Morihei Ueshiba

Morihei Ueshiba sensei demonstrating techniques at the Kobukan Dojo in the 1930s

Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) is universally recognized as the founder of the modern martial art of Aikido. Ueshiba sensei was born and grew up in rural Japan. He served in the Russo-Japanese war (1904-1905), and subsequently gained experience with various forms of jujutsu. However, it was a chance meeting with Takeda sensei in February of 1915 at an inn on the northern island of Hokkaido that had a profound impact on Ueshiba sensei’s development as a martial artist. Ueshiba sensei was so impressed by Takeda sensei’s ability that he immediately began an intensive study of Daito Ryu. He continued to study regularly with Takeda sensei over a number of years and eventually became a top student in Daito Ryu.

After leaving Hokkaido, Ueshiba sensei came under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi, the founder of the Omoto-kyo religion. The strong personal connection with Onisaburo had a profound impact on Ueshiba sensei’s spiritual development. Ueshiba sensei’s involvement in Omoto-kyo also brought him into contact with elite political and military circles at the time.

Ueshiba sensei moved to Tokyo in the 1920s and set up the Kobukan Dojo. His growing fame in martial arts circles led to teaching appointments in military academies and to instruction of members of the Japanese imperial household. During World War Two, Ueshiba sensei moved to the farming community of Iwama where he continued to develop his art and refine the technical and spiritual bases of Aikido.

The practice of martial arts was initially banned by the allied forces occupying Japan after the Second World War. As the ban was lifted and training in martial arts gradually resumed, certain groups within Aikido sought to change aspects of the art in order to widen its appeal to a post-war audience. These changes helped to grow and disseminate Aikido both within Japan and around the world. At the same time, some of Ueshiba sensei’s prominent students sought to preserve what they viewed as the original spirit and actual techniques of their teacher’s art. One of these students was Gozo Shioda, the founder of the Yoshinkan style of Aikido.

Morihei Ueshiba (left) and Gozo Shioda in the 1930s