Founder of Aikido
Introduction to Aikido
Maai Distance Drills
Maai Gap Drills
The Ki in Aikido
Words of O'Sensei
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Modern Aikido History
was founded by Morihei Ueshiba, now called O-Sensei (''Great Teacher'').
O-Sensei was born in 1883 in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan. After
seeing his father assaulted by political opponents, O-Sensei sought to
make himself strong. He studied under masters in many traditional
martial arts, eventually becoming an expert at a number of styles of
jujitsu (unarmed combat), kenjitsu (swordfighting), and
sojitsu (spear fighting). Along with his martial arts studies he
also engaged in a large amount of religious and philosophical studies.
The creation of Aikido occurred as a
result of an incident in 1925. During a discussion about martial arts, a
dispute between O-Sensei and a naval officer, who was a fencing
instructor, developed. O-Sensei was challenged by the officer, and he
attacked O-Sensei with a boken (woodensword). Unarmed O-Sensei
confronted the officer and continually avoided each strike until the
officer collapsed from exhaustion. This was later described by O-Sensei
as the beginning of his enlightenment. He had managed to defeat an armed
attacker without hurting him, without even touching him.
O-Sensei continued to practice and teach Aikido into his old age. He was
still giving public demonstrations of Aikido at age 86, four months
before his death in 1969.
O-Sensei's grandson, has inherited the title Doshu (Leader of the Way).
He continues his grandfather's work at Aikido World Headquarters (called
Hombu Dojo) in Tokyo.
Aikido is currently practiced in over fifty countries by men, women, and
Ancient Aikido History:
The Rise and Fall of the
Imperial System (4th - 12th Century A.D.)
Japanese history is the embodiment of
imperial history. Its story begins with the Yamato race which
established itself in a small province in central Japan during the 4th
century. In the course of about the next three hundred years, the Yamato
family gradually gained control over the numerous warring tribes and
clans in the surrounding provinces.
It was by the way of trade connections
with Korea and China (under the Han Dynasty) that Japan gained the
political and cultural foundation upon which Japanese culture was built.
However, as cultural contact with China was interrupted toward the end
of the 9th century, Japanese civilization began to take on its own
characteristics and form. Life in the capital was marked by great
elegance and refinement. While the court gave itself up to the pursuit
of the arts and social pleasures, its authority over the martial clans
in the provinces became increasingly uncertain. Effective control passed
into the hands of two rival military families, the Minamoto and
the Taira, who both traced their descent from previous
emperors. The Minamoto family prevailed, annihilating the Taira clan in
1185. This Minamoto victory marked the end of the Imperial throne as the
effective political power in Japan, and the beginning of seven centuries
of feudal rule.
The Feudal Age and the Samurai
At the onset of the feudal age, the
samurai were peasant-farmers who fought for their lords as well as
they could when the occasion arose. As conflict between landlords became
more frequent, it became necessary to train armed groups to protect the
respective boundaries. At this time, these armed groups were called
samurai or bushi, but their status in society was not
established until a military government was formed by the Minamoto
family in 1192. This military government (the Shogunate) encouraged
austerity and the pursuit of martial arts and related disciplines for
the Samurai. These studies were eventually codified and called
Bushido - the Way of the Samurai.
Early Development of the Martial
As the feudal era advanced, the Samurai
came to occupy the uppermost strata of Japanese society. Their principal
duty was to learn and practice many martial arts, the skills necessary
to fulfill their allegiance to the feudal lord for whom they were
expected to fight and die. There were numerous martial arts which the
bushi were required to learn: kenjutsu (sword
techniques), bajutsu (horsemanship), kyujutsu
(archery), and sojutsu (spear techniques) constituted the
principal combat arts. A favorite saying among the bushi at
that time was "Master eighteen martial arts." Additionally, it was
necessary that the bushi learn a secondary system of combat
techniques to support their armed fighting methods. These unarmed
techniques were referred to as Kumiuchi and involved forms of
grappling techniques which evolved from Sumo (combat
wrestling). Throughout the feudal era the distinction between armed and
unarmed techniques became greater.
Development of Unarmed
Techniques and Aikijujutsu
By degrees, unarmed combat techniques
developed into different systems and styles. Varying battlefield
situations and the technical requirements of feudal warfare led to
establishment of the various ryu (schools) which were
controlled by, and passed down through the large powerful families. One
of these systems was Aikijujutsu. It is not completely clear
where Aiki techniques originated, but the Aiki system is said to have
originated with Prince Teijun, the sixth son of the Emperor Seiwa
(850-880), and was passed on to succeeding generations of the Minamoto
family. By the time the art reached Yoshimitsu Shinra Saburo, the
younger brother of Minamoto Yoshike, it seems that the foundations of
modern Aikido had already been laid.
Yoshimitsu was a man of exceptional
learning and skill, and it is said that he devised many of his
techniques by watching a spider skillfully trap a large insect in its
fragile web. His house, Daito Mansion, has given its name to his system
of Aikijujutsu which came to be called Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu.
Yoshimitsu's second son lived in Takeda,
in the province of Kai, and his family became known by the name
Takeda. Subsequently, the techniques of Daito Ryu were passed on to
successive generations as secret techniques of the Takeda house, and
were made known only to family members and retainers. When Takeda
Kunitsugu moved to Aizu in 1574, the techniques came to be known as
Aizu-todome (secret techniques).
During the 16th century, Japan was
embroiled in civil wars. Each feudal lord (Daimyo) struggled to
maintain a powerful independent position within the country. In order to
do so, each Daimyo had to create a stable, unified force of his own,
which required a very strong bond between the lord and his bushi.
Bushido, the code of the Samurai, encouraged the development of
combat techniques, cultivated the qualities of justice, benevolence,
politeness and honour; above all inculcated the idea of supreme loyalty
to lord and cause.
It was during this period of independence
and feudal isolation that combat forms developed into numerous ryu.
Aikijujutsu and Its Social
The next two and a half centuries
(Tokugawa period) were relatively peaceful for Japan. The Samurai, as a
class, saw little combat, though they continued to practice and refine
the various martial arts of kenjutsu, iajutsu,
bajutsu, and forms of jujutsu. Ju is a Chinese
word meaning pliable, harmonious, adaptable, or yielding; jutsu
means technique. As a collective term applied to all fighting forms,
jujutsu came into existence long after the forms it describes
originated. Jujutsu's golden age extended from the late 17th century to
the mid-19th century.
As the martial arts (and all Japanese
culture) became strongly influenced by Buddhist concepts, the fighting
arts were transformed from combat techniques (Bugei) into
"ways" (Budo), stressing self-discipline, self-perfection, and
a certain philosophy of life. The dimensions of the martial arts
expanded beyond the simple objective of killing an enemy to include many
aspects of everyday living. Particularly after the decline of the
samurai class, the martial "techniques" became martial "ways", and a
great emphasis was placed upon the study of Budo as a means of
generating the moral strength necessary to build a strong and vital
At that time, Aikido was known by many
names, and remained an exclusively samurai practice handed down within
the Takeda family until Japan emerged from isolation in the Meiji
period. The Meiji restoration (1868) brought not only the return of
Imperial supremacy, but also a westernized culture, political, and
economic way of life to Japan. The samurai, as a class, virtually
disappeared under a new constitution that proclaimed all classes equal,
but the essence of Bushido, cultivated for many centuries, continued to
play an important part in the daily lives of the Japanese. Budo, being
less combative and more concerned with the spiritual discipline by which
one elevates oneself mentally and physically, were more attractive to
the common people and were readily taken up by all classes, and people
of every social strata. Accordingly, kenjutsu became kendo,
iajutsu became iaido, jojutsu became jodo,
and jujutsu became judo.
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