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Founder of Aikido (02): Day in and Day Out Training

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by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #31 (September 1978)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Jason Wotherspoon of Australia. We would also like to thank Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba for his kind permission to publish these chapter summaries.

The daily life of the Founder who mastered the difficult to attain “divine technique” consisted in most part of day-in and day-out training. From the time he rose early in the morning at five o’clock until retiring in the evening at about nine o’clock, he was for most of the day physically and mentally in the dojo.

In the dojo, he would sometimes intently watch students training, or gather everyone together and lecture on the Aiki path, or sometimes he would personally teach beginners.

The Founder had students all over the country. Moreover, because he prided himself in the number and variety of his acquaintances from all levels of society, he was beseiged by visitors starting from early in the morning and he spent large amounts of time in receiving them. In addition, the occasions when he would, on invitation, travel to teach or lecture were not few. However, even on those occasions, his mind was always in the dojo and he seemed to be absorbed in thinking about some new method of training. It seemed as though he disciplined himself in this manner out of the belief that one day training missed was a step backward. At least as far as I observed personally from my earliest recollections as a boy, except for a short period at the end of his life when he was forced to remain bedridden being faced with cancer, this is how the Founder’s daily life was spent. Nay, the fact that even during the last years of the Founder’s life his mind was always in the dojo and dwelling on the great path of Aiki is clear from the following brief reminiscence of Mr. Hideo Takahashi. Mr. Takahashi, who developed a very warm friendship with the Founder during the last ten years or so of his life, is the leading disciple of Professor Masahisa Goi, head of the Byakko Shinkokai. He enjoyed the Founder’s deepest confidence. In November 1967, at the celebration of the completion of the Aikido Headquarters Dojo, Mr. Takahashi delivered a large plaque written in the hand of Professor Goi entitled “Incarnation of a Kami” eulogizing the Founder. The Founder arose from his sick bed and gratefully accepted this gift. Mr. Takahashi describes what happened at that point in the following manner:

O-Sensei excused himself saying, ‘I have to run to the bathroom,’ and headed for the lavatory at the other end of the dojo.

Sensei was slow to return and when I heard his voice in the dojo I looked through the window to see him eagerly instructing some children in seated techniques saying, ‘This is how you do it.’ Sensei who only a moment earlier had said he wasn’t feeling well, was a totally different person.” (Several passages omitted)

“Come and visit again, Mr. Takahashi. We’ll talk about something new. You can print a small article in the Hakko magazine. ’ ‘Yes, thank you. I’ll call again. I’ll miss you, Sensei.’ Sensei listened to me with a smile. ‘I’m training even now:’ he said. Thinking that people say that everything in life is constant discipline I asked Sensei about aikido training. ‘Aikido training is what I enjoy most and it is also easy. To be told to eat, and then to eat my meal is more difficult for me. I don’t want to eat now.’ As he spoke these words I was deeply impressed. I had nothing to say to that. I felt the tears well up in my eyes.

(From Memoires of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei)

The Founder’s training was not merely limited to the dojo. It was in his daily life and, especially, in his attitude, that may be described as the purification of mind and body both before and after entering the dojo, that its true significance lay. And this fact should be deeply appreciated. That is, before practice he would sit in front of the altar and, after preparing himself psychologically by calming and controlling himself and seeing that his refreshed spirit was gushing forth like a fountain, he would begin. Likewise, at the end of practice he would sit upright before the altar, settling and controlling his mind, once again absorbed in sustaining his “ki.” In the very act of training his spirit within, the self-disciplined and devout Founder displayed his character as a human being.

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