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Founder of Aikido (05): Family Background in Tanabe, Kii Province

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #34 (May 1979)

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

Morihei’s sisters, Chiyo and Kiku

The Founder was born on December 14, 1883 (on November 16 according to the old Japanese calendar). The Ueshiba family address listed on the town register is 441 Nishontani-mura, Nishimuro-gun, Wakayama-ken. The house where my father was born was rebuilt in 1910 and is still standing today. Also, the well and the remains of the Kumano Gongenbun Shrine situated on top of a small rise in back of the house can still be seen. However, the neighborhood has been cut back in size due to street-widening construction and the vestiges of that period have almost entirely vanished.

Old people tell the story that the Founder received his first instruction from a Mr. Shingo Suzuki who was said to have been an expert harpooner of that time. As a youngster, he would spend a great deal of time in the ocean spearfishing. I don’t want to belabor the point, but I think that my father’s training with the harpoon which required great manual dexterity is linked to his love for the spear (after “taijutsu,” he most liked Sojutsu (spear techniques), and apparently studied the Hozoin School of the spear. In my view, his hand and body movements which were not locked to specific forms constituted a unique “Ueshiba Natural Style,” as it were).

At the age of around 20, the Founder began the practice of pouring ocean water over his head as a sort of misogi exercise to purify the mind and body. The old timers say he didn’t slack off even in the dead of winter. This purification ritual which also served as his own training was later on still one of his favorite practices, although at that time it didn’t have such a deep significance.

Tanabe in the 1880’s was, of course, not the city-like place it is today. It was a simple neighborhood surrounded by farming and fishing villages. The Ueshiba family house where the Founder was born was one of the farming houses of that quarter.

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