植芝 盛平 Ueshiba Morihei
December 14, 1883|
Tanabe, Wakayama, Japan
|Died||April 26, 1969
Iwama, Ibaraki, Japan
|Native name||植芝 盛平 Ueshiba Morihei|
Takemori Ueshiba (died in infancy)
Kuneharu (died in infancy)
|Notable students||Manzo Iwata|
Morihei Ueshiba (植芝 盛平 Ueshiba Morihei?, December 14, 1883 – April 26, 1969) was a famous martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido. He is often referred to as "the founder" Kaiso (開祖?) or Ōsensei (大先生/翁先生?), "Great Teacher".
The son of a landowner from Tanabe, Ueshiba studied a number of martial arts in his youth, and served in the Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese War. After being discharged in 1907, he moved to Hokkaidō as the head of a pioneer settlement; here he met and studied with Takeda Sokaku, the founder of Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu. On leaving Hokkaido in 1919, Ueshiba joined the Ōmoto-kyō movement in Ayabe, serving as a martial arts instructor and opening his first dojo. He accompanied the head of the Ōmoto-kyō sect, Onisaburo Deguchi, to Mongolia in 1924. The following year, he experienced a great spiritual enlightenment, stating that, "a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body, and changed my body into a golden one." After this experience, his martial arts skill appeared greatly increased.
Ueshiba moved to Tokyo in 1926, where he set up the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. In the aftermath of the Second World War the dojo was closed, but Ueshiba continued training at another dojo he had set up in Iwama. From the end of the war until the 1960s, he worked to promote aikido throughout Japan and abroad. He died from liver cancer in 1969.
Morihei was raised in a somewhat privileged setting. His father was a rich landowner who also traded in lumber and fishing and was politically active. Ueshiba was a rather weak, sickly child and bookish in his inclinations. At a young age his father encouraged him to take up sumo wrestling and swimming and entertained him with stories of his great-grandfather Kichiemon who was considered a very strong samurai in his era. The need for such strength was further emphasized when the young Ueshiba witnessed his father being attacked by followers of a competing politician.
At the age of six Ueshiba was sent to study at the Jizōderu Temple, but had little interest in the rote learning of Confucian education. However, his schoolmaster was also a priest of Shingon Buddhism, and taught the young Morihei some of the esoteric chants and ritual observances of the sect, which he found intriguing. He went to Tanage Higher Elementary School and then to Tanabe Prefectural Middle School, but left formal education in his early teens, enrolling instead at the a private abacus academy, the Yoshida Institute, to study accountancy. On graduating from the academy, he worked at a local tax office for a few months, but the job did not suit him and in 1901 he left for Tokyo, funded by his father. Ueshiba Trading, the stationery business which he opened there was short-lived; unhappy with life in the capital, he returned to Tanabe less than a year later after suffering a bout of beri-beri. Shortly thereafter he married his childhood acquaintance Hatsu Itokawa.
In 1903, Ueshiba was called up for military service. He failed the initial physical examination, being shorter than the regulation 5' 2". To overcome this, he stretched his spine by attaching heavy weights to his legs and suspending himself from tree branches; when he re-took the physical exam he had increased his height by the necessary half-inch to pass. He was assigned to the Osaka Fourth Division, 37th Regiment, and was a corporal by the following year; after serving on the front lines during the Russo-Japanese War he was promoted to sergeant. He was discharged in 1907, and again returned to his father's farm in Tanabe. Here he befriended the writer and philosopher Minakata Kumagusu, becoming involved with Minakata's opposition to the Meiji government's Shrine Consolidation Policy. He and his wife had their first child, a daughter named Matsuko, in 1911.
Ueshiba is known to have studied several martial arts during his early life. His training in Gotō-ha Yagyū-ryu under Masakatsu Nakai was sporadic due to his military service, although he was granted a diploma in the art within a few years. He also trained in Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū jujutsu under Tozawa Tokusaburō for a short period in 1901 in Tokyo and judo under Kiyoichi Takagi in Tanabe in 1911.
In 1912, Ueshiba and his wife left Tanabe and moved to Japan's northernmost island, Hokkaidō. At the time, Hokkaidō was still largely unsettled by the Japanese. Ueshiba was the leader of the Kishū Settlement Group, a collective of eighty-five pioneers who intended to settle in the Shirataki district and live as farmers. Poor soil conditions and bad weather led to crop failures during the first three years of the project, but the group still managed to cultivate mint and farm livestock. The burgeoning timber industry provided a boost to the settlement's economy, but a fire in 1917 razed the entire village, leading to the departure of around twenty families. Ueshiba, elected to the village council that year, led the reconstruction efforts. In the summer of 1918, Hatsu gave birth to their first son, Takemori.
In Hokkaidō, the young Ueshiba met Takeda Sokaku at the Hisada Inn in Engaru, in March 1915. After thirty days with Takeda, Ueshiba was deeply impressed. He requested formal instruction and began studying Takeda's Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu in earnest, going so far as to construct a dojo at his home and inviting his new teacher to be a permanent house guest. Takeda's records show that Ueshiba spent a great deal of time training in Daitō-ryū between 1915 and 1937. He received the majority of the important scrolls awarded by Takeda at this time including the Hiden Mokuroko, the Hiden Ogi and the Goshin'yo te. Ueshiba received his kyoju dairi certificate, or teaching license, for the system from Takeda in 1922, when Takeda visited him in Ayabe. Takeda had not yet implemented a menkyo license, or highest level of achievement license, into his system at this time. He also received a Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryū sword transmission scroll from Takeda in 1922 in Ayabe. Ueshiba then became a representative of Daitō-ryū, toured with Takeda as a teaching assistant and taught the system to others under the Daitō-ryū name.
Onisaburo Deguchi and Ōmoto-kyō
In November 1919, Ueshiba learned that his father Yoroku was ill, and was not expected to survive. Leaving most of his possessions to Sokaku, Ueshiba left Shirataki with the apparent intention returning to Tanabe to visit his ailing parent. En route, however, he made a detour Ayabe, near Kyoto, intending to visit Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Ōmoto-kyō religion in Ayabe. Having met Deguchi, Ueshiba stayed at the Ōmoto-kyō headquarters for several days. On his return to Tanabe, he found that his father had died. Within a few months, he was back in Ayabe, having decided to become a full-time student of Ōmoto-kyō. In 1920 Deguchi asked Ueshiba to become the group's martial arts instructor, and a dojo - the first of several that Ueshiba was to lead - was constructed on the centre's grounds. Ueshiba's second son, Kuniharu, was born in 1920 in Ayabe, but died from illness the same year, along with three-year-old Takemori.
In 1921, in an event known as the First Ōmoto-kyō Incident, the Japanese authorities raided the compound, arresting Deguchi and destroying the main buildings on the site. Ueshiba's dojo was undamaged, however, and over the following two years he worked closely with Deguchi to reconstruct the group's centre, becoming heavily involved in farming work. His son Kisshomaru Ueshiba was born in the summer of 1921.
Three years later, in 1924, Onisaburo Deguchi led a small group of Ōmoto-kyō disciples, including Ueshiba, on a journey to Mongolia at the invitation of retired naval captain Yutaro Yano and his associates within the ultra-nationalist Black Dragon Society. Allied with the Mongolian bandit Lu Zhankui, Deguchi's group were arrested in Tongliao by the Chinese authorities - fortunately for Ueshiba, whilst Lu and his men were executed by firing squad, the Japanese group were released into the custody of the Japanese consul. They were returned under guard to Japan, where Deguchi was imprisoned for breaking the terms of his bail.
After returning to Ayabe, Ueshiba began a regimen of spiritual training, regularly retreating by himself to the mountains or performing misogi in the Nachi Falls. After his spiritual enlightenment in 1925, his prowess as a martial artist increased, and his fame began to spread. He faced and defeated numerous challengers, some of whom subsequently became his students. In the autumn of 1925 he was asked to give a demonstration of his art in Tokyo, at the behest of Admiral Isamu Takeshita; one of the spectators was Yamamoto Gonnohyōe, who requested that Ueshiba stay in the capital to instruct the Imperial Guard in aikido. After a couple of weeks, however, Ueshiba took issue with several government officials who voiced concerns about his connections to Deguchi; he cancelled the training and returned to Ayabe.
In 1926 Takeshita invited Ueshiba to visit Tokyo again. Ueshiba relented and returned to the capital, but while residing there was stricken with a serious illness. Deguchi visited his ailing student and, concerned for his health, commanded Ueshiba to return to Ayabe. The appeal of this course of action was greatly increased when Ueshiba was questioned by the police immediately after meeting Deguchi; the authorities were keeping the Ōmoto-kyō leader under close surveillance. Angered at the treatment he had received, Ueshiba went back to Ayabe again. Six months later, however, and this time with Deguchi's blessing, he and his family moved permanently to Tokyo. Arriving in October 1927, they set up home in the Shirokane district. The building, however, was too small to house the growing number of aikido students, and so the Ueshibas moved to larger premises, first in Mita district, then in Takanawa, and finally to a purpose-built hall in Shinjuku. This last location, originally named the Kobukan 皇武館, would eventually become the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. During its construction, Ueshiba rented a property nearby, where he was visited by Jigoro Kano.
In 1932, Ueshiba's daughter Matsuko was married to the swordsman Kiyoshi Nakakura, who was adopted as Ueshiba's heir under the name Morihiro Ueshiba. The marriage ended after a few years, and Nakakura left the family in 1937.
From 1935 onwards, Ueshiba had been purchasing land in Iwama in Ibaraki Prefecture. In 1942, having acquired around 17 acres of farmland there, he left Tokyo and moved to Iwama permanently, settling in a small farmer's cottage. Here he founded the Aiki Shuren Dojo, also known as the Iwama dojo. During all this time he traveled extensively in Japan, particularly in the Kansai region teaching his aikido. Despite the prohibition on the teaching of martial arts after World War II, Ueshiba and his students continued to practice in secret at the Iwama dojo; the Hombu dojo in Tokyo was in any case being used as a refugee centre. The prohibition (on aikido, at least) was lifted in 1948 with the creation of the Aiki Foundation, established by the Japanese Ministry of Education with permission from the Occupation forces. The Hombu dojo re-opened the following year. After the war, however, Ueshiba delegated most of the work of running the Hombu dojo and the Aiki Federation to his son Kisshomaru, choosing to spend much of his time in prayer, meditation, calligraphy and farming. He still travelled extensively to promote aikido, however, even visiting Hawaii in 1961. He also appeared in a television documentary on aikido: NTV's The Master of Aikido, broadcast in January 1960.
In 1969, Morihei Ueshiba became ill. He led his last training session on March 10, and was subsequently taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with cancer of the liver. He died suddenly on April 26, 1969. Two months later, his wife Hatsu also died.(植芝 はつ; Ueshiba Hatsu, née Itokawa Hatsu; 1881–1969)
Development of aikido
The real birth of Aikido came as the result of three instances of spiritual awakening that Ueshiba experienced. The first happened in 1925, after Ueshiba had defeated a naval officer's bokken (wooden katana) attacks unarmed and without hurting the officer. Ueshiba then walked to his garden and had a spiritual awakening.
- ... I felt the universe suddenly quake, and that a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body, and changed my body into a golden one. At the same time my body became light. I was able to understand the whispering of the birds, and was clearly aware of the mind of God, the creator of the universe.
- At that moment I was enlightened: the source of budo is God's love – the spirit of loving protection for all beings ...
- Budo is not the felling of an opponent by force; nor is it a tool to lead the world to destruction with arms. True Budo is to accept the spirit of the universe, keep the peace of the world, correctly produce, protect and cultivate all beings in nature.
His second experience occurred in 1940 when,
His third experience was in 1942 during the worst fighting of WWII, Ueshiba had a vision of the "Great Spirit of Peace".
- "The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek to compete and better one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter – it is the Art of Peace, the power of love."
The technical curriculum of aikido was undoubtedly most greatly influenced by the teachings of Takeda Sokaku and his system of aiki-jūjutsu called Daitō-ryū. The basic techniques of aikido seem to have their basis in teachings from various points in the Daitō-ryū curriculum. A source of confusion is the different names used for these techniques in aikido and in the Daitō-ryū system. In part this is because Takeda Tokimune added much of the nomenclature after the period in which Ueshiba studied. In addition the names ikkajo, nikajo, sankajo used in both Daitō-ryū and the early years of aikido, latter supplanted by terms such as ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, were really generic names translating to "first teaching", "second teaching", and so on. In Daitō-ryū these usually refer to groupings of techniques while in aikido they usually refer to specific techniques and joint manipulations. In the earlier years of his teaching, from the 1920s to the mid-1930s, Ueshiba taught the aiki-jūjutsu system he had earned a license in from Takeda Sokaku. His early students' documents bear the term aiki-jūjutsu. Indeed, Ueshiba trained one of the future highest grade earners in Daitō-ryū, Takuma Hisa, in the art before Takeda took charge of Hisa's training.
The early form of training under Ueshiba was characterized by the ample use of strikes to vital points (atemi), a larger total curriculum, a greater use of weapons, and a more linear approach to technique than would be found in later forms of aikido. These methods are preserved in the teachings of his early students Kenji Tomiki (who founded the Shodokan Aikido sometimes called Tomiki-ryū), Noriaki Inoue (who founded Shin'ei Taidō), Minoru Mochizuki (who founded Yoseikan Budo), Gozo Shioda (who founded Yoshinkan Aikido). Many of these styles are considered "pre-war styles", although some of the teachers continued to have contact and influence from Ueshiba in the years after the Second World War.
Later, as Ueshiba seemed to slowly grow away from Takeda, he began to implement more changes into the art. These changes are reflected in the differing names with which he referred to his art, first as aiki-jūjutsu, then Ueshiba-ryū, Asahi-ryū, aiki budō, and finally aikido.
As Ueshiba grew older, more skilled, and more spiritual in his outlook, his art also changed and became softer and more circular. Striking techniques became less important and the formal curriculum became simpler. In his own expression of the art there was a greater emphasis on what is referred to as kokyū-nage, or "breath throws" which are soft and blending, utilizing the opponent's movement in order to throw them. Many of these techniques are rooted in the aiki-no-jutsu portions of the Daitō-ryū curriculum rather than the more direct jujutsu style joint-locking techniques.
In an interview Shoji Nishio reported : "At that time, a former Karate sensei of the Butokukai named Toyosaku Sodeyama who was running Konishi Sensei’s dojo and also teaching there came up to me and said: “I met someone who is like a ‘phantom’. I couldn’t strike him even once.” I was amazed that there was someone that even Sodeyama Sensei couldn’t strike. It was O-Sensei."
To this day, Ōmoto-kyō priests oversee a ceremony in Ueshiba's honor every April 29 at the Aiki Shrine in Iwama.
Over the years, Ueshiba trained a large number of students, many of whom have grown into great teachers in their own right. Some of them were uchideshi, or live-in students. There are roughly four generations of students. A partial list follows:
|First (pre-war) generation
|Second (war) generation
|Third (post-war) generation
|Fourth (and last) generation
As a young man, Ueshiba was renowned for his incredible physical strength. He would later lose much of this muscle, which some believe changed the way he performed aikido technique.
Ueshiba was said to be a simple but wise man, and a gifted farmer. In his later years, he was regarded as very kind and gentle as a rule, but there are also stories of terrifying scoldings delivered to his students. For instance, he once thoroughly chastised students for practicing jō (staff) strikes on trees without first covering them in protective padding. Another time, as students sneaked back into the dojo after a night of drinking and brawling, he smashed the first one through the door over the head with a bokken (wooden practice sword), and proceeded to scold them.
Morihei Ueshiba played the game of Go often. During one game with Sokaku Takeda, Takeda utilized the Goban as a weapon against a man he mistook for an assassin. The "assassin" was actually a friend of Ueshiba, and had arrived in a scarf due to bad weather. The scarf hid the man's identity, triggering Takeda's paranoia as, at the time, many people actually were trying to kill him.
- Medal of Honor (Japan), 1960.
- Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, 1964.
- Order of the Sacred Treasure (Japan), 1968.
- Morihei Ueshiba, The Secret Teachings of Aikido (2008), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-3030-6 
- Morihei Ueshiba, Budo: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido (1996), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-2070-3 
- Morihei Ueshiba, The Essence of Aikido: Spiritual Teachings of Morihei Ueshiba (1998), Kodansha International, ISBN 978-4-7700-2357-5 
- Pranin, Stanley (2006). "Ueshiba, Morihei". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- Ueshiba, Morihei (1992). The Art of Peace. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambhala Publications, Inc. pp. 5–10. ISBN 0-87773-851-3.
- Stevens, John.Aikido; the Way of Harmony. Shambhala Publications, Boston, 1984.
- Stevens, John; Krenner, Walther (2004). Training with the Master: Lessons with Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido. Boston & London: Shambhala. pp. ix–xxii. ISBN 9781570625688.
- Ueshiba, Morihei (1996). Budo: Teachings of the Founder of Aikido. Tokyo, New York, London: Kodansha International. pp. 8–23 (from the Introduction by Kisshomaru Ueshiba). ISBN 4770020708.
- Phong Thong Dang; Lynn Seiser (2006). Advanced Aikido. Tuttle Publishing. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8048-3785-9. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
- Stevens, John (1999). Invincible Warrior: A Pictorial Biography of Morihe Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido. Boston, London: Shambhala. p. 22. ISBN 9781570623943.
- Pranin, Stanley (2006) "Interview with Kisshomaru and Morihei Ueshiba" Aikidojournal.com
- Stevens, John (1999). Invincible Warrior: A Pictorial Biography of Morihe Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido. Boston, London: Shambhala. p. 36. ISBN 9781570623943.
- Stevens, John (1999). Invincible Warrior: A Pictorial Biography of Morihe Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido. Boston, London: Shambhala. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9781570623943.
- Stevens, John (1999). Invincible Warrior: A Pictorial Biography of Morihe Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido. Boston, London: Shambhala. pp. 37–45. ISBN 9781570623943.
- Stevens 1999, pp 45-49
- Stevens 1999, pp 50-53
- Pranin, Stanley. "Focus on History: Ueshiba Family Tree: The Line of Succession". Screencast. Aikido Journal. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- Thomas A. Green; Joseph R. Svinth (2010). Martial Arts of the World: Regions and individual arts. ABC-CLIO. pp. 134–135. ISBN 978-1-59884-243-2. Retrieved 26 June 2013.
- Stevens, 1999, p. 63
- Ueshiba, 1996, p. 18
- Stevens, 1999, p.66-69
- Srevens/Krenner, 2004, p. xix
- Ueshiba, 1996, p. 21
- Interview with Shoji Nishio (1984), Part 1 "His face was really beautiful like a Noh mask of an old man. If one dies of cancer, there is usually a lot of suffering and the pain remains on the face. But, that wasn’t the case with 0-Sensei. He had a divinely beautiful face."
- Stevens, 1999, p.72
- Ueshiba, Kisshomaru. Aikido. Hozansha Publications, Tokyo, 1985.
- Morihei Ueshiba's Second Vision from the Oregon Graduate Institute's Aikido Club.
- Speaking of a vision of the "Great Spirit of Peace" in 1942, during World War II, as quoted in Adjusting Though Reflex: Romancing Zen (2010) by Rodger Hyodo, p. 76.
- Pranin, Stanley (2006). "Ikkyo". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- Pranin, Stanley (2006). "Aikijujutsu". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- Pranin, Stanley (2006). "Hisa Takuma". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- Pranin, Stanley (2006). "Ueshiba-ryu". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- Pranin, Stanley (2006)"Sokaku Takeda in Osaka" Aikidojournal.com
- Pranin, Stanley (2006). "Aiki Budo". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- Pranin, Stanley (2006). "Aikido". Encyclopedia of Aikido.
- Interview with Shoji Nishio (1984), held on May 22, 1983 in Tokyo
- Aikido Journal Encyclopedia
- List of Deshi
- Interview with Kisshomaru Ueshiba in Aikido Journal
- Yasunari Kitaura
- Henry Kono Interview
- Phong Thong Dang, Lynn Seiser; Advanced Aikido Tuttle Publishing, 2006 ISBN 978-0-8048-3785-9 p17
- Stone, J and Myer, R; Aikido in America, Frog Books, 1995, ISBN 978-1-883319-27-4 p2
- Stevens, John. Invincible Warrior. ISBN 1-57062-394-5.
- North Austin Tae Kwan Do: "Chronology of the Life of Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido."
- L'Harmattan web site (in French)
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|Dōshu of Aikikai
1940 – April 26, 1969
|Dōjōcho of Iwama Dōjō
|Dojocho of Aikikai Hombu Dojo