Aikido’s founder Morihei Ueshiba Morihei Ueshiba, was a jitsoka, a practitioner of ju-jitsu. This ju-jitsu knowledge, coupled with other martial arts skills and unique philosophies he’d acquired over the years, were blended together to create Aikido; “The Way in Harmony with the Spirit.”
While it’s common to say that ‘Aikido developed from Jujitsu,’ it’s not quite as simple as that, or indeed strictly true. Although they share the same roots, Aikido is a distinctively different branch of the jujitsu family and in its purest form, doesn’t employ disabling strikes, a key component of most jujitsu styles, causing it to be labelled by some as a ‘soft style’. In principle Aikido relies on absorbing or redirecting an assailants force or momentum and unbalancing them to the point of collapse in preparation for a throw or take down. Ju-jitsu also employs the same re-directing technique but also re-enforces the defensive stance by a strike. In the hands of skilled practitioners Aikido is a graceful flow of technique and counter movement. This flowing action, at times ‘dance-like’ in its execution, have led some to label the art as ineffectual and a poor candidate for self-defence; a misguided and grossly unjust opinion. Aikido may not have the smash and burn attributes of some harder jujitsu styles but it is a viable and important self-defence system worthy of study.
Morihei Ueshiba, father of Aikido – a brief introduction
Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan on December 14, 1883 (d 1969). As a boy, he often saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons and set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of martial arts receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting.
However, in spite of his impressive physical and martial capabilities he felt very dissatisfied and began delving into religion in the hope of finding a deeper significance to life. It was this spiritual ideology, coupled with his martial training, that inspired him to create the modern martial art of Aikido. Ueshiba decided on the name “Aikido” in 1942, before that he called his martial art “Aikibudo” and “Aikinomichi.”
On the technical side, Aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived) as well as sword and spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that Aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, many of Aikido’s techniques were the result of Master Ueshiba’s own innovation.
On the religious side, Ueshiba was a devotee of one of Japan’s so-called “new religions,” Omotokyo. It was (and is) part neo-shintoism, and part sociopolitical idealism. One goal of Omotokyo has been the unification of all humanity in a single “heavenly kingdom on earth,” where all religions would be united under the banner of Omotokyo. It is impossible to sufficiently understand many of Ueshiba’s writings without keeping the influence of Omotokyo firmly in mind.
Despite what many people think or claim, there is no unified philosophy of Aikido. What there is, instead, is a disorganized and only partially coherent collection of religious, ethical, and metaphysical beliefs which are only more or less shared by aikidoists, and which are either transmitted by word of mouth or found in scattered publications about Aikido. Some examples: “Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family.” “The essence of Aikido is the cultivation of ki.” “The secret of Aikido is to become one with the universe.” “Aikido is primarily a way to achieve physical and psychological self- mastery.” “The body is the concrete unification of the physical and spiritual created by the universe.” And so forth.
At the core of almost all philosophical interpretations of Aikido, are at least two fundamental threads: A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict, whenever possible and a commitment to self-improvement through Aikido training. Ueshiba intended Aikido to be far more than just a system of techniques for self-defence. His intention was to fuse his martial art to a set of ethical and social ideals. He hoped that by training in Aikido, people would perfect themselves spiritually as well as physically.