A Brief History of Aikido

O sensei Ushibia (2)

Morihei Ueshiba, called O'Sensei ("great teacher"), the founder of modern Aikido,was born on December 14, 1883 in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. Several incidents in his life served to shape his vision and beliefs, and influenced his design of a martial art that is, in many ways, unlike any other practiced today.

As a small child, he saw his father attacked and assaulted by political opponents, and because of this injustice, devoted himself to becoming physically powerful. He studied under masters in several traditional forms of the martial arts. He became an expert in the styles of jujitsu (unarmed combat), kenjitsu (sword fighting), and sojitsu (spear fighting). O'Sensei would later incorporate elements of these styles into modern Aikido.

Despite his physical prowess, he found himself dispirited. He turned to studying various religions and philosophies in the hope of finding a deeper meaning and significance to life. In his search, he discovered and became a devotee of the religion called Omotokyo - a blend of neo-shintoism and socio-political idealism - where the unification of all humanity is one goal. He reached the conclusion that it was important to train people’s minds and spirits as well as their bodies.

O’Sensei credited an incident with a naval officer as the beginning of his enlightenment. The officer, who was a fencing instructor, challenged him to a match. During the match, an unarmed O’Sensei repeatedly evaded the officer’s strikes with a wooden sword, eventually defeating him when the officer dropped from exhaustion. In his retelling of the incident, O'Sensei stated he was aware that could "see" the officer’s moves before he made them. He also realized that he had defeated an armed attacker without ever harming or even laying a hand on him.

Originally called aikibudo by its founder, this art that expressed O'Sensei's philosophy of harmony, protection and love, had a large number of followers by the early 1920's. In 1927 O'Sensei built a dojo in Tokyo. A few years later he founded the Budo Enhancement Society and became its chief instructor.

In the early 1940’s his creation was being called Aikido, but it was still only practiced by carefully chosen individuals in Japan. After WWII, Aikido was introduced to the world, and gradually spread, reaching the United States in the late 1950’s.

O’Sensei was a man of peace who followed his spiritual and philosophical vision. He taught that the martial arts should be used as a means to live in harmony with oneself, the earth, and its inhabitants. Throughout his life he continued to refine his system to the less violent and gently flowing techniques practiced today. O’Sensei died at the age of 86 on April 26, 1969.

Kissomaru Ueshiba, O’Sensei’s son, took over the task of spreading the vision of Aikido - The Art of Peace - after his father’s death. His grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba continues this tradition today.