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Founder of Aikido (06): From Weakness to Strength

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #35 (January 1980)

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

As a young child the Founder was unusually weak in mind and body and this may have been in part due to the great love and expectations of his parents which today might be termed over-protectiveness.

His younger sister Kiku describes him in these words:

When he was young his body wasn’t very strong, but he had a strong memory. Once he heard something, he didn’t forget it, my “sharp-eared” older brother.

He would always shut himself up in his room and avidly read his stacks of books. He liked reviews of the (nine) Chinese classics and stories of heroes, but he liked physics and mathematics moreā€”he would read and think, think and make things, and absorb himself in experiments.

There was a temple nearby which burned goma (a method of spiritual practice of esoteric Buddhism in which the “firewood of evil passions” is burned by the “fire of wisdom”, and while going to a school affiliated with the temple, he studied the (nine) Chinese classics from the priest. He was about seven or eight at the time. My older brother was different from other children; he really liked reading books.

It may be difficult for today’s readers to imagine the Founder as a frail youth, yet nonetheless he had this tendency later in life, although infrequently. He would suddenly say he was sick and turn pale having to lie down. However, if it was time for practice or a demonstration he would immediately arise uttering the kotodama sounds of “su” or “u”.

In the area of Tanabe, Shingon esoteric Buddhism was propagated from an early period. Consequently, most of the temples in the area were of the Shingon line. These Shingon temples were said to have been established by Prince Shotoku, however most of them were destroyed by fire when they were attacked and burned by the powerful clan of Toyotomi Hideyoshi of the Kishu area. The present temples were mostly reopened after the formation of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Speaking of this period the Founder explained:

I studied the (nine) Chinese classics from the priest Mitsujo Fujimoto … but I didn’t understand them very well; I felt like dozing off and was stumped. The practices for the pacification of the spirit (chinkonho) and the prayers and incantations of esoteric Buddhism were more interesting, and following the example of others, I grasped most of the methods of spiritual practice.

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