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Founder of Aikido (04): The Unchanging Path

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #33 (March 1979)

We would like to thank Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba for his kind permission to publish these chapter summaries.

As I have written above, the Founder was in his prime from 1927-40. Then after the war the popularization of aikido was handed over to a group of we young people while the Founder oversaw our activities with a benevolent eye from Iwama.

This period was also characterized by a series of political developments such as Japan’s attempt to form a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” the establishment of a nation in Manchuria, a build-up of the armed forces, Japan’s withdrawal from the League of Nations and its subsequent alliance with the Axis nations, and the outbreak of the Pacific War (World War II). Given these events and the fact that my father was on familiar terms with many high-ranked military leaders, there is the likelihood of his activities being lumped together with those of the prewar government.

Though the Founder was an extremely patriotic man and wished the advancement of his race, as time went by, he became quite critical of some areas of political and military excess. Frequently in a bad humor, he would say things such as:

The military people who are reckless and unreasonable in their use of force are gaining… They are fools who oppose Nature and the will of the Kami. But the true martial path makes the best use of the universal life source of all creation. True budo is the embodiment of peace, love and etiquette. But nowadays, the military clique is just playing with weapons. They are conspiring to misrepresent the name of budo as a tool for power, destruction and violent conflict…

At the height of the Pacific War the Founder discarded the names of “Aikibujutsu” and “Aiki Budo” used up until then, and clearly gave the name of “Aikido” to his art. At about the same time, in 1942, he established himself in Iwama, along with his wife and handed over the direction of the Tokyo dojo to me. He then built the Aiki Shrine and immersed himself in training and farming.

In his publication entitled Takemusu Aiki, Mr. Hideo Takahashi gives an account of the Founder’s mental state at that time. There O-Sensei describes how in 1940 he felt his body bursting with power and he was capable of executing countless numbers of techniques in a spontaneous, unhindered manner. Then, he says, he was visited by the guardian spirit of aikido in a vision. It was as a result of this intense spiritual experience that, not believing it to be true, he fell ill. He remained terribly ill for nearly a year and almost died. However, during that period he attained enlightenment. The Founder continues saying: “Even though I was ill I didn’t remain inactive. More than before I was required to render services to the army and navy, and due to requests especially from the Office of Military Affairs and the Minister of the Army, I served at the War Office… Also, I was appointed as a member of the Budo Review Committee and served on the Konoe Cabinet through the beginning of the Tojo Cabinet. I was asked to serve as an adviser in other places I went.

“However, the training of the army and navy placed emphasis on the material and its sole purpose was combat. They were heading straight forward in search of honor with the slogan ‘One strike, one dead.’ It was regrettable but I was a little lacking in true loyalty… Of course, there were also distinguished military people. Loyal and brave soldiers fought well to the point that it brought tears to me eyes. However, the goal of aikido is not killing people. Its purpose is not fighting and quarreling. aikido is not the body, it is the spirit. It is to praise, in this world, the almighty virtue of the One Great Kami and the origin of this universe in its entirety… In short, aikido is to carry out the assigned will of heaven. And I think it’s a good thing if one’s personal mission is to the benefit of the country. There is nothing which comes before the execution of one’s mission. However, there is something soiled in the prayer uttered for the good of the country and the good of society. The main thing is to accomplish one’s own task. If one’s duty becomes his “kami,” then it is indeed a happiness.

Accordingly, we intertwine and tie ourselves together with the opponent in every respect with the spiritual power of our love so that each person may in turn go forward in life having his own place, so that there may be a gathering together of a one-world family, so that all may be able to work as specialized branches of the unitary operation (of the universe), that is the goal of aikido.”

This is not the entire passage so it may be a bit difficult to understand, but one may be able to get an idea of the Founder’s concern over the “disunited mind-body” and his desire that those who practice aikido discover their own true power and carry out their life missions with awakened eyes.

Now, all I would like to do as Doshu, responsible for the perpetuation of the Aikido Path, is simply to solidify and further develop it. And I believe that this was the very intention of the Founder.

(Translated from Japanese by Stanley A. Pranin and Midori Yamamoto)