea and encouraged him to start practicing sumo and swimming, motivating him with the stories about his great grandfather, who was considered to be one of the best samurai of his time.

In time Morihei became very strong and finely his idea came true, after his father, who was in politics at that time, was attacked and beaten up by a group of hooligans hired by his political opponents. Morihei, being only 158 cm tall, managed to be at 80 kilos muscle weight. He didn’t find any particular interest in classical education, since his great energy had the need for more practical knowledge. He was working at various places, doing different assignments and during the period when he was working as a merchant in Tokyo, he realized that he had great affinity towards martial arts.

He begun to study jujutsu at Kito-ryu where his master was Tokusabura Tozawa and Kenjutsu at  Shinkage-ryu. In 1901 he got the certificate for successfully ended training at Kito-ryu. A few years after that, he got the certificate for Kenjutsu from his master Masakatsu Nakai. He got sick and had to return home, where he later married Itogawa Hatsu. During the Russian-Japanese war in 1903, he volunteered in the army, infantry. His superiors were impressed by him and they recommended him to the national military academy. Morihei refused the offer and returned home. Driven by the great desire to continue the physical training, he built a dojo at his farm and invited the famous for his time, jujutsu instructor Takaki Kiyoichi to be his personal teacher. During this period of time he realized that he owned a great, above average, talent for martial arts and in the same time he showed great interest in politics.

In the spring of 1912, at the age of 29, he moved to Hokaido together with his family. After a few difficult years, the village he moved to begun to prosper. Morihei Ueshiba became very strong, that his strength was a subject of various stories that were going around. During the time of his stay at Hokaido he met the great master in Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu, Sokaku Takeda. Being certain that he wouldn't find a better teacher than him, Ueshiba completely devoted himself to the study of Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu.

After a few months he went back to Shirataki and invited Sokoku Takeda to live with him and teach at his dojo. Hearing about the illness of his father, Ueshiba traveled back to Hokaido. During his trip he made a stop at Ayabe, the center of Omotokyo religion. There he met the leader of the new religion, Deguchi Onisaburo.

Since he was, so to say, charmed or enchanted by Ayabe and by Deguchi, he stayed an additional three days there. Meanwhile his father dies, and it was very heavy on Morihei heart. He made a decision to move to Ayabe and learn about the Omotokyo. He stayed there for the next eight years. Deguchi was a distinguished pacifist, who pledged for universal disarmament. It is intriguing how a man of his nature could get so close to a man from the world of the martial arts, as Ueshiba was. Be it as it may, it didn’t take long time before Deguchi realized that the true goal of Ueshiba was to learn the true meaning of budo and to put an end to all the battles and conflicts. The study of the Omotokyo religion and the closeness with Onisaburo had great impact on Morihei’s life.

Ueshiba made a statement that Sokaku Takeda had opened his eyes about budo, but he had experienced enlightenment through Omotokyo. According to what he had said, in the time of his early forties, somewhere around 1925, he had encountered many spiritual experiences, which changed his life and his way of practice forever. He understood that the true cause of budo is love which needs to be shared with every living thing.

In the next years the number of Morihei’s students was constantly growing. Among the students were Tomiki Kenji and the famous admiral TAkeshita. Deguchi encouraged Morihei to separate himself from the Omokjoto and to continue on his path. He, than, moves to Tokyo and because of the increased number of students he had to build an official dojo in the area of Ushigome, today the headquarters of the Aikikai Foundation.

Right after the dojo was built, highly ranked teacher from other martial arts came to visit him, among who was the creator of judo, Jigoro Kano. They were very impressed and sent their studens to learn from Ueshiba. In 1932 Ueshiba was appointed for head instructor. At that time Gozo Shioda, Shirata Ringiro and others joined the dojo. Up to the outbreak of the Second World War Ueshiba was too busy with the classes he gave to Kobukan and with giving special training classes at the military and police academy. In the next ten years Morihai became very popular and many stories about his personality started to be spread around.

In 1942 he returned to his farm. He often stated that budo has a lot in common with agriculture. During the war Kobukan was nearly empty. This was why he entrusted it in the hands of his son Kishomaru. Morihei moved to Ibaraki prefecture in the village of Iwama. There he built a dojo and an Aiki sanctuary, which is still famous and is being visited even today. After the war Aikido was spreading quickly, especially in Kobukan, now named Aikikai Hombu Dojo, under the leadership of Kishomaru Ueshiba. Morihei is being called O Sensei, as the only supreme master of Aikido. He received many decorations from the Japanese government.

Until the end of his life O Sensei never stopped improving the path and he never lost his dedication to a hard training. In the early spring of 1969 he got very sick and on his request was transferred to his home, nearer to his dojo. He died on 26 of April 1969 at the age of 86. Among the last word he uttered were those that Aikido is designed for the whole world and should be taught, not selfishly, but to all people, all around the world.

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