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Founder of Aikido (29): Jigoro Kano Sensei (Part One)

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #58 (October 1983)

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

We moved again, from Mita to Shiba Kuruma-cho, right beside the well-known Sengaku-ji Temple where the graves of the famous forty-seven samurai of Ako are located. The neighborhood was good but the dojo was only two eight-mat rooms converted by removing the intervening doors. The number of students was constantly increasing and one had to line up and wait his turn during practice. The tatami mats were worn out in no time and the foundation of the dojo soon became rickety. The landlord often came over to chat and my mother apologized for ruining the place but he felt honored to have the “world-famous” Ueshiba Sensei using it. His compliments only made the founder all the more embarrassed.

Finally, we couldn’t accomodate any more people at the house, and through an introduction to the noble Ogasawara family the founder acquired a piece of land in Ushigome Wakamatsu-cho (the present location of the Hombu Dojo). At last, a full-scale aiki dojo would be built. During its construction we all moved to Mejiro-dai. For me, it was a memorable place. Some highly talented people joined as live-in students and the fierce Major General Makoto Miura came to challenge the founder. But the most memorable event was a visit by Jigoro Kano, founder of the Kodokan and modern judo.

Let me quote from an article entitled The Length and Breadth of Aikido (Aikido Newspaper, Nos. 70 and 71 of 1965) by Hajime Iwata, who joined during that time.

It was in November of 1930, a date which I shall never forget. At that time we were living (in a dormitory) supervised by Dr. Kenzo Futaki, a man closely involved with aikido. To keep out the cold and help digestion we did sumo and I was beaten by a Montaro Mori of Tokyo University. Since I had attended a sumo match before the Emperor in junior high school, I was reasonably confident… a fourth dan holder in judo at Waseda University was also beaten by Mori’s strange technique. Mori was neither a sumo man nor a ranked judo player. His body was not very big or very powerful. Even so, he beat people … and it was Mr. Mori who first spoke the words “aikijutsu” to us.

That’s how it happened that I asked him to take me to the place where they taught such technique. We visited what appeared to be a rented house … This was the so-called dojo. A short-built man with glittering eyes seemed to be the teacher. First I bowed slightly to this person and watched the training from a corner. Before I knew it, though, I had started practicing with a Mr. Kamata. Instantly, I was called down by the teacher’s thunderously spirited voice and froze on the spot… He scolded me severely, “… It is a very impolite thing to do!”’ He reminded me that: “Budo begins with etiquette and ends with etiquette.” I apologized for my impoliteness and left. After going back to the dormitory, I ruminated over his words… I felt pleased because indeed I had received a meaningful lesson that day. So I waited for the morning to come. In those days, the dojo was not open to the public and a sponsor was necessary to certify one’s good character. The next morning I visited Kenzo Futaki Sensei and asked him to vouch for me. Later, O-Sensei often used to smile and say, “I thought you probably would not come back after the way you were scolded. That was admirable! Those who are scolded by me are good. You have to be scolded by me.”

Then there was General Miura. During the Russo-Japanese War he was stabbed right through the chest but still took his sword and cut down more enemy soldiers. “The General,” who had also been a disciple of Daito-ryu Master Sokaku Takeda Sensei resented the founder as a selfish student who had rebelled against Master Sokaku so he marched into the dojo intending to beat him to a pulp.

However, once the General had had a bout, he realized the founder was a technical master much exceeding his expectations. Moreover, after talking with the founder, the General also found his personality very noble and humble. The founder felt no reluctance in paying respect to Master Sokaku and in acknowledging his debt to Daito-ryu. However, it was but one among many factors which, combined with his own training and development, had made “Ueshiba Aiki” into a completely new and original creation. The General frankly confessed his misunderstanding and begged for permission to join the dojo then and there. The details are written in a book entitled, Aikido Founder, Morihei Ueshiba by Kanemoto Sunadomari. After joining the dojo, the General practiced very diligently.

The General once invited the founder to give a demonstration at the Army’s Toyama School, a special academy where candidates of exceptional strength were trained. It seems he was planning some sort of test of strength. Here is Mr. Sunadomari’s description of the challenges made to the founder. Their favorite weapon was the rifle-mounted bayonet:

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