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Morihei Ueshiba: Words Of The Master

Aiki News #85 (Summer 1990)

Much has been written about O-Sensei, but rarely can we hear about his childhood and the discovery of his mission in his own words. This unique interview was taped by Fukiko Sunadomari while helping her elder brother, Kanemoto, with research for his biography of the Founder, published in 1969.


[The text appearing below is a partial, edited transcription of an audio tape recording of the words of the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba made c1966. The Founder grew up during the Meiji Period in an area of Japan in which the influence of the Shinto religion was particularly strong. His mental and conceptual world was peopled with kami (deities) and couched in the metaphors of ancient Japanese traditions. The pivotal events of his life were interpreted in light of the wishes and acts of the kami. It was a view of the nature of the world and cosmos which was foreign to the generations of Japanese which followed him.]

In the old days present Wakayama Prefecture was called Kii no Kuni. There was no Wakayama Prefecture. The area up to Mie Prefecture was known as Kii. Kii covered a huge area. It began in Osaka-fu and went up to Mie Prefecture. I was born in a place called Tanabe in Kii no Kuni.

All of the children born before me in my family were girls… no male child had been born. So [my parents] prayed to the kami at the Mt. Kumano Shrine for a boy. There was a tradition at this shrine’s festival, according to the year, that if one received a white flower he would have a fine boy, and if a red flower a fine girl. Therefore, my father tried to catch a flower each year, but it was hard for him to have a chance.

Most of those who came to the shrine were strong and quick to quarrel. They would cling to the flower even if it meant knocking over other people. Even if one managed to get a flower, someone would take it from him.

Then on December 14, 1883, or November 16 according to the old calendar, the festival took place and [my father] managed to get a flower. He didn’t take it from anyone else; he was a very strong man. He wasn’t the type of person to do anything unreasonable, but he managed to push aside the others and I heard that when he bowed and was just about to go home, many people came to attack him to stop him. However, he safely got the white flower and came home as if he were a general returning from a triumphant campaign. I understand it was a just a tiny, little flower so it was very hard to get. I was born in accordance with the tradition of the white flower and the will of the kamisama on the 16th of November, the day my father received the flower.

When I was born I was very small, but I grew day by day and became a plump, chubby child. In the back of our house there was a high spot and a little down from the top there was a persimmon tree. In that place there were huge pine trees of about 50 to 60 inches in diameter. I used to put many small stones at their base and would pick them up and throw them for training when I was a child.

In that place there were [also] many paving stones. When I checked about them I learned that these stones were related to the sword (tsurugi) of Amenomurakumo (Heavenly Cloud Masses). This means that I, Ueshiba, was born as the incarnation of the sword of Amenomurakumo as a blessing of the kami.

[Note: Amenomurakumo no tsurugi refers to one of the three sacred treasures of the Imperial house. The other two are the Yatanokagami (sacred mirror,) and Yasakami (crescent-shaped jewel, usually made of jade). O-Sensei perhaps wished to express that the spirit of this kami dwelled within these stones and passed into him.]

As the saying goes, “An uncut gem does not sparkle.” I didn’t know [my mission] in the beginning.

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