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Founder of Aikido (16): Master Onisaburo Deguchi

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #45 (February 1982)

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

Onisaburo Deguchi

There are few famous personalities who are as misunderstood by the general public, whether for better or for worse, as Master Onisaburo Deguchi. Even today, when such impressive books as the two volume, 2,200 page 70 Years of Omoto religion, or The Giant, Onisaburo Deguchi by Mr. Kyotaro Deguchi, or Exploring Japan by Kyoto University Professor Tadao Umezao all portray quite accurate accounts of the man, there remains a residue of prejudice that looks down upon him as the founder of one of those weird, new cults, and dismisses him without actually knowing anything about his life. However, though he attracted several hundred thousand believers or, as some would call them, “fans”, one cannot deny that he really did have an unorthodox side to his behavior that made some people consider him a fraud or some kind of a monster or dangerous person.

Specifically, there was an almost oppressive atmosphere caused by his rather “far-out” (above-it-all) appearance, the mysterious feeling of inspired revelation that hung over him and the heresy that sprang up from his brash behavior, all coupled with his secretiveness. These attributes were unfortunately so conspicuous that his excellent abilities and essentially normal disposition have been neglected in the general appraisal of him.

During the First Omoto Affair in 1921 and the Second Omoto Affair in 1935 he was persecuted and suppressed by the government and even earlier had met with resistance within the group from senior founding members who had been associated with his predecessor, Nao. All of this seems to have been the result of misunderstandings of his true character and ability.

Onisaburo Deguchi was a man of foresight and preeminent insight, a strategic planner of great skill and organizing ability with a willful impulse to promote his cause. In short, he was a first class businessman. Putting aside how great he was as a religious person, as I mentioned before, he excelled in the “culture of the spirit” - theology, philosophy and art and, moreover, was an energetic person of great business ability. 70 Years of Omoto religion and the other books give specific examples from the periods of the founding of the religion.

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