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Morihei Ueshiba, Founder Of Aikido (09)

by Kanemoto Sunadomari

Aiki News #80 (April 1989)

The author, Mr. Kanemoto Sunadomari, first met Morihei Ueshiba in 1928. A devout follower of the Omoto religion, he delves deeply into the influence of this religion on the art of Aikido. This, the first biography of the Founder of Aikido, was published in February 1969 and is reprinted with the permission of the Sunadomari family.

What Is Real Budo?

Morihei reasoned in the following manner. The truths explained in the doctrines of the Omoto re-ligion had assumed an increasingly concrete form with the passing of the years, and thus a theory of martial arts must be formulated based on these truths and techniques changed accordingly. No one had been able to accomplish this before. Nor was there any precedent in this regard even among those who had devoted their entire lives to the martial arts. However, there were a few individuals who struggled to achieve this end whom I will mention here.

The originator of Shinkage-ryu, Nobutsuna Kamiizumi, wrote the following in a book: "We learn the arts of war to use only once in our lives when we arc driven into a corner…. Even though one is regarded as being skilled at [martial arts], if he entertains the slighest evil thought in his mind…." And, "How can we achieve immortality of the spirit?… Immortality of the spirit is important even if one must jump into a flame or is caught under a huge rock…"

He described the spirit necessary for the srategist and pointed out the necessity of perseverance in order to maintain it even when driven into a desperate situation. He said this in a period torn by war and became the originator of Shinkage-ryu, a martial art which has survived to the present. He therefore can be regarded as a person of dignity and character who was both erudite and proficient at martial arts.

All of the originators of martial arts of high standing including Bokuden Tsukahara expressed the same mental attitude as Kamiizumi. These schools with such outstanding founders have survived undisturbed to the present. These individuals spent the last years of their lives free of subordination to the authorities of their times. The reason may be that they saw too much of the ugliness of the people in military governments engaged in power struggles.

Bokuden Tsukahara passed away after retiring to his hometown. He abandoned a life as a teacher of shogun Yoshiteru Ashikaga, a life where he would march accompanied by about 80 soldiers to the front and rear with three remounts and three large hawks.

Nobutsuna Kamiizumi was patronized by military commander Shingen Takeda and treated kindly. However, he refused to stay under Shingen’s roof and spent his later years in the Yagyu manor where he died.

The originator of Itto-ryu, It-tosai Kagehisa Ito, also retired from the world to free himself from the trammels of ordinary life. Moreover, Musashi Miyamoto of Enmei Nito-ryu spent his last years as a guest of a lord of the Hosokawa family in Higo. However, he did not register as a member of the feudal Higo clan.

These early masters escaped from the shackles of ordinary life having abandoned a world filled with struggles and killing. What were the past masters seeking amid the ceaseless turmoil of a world in which the strong prey upon the weak? It would seem they sought a world of peace and harmony all of their lives having neared death’s door on numerous occasions.

Thus, among those caught in a world of strife, there were a few who sought peace. Even today with material civilization’s progress and development, the struggles continue albeit in a different form. The martial arts used to be an indispensable tool of the samurai of the Edo period as well as during the "Warring States" period. However, in the Meiji era, after the decree abolishing the wearing of swords was issued and the caste system which included samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants was abolished, the four classes became equal. Thus, martial arts incorporating the use of spears and swords were eliminated and the practice of these weapons continued in dojos on a small scale. However, empty-handed techniques (taijutsu) which do not require any weapon gradually achieved popularity not only among the clans, but also among the general public. Jujutsu techniques which had been concealed within sword and spear arts became very popular in the Meiji era. Kodokan Judo created by Jigoro Kano was born out of the necessities of the time.

Karate which had developed in Okinawa was practiced and flourished when people were not allowed to carry weapons. Weapons including swords were confiscated following the conquest of the Ryukyu Islands by the Satsuma clan.

Thus the martial arts passed through twists and turns in the wheels of fortune. Morihei contemplated the true form of martial arts by studying their history.

Instructing In Ayabe

Morihei was engaged in arduous training using the spear and sword in the garden of his house which was located at the foot of the mountain in Ayabe. He had to practice alone since he had no partner. He continued to train using the original method of practice (with trees as his partners) as did Ushiwakamaru (childhood name of Yoshitsune Minamoto, a military commander) in the old days in Mt. Kurama. Also, the Omoto religion happened to organize a fire-fighting team in 1920 before the town of Ayabe had one. The fire marshal was Onisaburo and the assistant marshal was Morihei. A little later Morihei became the marshal and participated actively. The training of the fire-fighting team took place under the strict military direction of Morihei.

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