The Founder of Aikido
Morihei Ueshiba, O-Sensei (1883-1969)
Aikido's Great Teacher
Morihei Ueshiba, called O-Sensei (great teacher) was the most gifted martial artist of his time. With mind, body, and soul he mastered the sword, spear, and jo (short staff) as well as the empty-handed arts. Yet, even with this mastery, he was dissatisfied with the scope and philosophy of the martial arts. Master Ueshiba felt that the physical techniques alone were not enough.
At the same time, O-Sensei developed a keen spiritual interest, and found himself profoundly inspired by the divine mystery of the universe. During the darkest days of World War II, as devastation and suffering surrounded him, O-Sensei had a vision that integrated his spiritual insights with his martial arts genius. He envisioned a martial art that would renounce destruction and instead cultivate strength through compassion. It was a radical vision that reversed thousands of years of Japanese martial arts tradition. He named his art "Aikido," or "the art of peace."
Soon after, he retreated to the country village of Iwama, in Ibaraki Prefecture where he built the Iwama Dojo. There he also constructed a shrine dedicated to the spirit of Aiki. It was in that shrine that the Master spent long hours practicing and performing purifying exercises in the hope of reaching his goal. Through this arduous period, Master Ueshiba began to evolve the principles of Aikido. Rather than focusing on discord and the constant desire to win and dominate, the ideas of harmony and peaceful reconciliation began to emerge. He came to realize that true victory is not winning over others, but winning over the discord within. As a result, Aikido was born as a way to prevent harm to one's self, without causing permanent injury to an aggressor.