O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba: The Founder of Modern Aikido
As a young man, Morihei Ueshiba (born 14th December 1883) had an unusual interest in the martial arts, philosophy and religion. The environment of his youth, one of religious discipline and tradition, had an enormous effect on the course of his later life.
The Russo-Japanese War (1904) provided Ueshiba with a real situation to develop himself mentally and physically, in accord with the principles he had learned during his martial arts training. Ueshiba the soldier, spent most of the war years in the harsh climate of Northern Manchuria and by the end of the war, his health had deteriorated considerably. With characteristic vigour, he regained his vitality by the way of long hours spent in outdoor labour. Soon, Ueshiba was engaged by the government to lead a group of immigrants to Hokkaido (the Northern Island of Japan).
Another adventurous young man also made the move to Hokkaido, his name was Sokaku Takeda, head of the Takeda family. Ueshiba and Takeda met in 1905 and Ueshiba began his study of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu under Takeda Sensei. In addition, he continued to practice the other arts he had learned in Tokyo, particularly Kenjutsu and Jojutsu.
Travelling home to visit his ailing father, Ueshiba met Onisaburo Deguchi, leader of the Omotokyo religion. Ueshiba was very impressed with Deguchi and subsequently became one of his disciples. Although his commitment led him to further develop his mind, his martial arts studies were not neglected. In 1925 Ueshiba organized his own style of Aiki Jujutsu, largely for his own spiritual and physical development.
During the next decade, Ueshiba's students ( Tomiki, Mochizuki, Shioda and others) were active in building a foundation for present day Aikido. Ueshiba, however, was interested in seeking the true martial way, the essential spirit of Budo. In his search he left the dojo to work at farming. Through his closeness with nature and continued training, he tried to unify his spiritual and physical being. In 1950, Ueshiba returned to the Tokyo dojo with a mature, modified art which he then called Aikido.
The evolution of martial 'arts' to 'ways', Bugei to Budo. Ueshiba diligently applied himself to the reworking of the techniques he had taught, and synthesized them into a form that taught harmony and love rather than violence and decimation. In this way he was able to integrate his spiritual beliefs and his great technical proficiency.
Ueshiba proclaimed that the true Budo way (the way of the warrior) was the way of peaceful reconciliation. He dedicated himself to the design of an art that would teach technical prowess and strength, and commitment to the self-discipline needed for personal growth. He dubbed this new form Aikido.
Ueshiba continued to instruct until his death in 1969, earning the respect and admiration of all who met him. Before his death he received a government award as the designer of modern Aikido, and general acclaim for his efforts to bring peace and enlightenment to all. As his concern and energy touched the lives of his students he worked with, several styles of Aikido evolved. The most notable of these styles are Yoshinkan, Tomiki, Aikikai and the most recent Shinshin Toitsu. The founders of these styles are all dedicated men committed to the precepts set down by Master Ueshiba. Each has developed certain elements of O Sensei's teachings, so each style differs from the others while maintaining an essential sameness.