History of Aikido

The founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, also known as O’Sensei (great teacher) was born in Japan on December 14, 1883. As a boy, he witnessed local thugs beat his father for political reasons. Although frail and sickly, he determined to become strong so that he could take revenge and prevent being a victim himself. He devoted himself to physical conditioning and the practice of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting. O’Sensei also saw combat as a soldier during the Russo Japanese war.   

O’Sensei met Sokaku Takeda in 1912 on the island of Hokkaido.  Takeda, a fierce teacher, was to become the most influential of O’Sensei’s teachers and Aikido is most closely related to his art of Daito Ryu Jujutsu.  Seven years later O’Sensei left Hokkaido for home to tend his ailing father.  During this journey, he met Onisaburo Deguchi, leader of the Omoto Kyo Shinto religious sect.  O’Sensei was profoundly affected by meeting Deguchi and returned to Ayabe to study under him after the death of his father.  It was there O’Sensei began his first formal dojo, the Ueshiba Juku.
During this time, O’Sensei’s spiritual studies began to influence his approach to the practice of budo.  The severe joint locks and crushing throws of Daito Ryu began to shift towards more flowing movement, requiring less damage in order to control an opponent. By combining his martial training with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial art of aikido. In addition to his spiritual studies, changes in Japanese society influenced his martial studies as well. 
Although the concept of bushido, the way of the warrior, was deeply ingrained in the Japanese psyche, the Meiji restoration put an end to the feudal samurai system and changed the way in which the martial arts were viewed.  Ueshiba decided on the name "aikido", the way of spiritual harmony, in 1942 (before that he called his martial art "aikibudo”, the martial way of spiritual harmony).
In 1925, several years after moving to Tokyo, O’Sensei was challenged by a naval officer to a bokken (wooden sword) duel.  O’Sensei declined to use a weapon and avoided his attacker’s assault by simply moving.  Eventually, the officer exhausted himself and collapsed, defeated without being struck by O’Sensei. 
After this match, O’Sensei experienced what he referred to as a “golden moment”.  In a state of what he called perfect mental clarity, he realized that, “The true nature of budo is in the loving protection of all things.”  This remains the central tenet of Aikido today.

O’Sensei traveled to Hawaii in 1961 to “build a silver bridge of understanding between East and West.”  Aikido then began its spread from Hawaii to the rest of the United States.  O’Sensei retired to his country home in Iwama in 1964 and died there April 26, 1969


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