On December 14, 1883, Ueshiba Morihei – the ‘Founder of Aikido’, was born in what is now Tanabe, Japan.
Until his death in 1969 at the age of 85, the master of aikido maintained an undefeated record.
The Japanese martial art of Aikido is a comprehensive system of throwing, joint-locking, striking and pinning techniques, coupled with training in traditional Japanese weapons such as the sword, staff and knife. It represents a potent distillation of centuries of Japanese martial knowledge and is one of the most widely practiced budo, or martial way, in the world.
This ‘Great Teacher’ as he was referred to, was the son of a landowner from Tanabe, Ueshiba studied a number of martial arts in his youth, and served in the Japanese Army during the Russo-Japanese War.
After being discharged in 1907, he moved to Hokkaido as the head of a pioneer settlement; here he met and studied with Takeda Sokaku, the founder of Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu.
Ueshiba continued to develop as a jujitsu master. As he learned other techniques, he gradually formulated a system of defending that would morph into what we call aikido today by the late 1930s.
Taking a more spiritual look at what it meant to engage in combat, Ueshiba shifted away from the practice of striking an opponent toward a more sophisticated approach: taking advantage of the other person’s momentum to make him defeat himself.
As World War II broke out in the Pacific, Ueshiba maintained a busy practice teaching others his method, influencing police forces and military groups.
When the fighting became more intense after the Americans entered the conflict, he opted to return to the countryside feeling an intense pull toward farming as his father had.
From the time he moved to the village of Iwama in 1942, Ueshiba blended the physical technique and spiritual engagement of aikido further.
From the end of the war until the 1960s, he worked to promote aikido throughout Japan and abroad.
Referred to as O Sensei by his students, the “Grand Teacher” continued to instruct up until his sudden death from cancer in April 1969.
Telling his students to share his teachings, Ueshiba operated from a basic point of view his whole life: