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Remarkable Japanese (13): The Birth of Aikido

by Kazuhiko Ikeda

Aiki News #13 (June 1975)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Mark Bilson of Australia and is the thirteenth in a series of seventeen articles dealing with the life of the founder of aikido.

The Birth of Aikido

After that incident, Ueshiba opened a dojo at Deguchi’s insistence where he taught Daito-ryu jujutsu and Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu* to interested persons among Deguchi’s followers.

Deguchi always came to fetch Ueshiba in the evenings and the latter would accompany his revered teacher to his private quarters and sleep nearby, served in the capacity of Deguchi’s personal bodyguard.

During that period O-Sensei was greatly influenced by Deguchi in religious matters and integrated this perspective into his martial art-oriented mind. Nevertheless, this is not to say that Ueshiba embraced the Omoto doctrine wholeheartedly, but rather that the thoughts expressed by Deguchi stimulated a religious sentiment in Ueshiba.

Within a couple of years four or five hundred students were enrolled in the Daito-ryu dojo in Ayabe. While teaching Daito-ryu O-Sensei developed new techniques one after the other, thus creating his own style.

One day Sokaku Takeda suddenly turned up in Ayabe from Hokkaido. The house and all the property in Shirataki had come into his possession, he had found a wife (or perhaps had called for his wife to join him) and was running an inn in Shirataki. Having thus stabilized his situation in Hokkaido, Takeda left “to pursue further training in the martial arts.” In fact he had heard rumors that Ueshiba had opened a Daito-ryu dojo in Ayabe and had traveled a great distance in order to pay his old student a visit. This was at the end of 1923 or the beginning of 1924, that is to say, after the first Omoto affair of 1920**.Onisaburo, who had been released from prison on bail, caught a glimpse of Takeda while on his way to the main temple at Ayabe and summoned Ueshiba:

“That man is an evil spirit, you must send him away immediately with money or some such thing. If you do not, you will be ruined.”

Such was Deguchi’s prediction.

Ueshiba, too, felt disturbed about the unexpected visit of Takeda but, since his teacher had come such a long way, he did not want to send him away so abruptly. One aspect of Morihei Ueshiba’s personality was that of a timid and thoroughly good-natured person. Once again, Takeda took advantage of this fact and moved into Ueshiba’s house at the foot of the mountain where the Hongu shrine is situated, and enjoyed a leisurely time feasting on fine food and drinking sake, while treating Ueshiba like a servant.

One day Takeda appeared at the dojo where Ueshiba was teaching and flew into a rage, saying, “This is very different from the Daito-ryu style, isn’t it?”

“Yes,” Ueshiba replied, “I have added some of my own innovations.”

“Then I can’t allow you to call it Daito-ryu,” snapped Takeda.

Ueshiba, having finally run out of patience, shouted angrily, “Then tomorrow I’ll close the dojo, go home and become a farmer. You, Sensei, should do the same. Please go back to Hokkaido.”

Seeing such a change in Ueshiba’s mood Takeda immediately tried to soothe him: “If that’s the way you feel, we’ll call it Daito-ryu aikijutsu.”

Thus aikido was born under the name of Daito-ryu aikijutsu. Although Daito-ryu provided the foundations for aikido, O-Sensei explains that his art also incorporates elements of Kito-ryu, Iso-ryu and Kage-ryu. In other words, it is Ueshiba’s unique creation.

* Ueshiba received an advanced certificate from the Shinkage-ryu Jujutsu School in 1922.

**Government repression of the Omoto Sect in the name of national security.

(Translated by Stanley A. Pranin and Katsuaki Terasawa)