O’Sensei Absorbed In Intensive Training
Aiki News #4 (July 1974)
The following article is the fourth in a series of seventeen articles dealing with the life of the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Aiki News will publish the entire series of articles in monthly installments.
The dojo at Iwama, referred to by 0’Sensei and others as the “Aiki shrine”, is situated in Ibaragi Prefecture and is Ueshiba Sensei’s residence. There 0’Sensei bought a little less than an acre of wooded land where, initially, during the period of 1940-41, he built a temporary house among the pine trees. However, it was not until the year of Japan’s defeat that he retired there to concentrate on further training. It was at that time that the ideal “Let us perfect the Way” became established as the main objective of Aikido. “He who resorts to force shall be defeated” and “Aikido is the way of controlling the sword” became the mottos. These ideals were pursued with single-minded devotion for several years.
Thus, in the early period at Iwama, 0’Sensei, feeling very pessimistic, rejected almost entirely the early form of Aikido as he launched himself into the search of a new path. Consequently, when Gozo Shioda and a group of his students happened to visit Iwama, the former remarked, “Sensei is getting along in years and has become weak with age. He is in retirement and I am second-in-line in Aikido.” Then, backed by Shoshiro Kudo of the Tomin Bank and Kiichi Minami of Kokusaku Paper Company, he built the Yoshinkan dojo in the Tsukido-machi section of the Shinjuku district. Shioda pretended to be the originator of Aikido and gathered numerous students around him. However, it was rather short-sighted of him to do this. Shioda had grown up together with Kisshomaru Ueshiba and other long-time students of Aikido. Nevertheless, it can hardly be said that he had fully grasped the true spirit of 0’Sensei.
While Hombu dojo of Wakamatsucho was developing steadily due to the wholehearted efforts of Kisshomaru and Koichi Tohei, Kiichi Minami, Shioda’s patron, came to ask 0’Sensei to place the Hombu and Yoshinkan dojos on equal footing and to grant Shioda the tenth degree black belt. In response to his request, O’Sensei smilingly said, “Of course, certainly. I’ll do whatever you ask. I’ll make him tenth degree or even 100th degree.”
Later, O’Sensei explained to the author, “In Aikido neither rank nor prestige of the dojo means anything. Such things have hardly any relationship to Aikido. Since Mr. Minami is an outsider it can’t be helped, but when I think about Shioda being overly concerned with outward appearances, I feel sorry for him. It would be good for him to come back to my side and humbly take up training once again. Would that be asking too much?”
However, Shioda was not alone in misjudging O’Sensei during the early period of his retreat. Another similar case was Minoru Mochizuki, 8th degree black belt, who is currently running a large dojo in Shizuoka. Since even those close disciples who were high-ranking Aikidoists all felt the same way about 0’Sensei, it was no wonder that no one in the village knew the real identity of the frail old man living in the small house in the middle of the woods.
The only exception was a young man named Saito, an employee of the National Railroad who, along with two or three companions, had somewhere learned of the name of Morihei Ueshiba. Together they approached O’Sensei and requested to be received as his students. Ueshiba accepted. Since at that time there was no dojo, they trained in the woods.
One day, one of Saito’s companions was attacked by a gang of young men from the village. The reason was that they had discovered that he was doing some kind of training at some old man’s place in the middle of the woods. However, the young man threw all five members of the gang. One of those who was thrown broke his arm. This turned out to be a significant incident.
(Translated by Stanley A. Pranin and Katsuaki Terasawa. The title of the article appearing in next month’s Aiki News is “Wooden Sword becomes Live Blade in the Hands of the Master”)