Morihei Ueshiba, a name that not many outside of the Aikido community will likely know. Most that do practice the art know him by the title O’ Sensei or “great teacher”. I look at this individual as a hero, not for the usual reasons of the definition, but because he chose to lead a life of learning and evolve his body and mind. He is the founder of one of the most popular modern martial arts, Aikido.
So why does this make him a hero? We have to take a deeper look into his past and just exactly what Aikido means. Morihei Ueshiba was born on December 14th 1883 in the Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. His younger years were spent reading and usually staying indoors which made the boy rather weak for his age. His father encouraged young Morihei to take up swimming and sumo wrestling to increase his strength. A couple of years later Morihei realized the importance of being strong after his father was brutally attacked by a gang of thugs. After a brief stint in the Japanese military he returned home and moved to a small village in the wilderness. His father built a small dojo on their farm and invited the well know Jujutsu instructor, Takak to train his son. He took the training well and learned extremely quickly. A blog on “Energy Arts” says, “Actually, Ueshiba was far beyond aikijitsu’s level of sophistication. His ability to enter, turn, attract and then play with and lead an opponent’s chi and mind was phenomenal.”
Morehei, later studied under a new type of religion known as Omoto-kyu under Deguchi Onisaburo. The leader was a pacifist and a believer in non-violent resistance. It was though odd that Onisaburo would become so close with Morihei, an accomplished and well know martial artist. Ueshiba later separated with Onisaburo under his request so he could begin his own “way”. Morehei realized that true budo has two aspects, the spiritual side and the martial side. They must connect in order to be beneficial in one’s life. He used his background in various martial arts to create an art with a more peaceful resolution rather than focusing on destroying one’s enemy. Aikido was the way of harmony, to blend with an attack and use their own energy against them. The idea was to take the energy given to you, blend with it, and resolve the conflict without causing serious harm to the attacker. This is what Morihei believed budo was. A more peaceful way of dealing with negativity and aggression. There has been controversy about if he ever “created” the art of Aikido. He took a lot of the techniques from other arts and molded them to fit his idea of what Aikido is. Peter Boylan gives his side, “What Ueshiba did, was take a very brutal art, Daito Ryu, as taught by Takeda Sokaku, and meld it with the philosophy of Omoto-kyo. This melding is what made it possible for him, and for those who have followed him, to extend their use of its principles to every corner of life.”
After 1925 he gained a large following of students and spent the next four decades teaching. The art started out as Aiki-jutsu, to Aiki-budo, to the final name he gave the art of Aikido. After the loss of life during World War II Morihei was evolving the art to a different level. He wanted his students to learn the way of Aikido but also wanted them to live it. He taught forgiveness and that it was very important to take your thinking to a higher level than that of your attacker. The attacking person was always on a lower level of thinking and needed to be forgiven for his actions. O’ Sensei has an important saying regarding the art:
“In my opinion, it can be said to be the true martial art. The reason for this is that it is a martial art based on universal truth. This Universe is composed of many different parts, and yet the Universe as a whole is united as a family and symbolizes the ultimate state of peace. Holding such a view of the Universe, aikido cannot be anything but a martial art of love. It cannot be a martial art of violence. For this reason, aikido can be said to be another manifestation of the Creator of the Universe.”
That is why Aikido is taught to not severely injure one’s opponent if possible. Even though the techniques can cause serious injury. It was during this time that Aikido and the decades that follow that allowed the art to gain a worldly following. His goal of creating a way of life relating to harmony and still applying a way of protection was achieved. It is this art in which I practice almost full time and I do my best in applying the practices and forgiving beliefs of Aikido. But I am also a firm believer that the art was meant as a way of life with an emphasis on self-defense.
“Morihei Ueshiba-Aikido Master.” Energy Arts. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
“Interview with Morihei Ueshiba and Kisshomaru Ueshiba.” Aikido Journal. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
Boylan, Peter. “Did Morihei Ueshiba Invent Aikido?” AikiWeb. Web. 25 Sept. 2013.
By Chad Banister
Open Sky Aikikai