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Founder of Aikido (38): Training in the Way and Farming in Iwama

by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Aiki News #67 (May 1985)

The following is a chapter summary printed with the kind permission of Mr. Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Aikido Doshu, based on the original Japanese text published in 1977

Morihei Ueshiba c. 1940
On December 8, 1941 the progression of world events finally led Japan into the entanglements of the Second World War against the United States and Great Britain. The expanding flames of war on the Asian continent made this Inevitable despite the fact that Japan would be facing a crisis in which she would have enemies to the front and rear.

Peace Negotiations in China

About that time the Founder secretly traveled to the continent accompanied by his student Mr. Tsutomu Yukawa in compliance with the wishes of Lord Fumimaro Konoe and others. They were to be part of the process of laying the groundwork for peace negotiations with China. The reason for this attempt at peacemaking was that Japan was going to be forced to divide its war potential due to the entry of the United States Into the war. The miltiary suddenly decided to seek to conclude a peace with Chiang Kai-shek in order to withdraw from the fighting on the continent. Probes were made and groundwork laid through all possible routes. The Founder took part in these efforts and journeyed to China. Those in power were hoping to use his broad range of friends and acquaintances towards this end.

As I mentioned previously, the Founder had many contacts among the top echelons of the Japanese military, the government as well as with the common people. He also enjoyed the trust of highly-placed individuals in Manchuria and Mongolia. A number of his former students held Important posts in both public and private life in the China area. Therefore, Morihei Ueshiba’s many connections appeared to offer an excellent opportunity in the efforts to lay the groundwork for peace tentatives in Manchuria and Mongolia.

It seems that the Founder left Japan in secret to contact General Shunroku Hata who was the supreme commander of the South China Army for preliminary consultations. According to another account, plans were made for the Founder to personally contact Chiang Kai-shek and other dignitaries. Nonetheless, it seems that these moves were made too late and were, in the final analysis, ineffectual.

Purchase of Land in Iwama

The Founder also became seriously concerned with taking steps to assure the future of aikido. In this connection, he purchased land in Iwama in Ibaragi Prefecture to build an aikido dojo and engage in farming. The Founder would often say “I am a farmer.” It was not in his nature to be a city dweller. He believed in the idea of self-sufficiency and the combination of budo and farming. This decision to move to Iwama was vital to the preservation of aikido.

It was when the war reached a serious stage in 1941 that he clearly decided to create a “new world of aikido” on this land in Iwama. He visited there whenever he had time and mapped out his Ideas. The enrollment at the Ushigome Dojo began to decrease due to the number of men being drawn into the war effort.

Aikido Section of the Butokukai

The atmosphere of control in society at large also affected the budo world including aikido which, parenthetically, was generally known as “aiki budo” as well as various other names. The governing body for the martial arts was called the “Butokukai”. The Founder declared that his art should be formally named “aikido.” Thus, it became the aikido section of the Butokukai. It was at this point that he took the bold step of moving to Iwama.

He remarked, “I am not good at performing miscellaneous duties. I still have to train.” He sent one of his uchideshi, Mr. Minoru Hirai (of Dai Nihon Korindo Aikido) who at that time was the Director of General Affairs of the dojo, to the Butokukai as his representative and himself hurried back to Iwama. At the same time, although still a university student, I (Kisshomaru) personally assumed responsibility for the dojo.

In Iwama the Founder converted a shed he obtained from a farmer into a modest house and began to live there alone with his wife, Hatsu. The house was quite small and cramped but he used to refer to it with delight as the birthplace of aikido when his deshi visited him. This house was located some 200 meters away from the present aiki shrine.

Aiki-En: Budo and Farming

The Founder had three major plans in mind when he declared this cottage to be the birthplace of aikido. The first was to construct an aiki shrine. The second was to create an outdoor dojo. And the third was to live his ideal of budo and farming. It was his final wish in Iwama to realize these three goals as “Aiki-En” (Aiki Farm).

About that time, the Founder kept close company with a linguist by the name of Koun Nakanishi who was one of the top scholars researching the Kojiki (Record of Ancient Matters). It seemed that the Founder’s concept of “Takemusu Aiki” was greatly Influenced by the Kojiki. I also understand that it was due to the influence of the Kojiki that he changed the first name he was using at the time from “Morltaka” to “Tsunemori.”

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