At the age of 16, Saotome began his martial arts training in judo. In this early career he weighed 185 lbs of solid muscle (currently he's closer to 30 lbs lighter and much better in his martial arts abilities) and placed First in the City of Tokyo in Judo competition. At the age of 18, he entered the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo in order to train under Ueshiba. He became an uchi-deshi in 1958 and trained there for a total of 15 years until his teacher's death in 1969.
Saotome began teaching at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1960. He was very well respected as an instructor, receiving many honors. He obtained the title of shihan and ultimately was appointed a senior instructor. As a senior instructor in Aikido he was the Chief Weapons Instructor at Hombu. He held that position until 1975.
At this time Saotome began to give great thought and meditation as to his future purpose. After many days of consideration, he was said to have felt the hand of divine spiritual intervention. This was instrumental in his decision to relocate to the United States. He felt that the US was at a point of development that embraced new ideas, and that this would be an ideal environment to spread the message of peace and harmony implicit in the study of aikido.
When asked about his decision to move to the US, Saotome said "I meditated on Ōsensei's spirit for three days and three nights and I felt it was his wish that I should go. This country is a great experiment, a melting pot of people from many different cultural backgrounds living together, the world condensed into one nation. The goal of aikido and Ōsensei's dream is that all the peoples of the world live together as one family, in harmony with each other and with their environment. The United States has the opportunity to set a great example."
After relocating to the US, Saotome founded an organization known as Aikido Schools of Ueshiba. He continues to serve as chief instructor for the organization, which has rejoined the Aikikai and resumed its association with Hombu Dojo.
Saotome is especially skilled in the use of traditional Japanese weapons, including the wooden staffs jo and bo, and the wooden sword bokken. He has also developed a system for working with two swords in aikido. Saotome feels that learning the movements and skills associated with proficiency in these weapons not only increases speed and agility, but harmony with one's partner. Grace and perfection are very important since a single accidental blow with one of these 'practice' weapons can be excruciatingly painful. Since aikido emphasizes harmony between oneself and the universe, respect for one's partner is very important. The consequences of your techniques are immediately obvious and intense concentration and training should ultimately lead one to a controlled and harmonious interaction.
Mitsugi Saotome currently resides in the state of Florida in the US. He continues to teach at the Aiki Shrine Dojo in Myakka City, Florida, but spends approximately 6 weeks each year teaching at the Aikido Shobukan Dojo, the home dojo of the Aikido Schools of Ueshiba in Washington, DC. He also travels extensively, teaching seminars throughout the US.
Saotome has also written three books on Aikido: Aikido and the Harmony of Nature, The Principles of Aikido, Aikido: Living By Design and produced a collection of videos demonstrating various techniques, including a video on the two-sword technique.
- Saotome, Mitsugi (1986). Aikido and the Harmony of Nature. Boston: Shambala. p. 251. ISBN 0-87773-855-6.
- Saotome, Mitsugi (2004). Living by Design. Susan Perry. p. 109. ISBN 0-941736-16-4.
- Saotome, Mitsugi (1989). The Principles of Aikido. Boston: Shambala. p. 223. ISBN 0-87773-409-7.
- Official Aikido Schools of Ueshiba site
- Official Aiki Shrine site, (members only)
- Aikido Shobukan Dojo site
- AIKIKAI Foundation, Aikido World Headquarters
- Mitsugi Saotome The Principles of Aikido, SHAMBHALA, 1989