Morihei Ueshiba: “The Aim of Aiki is to
Banish Fighting, Warfare and Violence.”
“The Founder was constantly applying the principle of “sen sen no sen” — seizing the
initiative — when executing techniques. This is one of the main characteristics of his aikido.”
From 1942 to 1955, Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba spent most of his time in his country home with attached dojo in Iwama, Ibaragi Prefecture. During and immediately after the war, Morihei had for the first time in years the opportunity to devote himself to farming, personal training, and meditation. It was in this country village, far from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, that Morihei formulated the concept of “Takemusu Aiki.” This was an expression of his ideal of the highest level of aikido where techniques perfectly suited to the immediate circumstances surge forth spontaneously. These techniques were infused with Morihei’s heartfelt belief that the true purpose of Aikido is to banish, fighting, warfare and violence.
A perfectly executed suwariwaza ikkyo omotewaza with Morihei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, as uke in this 1952 film shot in Wakayama. Note the extension of both arms and movement from the center.
Morihei applies a powerful sankyo to the wrist of a young Koichi Tohei. Saito Sensei said that this film was made for Tohei Sensei to take to Hawaii on his first visit in 1953.
This is a most unusual hanmihandachi technique with Naritoki Hirano, an early student of the Founder from his hometown of Tanabe.
This is an amazing still that captures Morihei in mid-air having executed a two-fisted thrust downward. Look at the width and muscularity of his back. In this film from 1955, Morihei leads the class in a series of seldom seen warmups.
This still captures Morihei setting up a nikyo technique on a very young Nobuyoshi Tamura. Notice that the Founder’s right hand is about to strike down uke’s hand in order to break his balance. This film was taken on the rooftop dojo of the Self-defense Force Dojo in the Ichigaya district of Tokyo.
Here Morihei and Tamura Sensei are using jo as the Founder shows the multitude of openings that can be exploited from this position. Morihei would invariably accompany his demonstrations with shows of the use of the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo.
What is remarkable here is how far Morihei has already entered in advance of Hiroshi Tada Sensei’s attack. The Founder was constantly applying the principle of “sen sen no sen” (seizing the initiative) when executing techniques. This is one of the main characteristics of his aikido.
A different film but the same rooftop dojo location. Here Morihei leads Tamura Sensei prior to executing a kokyunage technique.
Morihei completes a dynamic throw with a grand flourish. Notice the two American GIs looking on. The young Japanese man at the right is none other than Masando Sasaki Sensei, 8th dan, at the very beginning of his aikido career.
With the exception of the 1935 Asahi News film, these are among the earliest known movies of Morihei Ueshiba. As the Founder was in his vigorous late 60s and early 70s, the techniques he demonstrates are abundant and technically precise. The footage from these early films is perhaps the most important for today’s practitioners seeking to master the art.
THIS WEEK’S SPECIAL OFFER FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Aikido Journal offers its complete collection of Morihei Ueshiba films for the first time in downloadable format. This invaluable historical material contains more than four hours of films and audio recordings of O-Sensei covering the period of 1935 to just prior to his passing in 1969. Morihei Ueshiba’s aikido was different from anyone else, and serious practitioners need to know how he moved, how he set up uke, and subtly blended using softness to attain such mystifying results on the mat. These are goals worthy of working for to greatly improve your aikido skills!