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Founder of Aikido (15): Move To Ayabe

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #44 (January 1982)

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

Founder in Ayabe, 1922

I was told that the Founder was severely criticized by relatives outside his immediate family for not arriving in time for Yoroku’s death. Anyway, in a few days’ time, the near “madness” caused by his grief finally subsided and he decided to take his family and move to Ayabe immediately.

All his relatives were very much against the move, however. It was natural for them to resist his departure because he was the heir of the family. His wife, Hatsu, at first refused to agree to the move. “We still have about one chobu of good rice land here, “she argued,” and if we worked diligently, we could make a good living. How are we to eat in a strange town like Ayabe? On top of it all, you say you’ll be serving the gods!” The couple already had three children at that time. (Daughter Matsuko, presently living in Irako-misaki, Aichi Prefecture, was born in Tanabe before the sojourn to Shirataki. Two sons were born in Shirataki, Takemori and Kuniharu, but both are now deceased. I wasn’t born, yet.) For them all, it was out from Shirataki and now, with hardly a rest, off for Ayabe with no concrete plan or scheme for making a living.

The usually patient wife Hatsu this time resisted. “I was appalled,” she later revealed with a wry smile. My mother, who kept her Kishu country dialect until she died, cherished her hometown more than many, but she also knew only too well the character of her husband who, once making up his mind, was determined to follow through with his decision. In the end she reluctantly agreed and the Founder’s 69 year old mother, Yuki, consented to go with them.

It was the late spring of 1920 that he moved to Ayabe. He was 37. Initially, they rented a two-story house in Ayabe, just outside the west gate of Omoto. The first thing the Founder did was to buy sixty bales of rice, enough to feed a family of six for two or three years. It sounds so much like him, to feel that as long as he had thus secured the supply of food for the family, he was free to do as he pleased. Soon after, on Master Deguchi’s recommendation, they moved to another house beside a bamboo forest behind the old elementary school at the foot of Hongu (Main Hall) Mountain. Master Onisaburo said, “You are the person who will become the No. 1 budo man in Japan,” explaining why he had chosen that particular location.

I was born in this house and as a boy, I remember often seeing foxes, badgers and weasels around the place. Even so, it was only a short walk along the mountain to the Omoto headquarters. From the beginning, it seemed that Master Onisaburo had sought to keep the Founder close to himself. Even during his excursion into Manchuria and Mongolia, he let the Founder accompany him. It seems that he was greatly attached to Morihei, whose way of living, unsparing effort, sincerity, doing things others disliked doing, devotion to budo training, all without losing his own identity must have won him the absolute trust of the religious leader.

On the occasion of the Founder’s visit to Onisaburo to announce his plan to move to Ayabe, the Master was very pleased and said:

I knew from before that you would be coming. Be my close servant; working in the office is not for you. You shouldn’t get caught up in ‘human matters’ and miscellaneous business. The best yusai for you is to train in jujutsu or kenjutsu, the way you want to do.v(“Yusai” is a difficult concept meaning a personal prayer in which your soul actually flows into and blends with the spirit of the godhead.)

Master Deguchi continued:

You must think of the Martial Way as your divinely appointed mission in life, and master its utmost summit. So doing, you will live freely in “The Three Worlds,” those of the gods, the spirit and present reality. Daito-ryu may be all right, but it still doesn’t seem to be the genuine “bu” of the unification of god and man. You should go your own way as Ueshiba-ryu (maritial tradition). Genuine budo is the path of love and goodness that enables the halberd blade to be stopped. So strike off as the Ueshiba-ryu. The god of Oomoto is helping you so it is certain that you are to establish a new “Way” (do).

The Founder later related to me that he was instructed in these words.

Although the Founder had been taught Daito-ryu by Master Sokaku Takeda in Hokkaido, there had remained some lingering doubts that he couldn’t simply brush aside. Master Onisaburo was able to calm these doubts with a single sweep of his hand and so he must have truly impressed the Founder. Thus it was that Morihei started his life in Ayabe with a clear sense of his purpose and his goals. Before going into these, however, it may be useful and interesting to interject a brief history of Master Onisaburo Deguchi.

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