Morihei Ueshiba (1883 – 1969)

Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei, the founder of Aikido

Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei, who founded the martial art of Aikido.
Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei, who founded the martial art of Aikido.

Morihei Ueshiba was the founder of Aikido, a non-violent martial art that uses body movement, holds and locks to throw down and hold an attacker harmless. Aikido is also excellent at dealing with multiple attackers, both with and without weapons.

Morihei Ueshiba was born in Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, in 1883. He was a sick and weakly child but his mother gave him a great love of poetry, art and religion. His father encouraged the young Morihei to study Sumo wrestling and swimming, in order to make him stronger.

The young MoriheiĀ  witnessed his father being beaten up on more than one occasion because of politics and trying to clean up local corruption. So he made his mind up to become a warrrior.

Morihei Ueshiba learned Ju Jutsu at the Kito-ryu dojo and Japanese Swordsmanship at the Shinkage Ryu school.

He then tried to enlist in the Japanese army when it went to war against Russia, but he was rejected as too small. (He was just under 5 feet tall.)

In 1903, Morihei Ueshiba tried to join the army again and was accepted as a foot soldier. The Japanese army toughened him up and, after his service, he returned home and studied more Ju Jitsu from Takaki Kiyoichi.

In 1912 the Ueshiba family moved to Hokkaido, and there Morihei Ueshiba met Sokaku Takeda, the Grand Master of Daito-ryu Aiki Jutsu. Morihei Ueshiba tested his fighting skills against Sokaku Takeda, and found his new teacher could beat him easily.

So Ueshiba became Takeda’s student and threw himself energetically into learning this powerful system. He became a master of Daito-Ryu Jujitsu and he started to combine this with the other fighting skills he had learned.

After his father died, Morihei Ueshiba moved to Ayabe to study a new religion called Omoto-kyo, a sect of Shintoism, which he studied diligently for eight years. In the middle 1920s, while he was in his early 40s, Morihei Ueshiba had several deep religious experiences.

He had developed a really powerful fighting system and had a reputation throughout Japan as being quite unbeatable.

The Japanese characters Ai-Ki-Do characters, which translate as the Way of Spiritual Harmony.
The Japanese characters Ai-Ki-Do characters, which translate as the Way of Spiritual Harmony.

At the end of World War II, in the late 1940s, Morihei Ueshiba changed the name of his martial art from Aiki Budo to Aiki Do. HeĀ  changed his martial art’s purpose into an art of non-violence, and he began teaching his students how to defend themselves without needing to maim or kill their opponents.

The Japanese character ‘Do’ is the same as the Chinese character ‘Tao’ and both mean a ‘Way’ like as in a Path to spiritual progress. The Japanese characters Ai Ki Bu Do translate as Harmonious Martial Art. While Aiki Do means the Way of Spiritual Harmony.

Classical Aikido followers refer to Morihei Ueshiba as O-Sensei , which simply means ‘great teacher’.

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