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O Sensei

Early Years

Morihei Ueshiba, December 14, 1883 to April 26, 1969 was a famous martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of Aikido. He is often referred to as Kaiso, meaning "founder", or Osensei, "Great Teacher".
Morihei Ueshiba was born in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, on December 14, 1883. During his childhood, the Ueshiba family lived in Maizuru, Kyoto. The only son of Yokoru and Yuki Ueshiba's five children, Morihei was raised in a somewhat privileged setting. His father was a wealthy 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.

Ueshiba is known to have studied several martial arts in his youth but he did not train extensively in most and even his training in Yagyu Shingan-ryu was sporadic due to his military service in those years. Records show that he trained in Tenjin Shin'yo-ryu jujutsu under Tozawa Tokusaburo for a short period in 1901 in Tokyo; Goto-ha Yagyu Shingan-ryu under Nakai Masakatsu from 1903 to 1908 in Sakai, and judo under Kiyoichi Takagi 1911 in Tanabe. However, it was only after moving to the northern island of Hokkaido in 1912 with his wife, as part of a settlement effort, that his martial art training took on real depth. For it was here that he began his study of Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu under its reviver Takeda Sokaku.
 
The technical curriculum of Aikido was undoubtedly most greatly influenced by the teachings of Takeda Sokaku and his system of aiki-jujutsu called Daito-ryu. Although disputed by some, the ledger books of Takeda clearly show that Ueshiba spent a great deal of time training in Daito-ryu between 1915 and 1937.

From aiki-jujutsu to Aikido
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.

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 kokyu-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 Daito-ryu curriculum rather than the more direct jujutsu style joint-locking techniques.

Onisaburo Deguchi's spiritual influence
After Ueshiba left Hokkaido he came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Omoto-kyo religion in Ayabe. In addition to the effect on his spiritual growth, this connection was to have a major effect in introducing Ueshiba to various elite political circles as a martial artist. The Ueshiba Dojo in Ayabe was used to train members of the Omoto-kyo sect. He was involved in the first Omoto-kyo Incident, an ill-fated attempt to found a utopian colony in Mongolia. Although Ueshiba eventually distanced himself from both these teachers, their effect on him and his art cannot be overstated.

The birth 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, "Around 2am as I was performing misogi, I suddenly forgot all the martial techniques I had ever learned. The techniques of my teachers appeared completely new. Now they were vehicles for the cultivation of life, knowledge, and virtue, not devices to throw people with.

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.

In 1927, Ueshiba moved to Tokyo where he founded his first dojo, which still exists today under the name Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Between 1940 and 1942 he made several visits to Manchukuo (Japanese occupied Manchuria) to instruct his martial art. In 1942 he left Tokyo and moved to Iwama in the Ibaraki Prefecture where the term "Aikido" was first used as a name for his art. 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.

Morihei Ueshiba died on April 26, 1969.

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