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Morihei Ueshiba, Founder Of Aikido (01)

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by Kanemoto Sunadomari

Aiki News #72 (September 1986)


Author’s Foreword

It was the spring of 1928 when I first observed an actual performance of aikido by Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. I was a devotee of the Omoto religion and was doing volunteer work for the church in Kameoka. I went with my father to Ayabe for the spring festival and observed a demonstration held at the Omoto Mirokuden in Ayabe.

On that day Ueshiba Sensei was wearing a formal kimono bearing a crest. About five or six of his disciples attacked him all at once with wooden swords and spears. In the next moment they were all flying through the air over Ueshiba Sensei’s head.

Everything took place literally in seconds. None of the students could even touch Ueshiba Sensei with their weapons. This was the incident which led to my joining his dojo later.

Since that day I have witnessed scores of demonstrations by him in addition to training in his dojo. There were, however, many aspects of his aikido that were almost totally beyond my comprehension. I thought I understood but I did not, and this suggests that Ueshiba Sensei’s aikido was changing continuously. The more I witnessed his art, the more endless it seemed and I could never completely grasp its scope and complexity. When I entered the dojo I was instructed by Ueshiba Sensei directly for the first time. He taught me in the seiza, or seated position, and told me, “If you master this one technique, it is enough.”

The first aikido technique we learned was to strike shomenuchi with the hand sword as a seated technique. It is still the same today. I struck at Sensei with all my might. Sensei received my attack quite softly and told me if I hit too hard I would break my hand. I always remember that incident whenever I practice.

This shows how difficult it is to execute an individual technique, for example, menuchi, in an ideal manner faithful to basic principles. I have spent many years practicing aikido but I doubt I will be able to come close to a “perfect” menuchi even if I train for the rest of my life. I believe that in order to truly master such difficult techniques it is necessary to enter the divine realm both spiritually and physically.

Ueshiba Sensei could, as a result of his extensive training, realize the utmost potential of the human body. In search of what lies beyond that point, he opened a way to the spiritual world. He was able to penetrate the realm of the spirit and pierce its deep and delicate logic.

Modern aikido would never have been created without the Founder having realized and attained this spiritual world. Ueshiba Sensei’s spiritual and physical austerities made possible the birth of aikido.

It has been almost forty years since I knocked at the door of the Ueshiba Dojo and came under his instruction and influence. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to enter into a personal relationship with him, experience his true nature and receive training in the pursuit of the Way.

What kind of a man was aikido Founder, Morihei Ueshiba? Where was he born? How did he train? I began writing this book because I wished to transmit the detailed process of the discovery of aiki beginning with the Founder’s footsteps during the colonization of Hokkaido, his conversion to the Omoto religion, and also his daily demonstrations of the art.

However, a description of this original budo and its creator, Morihei Ueshiba Sensei, has been extremely difficult. My poor literary skill has not allowed me to effectively describe the truth. This made me clearly realize that I am but an ordinary man. I recorded these things with the conviction that this is the correct Way.

Kanemoto Sunadomari December 1968

Chapter One: Childhood and Adolescence The Climate of Kishu

The seemingly endless Pacific Ocean where the main “black current” bathes the land of the Kii Peninsula reveals many faces. The sea is alternately calm and as violent as a swift stream. The mountains touching the coast are steep and joined to the chain further inland. Though sunny and moderately warm, the natural features of the Kii region are quite severe.

The Kumano district, as it is called, has had many legends and is the depository of many historical records preserved over the centuries. The eastern expedition through this region of Emperor Shinmu is recorded in our oldest historical book, the “Nihon Shoki”. Shinmu was the ancestor of the Imperial family who is regarded as the symbol of the Japanese people. According to the Nihon Shoki, Shinmu departed from Hyuga and attempted to enter Honshu from the port of Naniwa through the Inland Sea.

However, since the route was very arduous and they were not successful in battle, Shinmu changed his route and went around the Kii Peninsula to Kumano and then penetrated into Japan.

Also, there used to be a people called “En no Gyoja” (ascetic devotees) located in the depths of a mountain in Kishu. They are said to have been capable of freely flying and have been possessed of occult powers or some sort of mysterious divine power beyond the belief of ordinary humans. Later, it was believed that some of them ascended to Heaven in bodily form.

The Nachi waterfall in Kumano, Kishu has long been called the nest of the eight great dragon kings, the abode of the Dragon Deity. Thus, the Kumano shrine which enshrines the ancestral deities as well as the Dragon Deity, is regularly frequented by worshippers even today. This Kumano Shrine has many branches and each of them attracts the faithful among common folk and its enshrined deities are known to rule over the winds and rains.

The Kumano district is rich in such spirit-dwelling sites. Among these, Kumano has three mountains which are famous for the “Gongen Sama” (the avatar of Kumano) attracting pilgrims of strong faith and ascetics. In the northwestern part of Kumano, located near the famous Shirahama hot springs, is the town of Tanabe nestled on the coast. It is a port town opened back in the Edo Period as a good port on the Kishu coast. This is the birthplace of an incomparable and authentic man of budo, Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido.

Each year in this area during the autumn harvest, a festival is held at the Kumano Shrine. A “mikoshi” or sacred palanquin which is decorated with red and white artificial flowers is carried about on this occasion. For this event the flowers are thrown to the gathered crowd of worshippers. It is believed that if a person is struck by a white flower, he or she will be blessed with a fine child.

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