The 1935 film of Morihei Ueshiba is an unusual and significant document.. At the time it was made, shooting film was very expensive and not something undertaken casually. For this reason, there is very little filmed record of martial arts from the earlier years of the 20th century. Moreover Ueshiba’s art was also documented in the books Budo Renshu (1933) and Budo (1938), as well as a series of photographs taken at the Noma dojo in 1935. All of these materials were made for different purposes, and reflect different aspects of Ueshiba’s art. Each of these resources shows us a different side to the development of Aikido, and the way Ueshiba practiced and taught in the 1930s.
Scene from 1935 film “Budo”
The purpose of this essay is to look at the 1935 film in detail, and to analyse it by comparing it to the other published materials by Ueshiba, and by materials relating to Daito Ryu. I do not have access to any information on the film other than that which is readily available, but I do have many years of professional experience of analysing film as an editor and teacher of filmmaking.
The film was shot at the Asahi News offices in Osaka. At the time, Ueshiba had been hired to teach the security personnel, led by the general manager of the Osaka office, Takuma Hisa. Stanley Pranin identifies the two main uke as Shigemi Yonekawa (1910 - 2005) and Tsutomu Yukawa (1911 - 42). Yonekawa is also the uke in the series of photographs taken at the Noma dojo in1935.
Prominent in the centre of the back of the set is a large Japanese flag, perhaps reflecting the nationalist sentiment of the times. To the left and right of the flag are large banners that carry the newspaper’s name. The banners obscure two large doors in the rear wall. There is a chair at the edge of the mat to the right. In other words, the dojo appears to be an improvised training space in an office building.
FILM SPEED AND EDITING
The film appears to have been shot at 18 frames per second (fps), but has been transferred to video as if it was shot at the standard sound speed of 24 fps. The version currently available on DVD exhibits 3:2 pull down which is an artefact of a transfer from film at 24 fps to NTSC which runs at 29.97 fps, and this shows that the film was assumed to have been shot at 24fps by the technicians who did the transfer (i.e. had the film been shot at 24 fps the speed would be correct). However close examination of the movement shows the speed is incorrect and is too fast. If the DVD video is slowed to 75% of the speed the motion appears natural, hakama move in a natural way, and the fast movements still seem fast.
There are several reasons why the cinematographer might have chosen to shoot the film at 18fps rather than the more usual 24fps. At 18fps there is more light reaching the film, meaning that a better exposure can be obtained in poor light conditions - such as might be encountered shooting inside with the slow film stock available at the time and without a large array of professional lights. Another reason might have been economy - running at the slower speed would have given a 25% saving on film and processing costs. Lastly, it might have been that the cinematographer was not a film professional, perhaps one of the newspaper’s still photographers, and might simply not have realised that sound was usually shot at 24fps. 18fps was a common speed for shooting silent film, and it is conceivable that this speed was the setting that the camera was set to, and it was simply not changed when shooting began. Given that it would be a simple matter to adjust the speed on a 1930s projector it would have been easy to play the film back at the correct speed.
Perhaps the first thing that one notices when watching the film at the corrected speed is that Ueshiba’s technique is not as electric as when viewed artificially speeded up.
The change in speed affects the pitch of the audio. For the most part the slightly lower pitch does not significantly affect the video, but in the two instances where Ueshiba’s kiai is audible, the pitch makes the kiai sound like a forceful, frightening, kiai high in a man’s vocal range. In the uncorrected audio the kiai are not really recognisable as such, and sound somewhat like an accidental squeak.
With the corrected speed the duration of the film is approximately 19 minutes.
The film is shot from a camera that does not change position, but pans to follow the action. The film has been edited, but in a fairly simple manner which includes a large number of jump cuts. We might say that the film is a simple but competent production, but not professional level.
To assist analysis it is necessary to identify the techniques. Where the techniques are unmistakably the same as modern Aikido techniques (e.g. Kote Gaeshi) this presents no problem, however many of the techniques presented cannot be adequately described using modern terminology. If fact, the majority of the techniques might be described simply as Kokyunage.
I am interested in comparing the film with the other published documents of the period, so where techniques in the film resemble those seen in the training manuals Budo Renshu (Ueshiba, 1933) and Budo (Ueshiba, 1938) I have identified them with the abbreviation B (for Budo) and BR (for Budo Renshu) followed by the number that that they appear under in the relevant book.
However, the majority of the techniques in the film are variations of four kokyunage techniques that do not really appear in either book. To assist analysis I have identified these as:
Type A - somewhat similar to BR25 - uke grabs at Shite’s arm, and Shite moves his arm to unbalance uke.
Type B - Shite inserts his arm next to uke’s ribs and pivots to apply pressure to the shoulder joint in a manner slightly resembling Kaitenage. The entry into the throw also resembles some of the entries to techniques found in Tokimune Takeda’s Daito Ryu Sankajo syllabus, Kakae Kujiki for example.
Type C - Shite crouches down to Seiza or a turtle-like position causing uke to fall over him, sometimes a little similar to BR29 or the Roppokai technique Zenponage. We can also see this technique used in film of modern aikidoka such as Gozo Shioda or Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
Type D - Shite takes advantage of uke being unbalanced and simply pulls uke’s arm to effect the throw.
The fourteen students are sitting in Seiza when Ueshiba and Hisa enter and sit. Ueshiba and Hisa wear black montsuki, while everyone else wear white dogi with black hakama. Everyone bows to the Japanese flag, and then to Ueshiba. Following this there are around twenty seconds of meditation with the hands in the Hokkaijoin position. Conceivably, there might have been more than twenty seconds of meditation in regular training but this has been abbreviated for the film. Takuma Hisa then reads a poem entitled “The Spirit of Budo.” Although the words are not clearly audible it would seem likely that this poem is similar to the poem that appears at the end of the 1938 book.
Although he is only partly visible, Ueshiba has at this point changed into what appears to be a grey tunic, however since the film is black and white this tunic might actually be blue, red or another colour. The change of tunic indicates that the film was shot in a different order than it appears in the edited version, since in the next shot Ueshiba is again wearing a black montsuki.
Following this are what appear to be “warm-up” exercises. From ryotedori, Ueshiba demonstrates a Shihonage-like movement to the four corners (i.e., irimi left and right and tenkan left and right). Then the students perform the movements. The next exercise is a Tenchinage-like movement, again from ryotedori, performed to the left and right.
The last exercise is similar to the second, except that shite keeps his hands closer to uke’s head rather then extending them downwards.
In all the exercises only one student in each pair performs the technique, except for the pair nearest the camera who change roles at one point for a single technique and then change back; however this appears to be an error, since the student at screen left, in the pair closest to the camera, is often seen looking at the other students as if unsure as to what they should be doing.
Observing the students at this point is interesting in that their skill level appears to be fairly average. This is significant in that Takuma Hisa has said that the students in the film were a mixture of Kobukan uchideshi and Asahi Dojo regulars. Hisa describes the Asahi Dojo regulars as a fairly tough bunch all with at least 5th dan in Judo or Kendo in addition to two years of training at the Asahi Dojo. (Pranin p.110).
In all the techniques in the section Ueshiba appears to initiate the technique, in that he moves first. Presumably the application is as described in Budo Renshu - shite attacks uke’s face, forcing uke to block. Shite then takes advantage of the blocking hand’s position to effect the technique. However the strikes are not executed with force, and the appearance is that uke is merely putting his hands out to be grabbed. Except for the first four techniques all the attacks are made right handed.
-BR1 - Ippon dori (omote) both sides. Ueshiba initiates the technique by delivering what appears to be a te-gatana strike to uke’s face which uke blocks. Ueshiba then takes control of the blocking arm. Both partners begin in seiza. Ueshiba is in Seiza at the start, but as he continues to flow from one technique to the next he remains in kiza for most of the section. Uke is usually in Seiza at the start of each technique.
-BR2 - Ippon Dori (Ura) In the second two techniques uke is taken further back than in the first two techniques approximately 180 degrees compared to 90 degrees for omote. It is hard to say who initiates the technique since each technique is run into the next; however, it appears that uke is pushing a knife hand (te-gatana) straight into Ueshiba’s blocking hands.
-BR3 - (effectively identical to Kurumadaoshi in the Daito Ryu syllabus of Tokimune Takeda). Both partner’s right hands meet, Ueshiba passes his left hand over his right to take uke’s arm down (to Shite’s left) and then shite strikes uke down with a te-gatana strike to the neck
We can note at this point that the first three techniques correspond precisely to the first three techniques in Budo Renshu. These techniques are also roughly the same as the first three techniques of Tokimune Takeda’s Daito Ryu syllabus as taught by Kondo or Kato.
-BR1 - Ippon dori omote
-Nikyo - the pin here is the ‘crossed arm’ pin used for Sankyo in 1938 Budo
-Sankyo Ueshiba takes uke to his rear by pivoting 180 degrees
-Iriminage or Gurumadaoshi - Ueshiba cuts uke down with strike or push to the throat as uke is returning from the technique.
-Ueshiba circles to his right and forces uke down with an elbow lock (Gyaku Hiji). The technique is broadly similar to BR5 or the Judo technique Waki Gatame.
-Ueshiba takes uke’s right arm as if to do ippon dori, but quickly changes his grip to gokyo.
-Two Yonkyo throws. The second is more dramatic and In the second technique uke clearly initiates the technique with a strong shomen uchi attack, and Ueshiba responds with an X block (as in Tokimune’s Daito Ryu Sankajo curriculum).
The film is cut after the first Yonkyo technique. After the cut, the energy level rises, leading me to speculate that a decision was made to increase the energy after the cut. For many techniques (before the cut) it could not be said that Ueshiba is reacting to any kind of attack, or indeed that there is any attack at all - both partners simply put their hands together and Ueshiba does a technique. After the cut the remaining techniques are all performed in a flowing manner - uke is offered an arm to grab as he returns from falling and in taking the arm is unbalanced and thrown.
-B47, Kokyuho - this time Ueshiba extends his left arm further and the throw is more convincing
-As uke returns from the last throw Ueshiba extends his hands for uke to grab, and as uke does so Ueshiba applies Type A.
Ueshiba uses Type A techniques against two attackers. Ueshiba is seen clearly signalling to the uke as to where they should grab him next. The attackers wait until Ueshiba is ready before attacking. Although the techniques are performed in a semi-improvised and flowing manner, meaning that they are not well defined, they resemble Tokimune Takeda’s Daito Ryu Ikkajo Hanza Handachi techniques of Hanminage, Uraotoshi and Izori).
-The first two techniques are Type A techniques against two attackers.
-Type A twice in quick succession
-Type A and Type B
-Type A twice in quick succession
-Ueshiba uses a push to the abdomen on one uke and Type A on the second
-Type A twice in quick succession
-Type A, Type C
-Type B, Type A
-Type A, BR27
-Type C This technique is finished with a kick to uke’s head (mawashi geri). Uke has fallen and Ueshiba kicks at his head as he gets up - the technique is not at first obvious because the kick is partially obscured by uke’s head.
-The next technique appears to be a right hand strike to the solar plexus or abdomen applied simultaneously with a left hand strike or reap to the back of uke’s knee. Possibly a variation on BR26.
There is a cut followed by 18 techniques against a single uke. Except for the last two these are all variations on Type A and C as above.
In the 15th technique Ueshiba indicates that he wants his shoulders grabbed from behind. When uke complies, Ueshiba reaches behind Uke’s right knee to throw him forwards.
In the 16th technique (also ushiro ryokatadori) Ueshiba rolls back and grabs uke’s head between his ankles to throw him forwards.
-The first technique here is a very dynamic ippon dori (BR36) that sends uke flying backwards. The technique is initiated by Ueshiba on a stationary uke
-Ippon dori ura (BR37) - it is not possible to say who initiates
-Ippon dori omote (BR36)? Again it is not possible to say who initiates
-Appears to be ippon dori omote (BR36), but Ueshiba’s back is to the camera so it is hard to tell
-B7 Iriminage. Notice how this version is more impressive than the previous, as if Ueshiba was dissatisfied with the first and wanted to repeat it. One reason this version is more successful is the in the first version Ueshiba blocks before uke strikes, in the second the timing is much better. Not also that Ueshiba uses a left hand atemi to uke’s ribs as he enters for a right hand throw.
-Iriminage (a short and nasty version that is basically a Clothesline)
-B7 Iriminage This one is perhaps very close to BR3 (Gurumadaoshi)
-16 techniques against three uke. This could not be said to be multiple attack since the uke wait their turn before attacking. The techniques are all ki-no-nagere style, similar to the hami handachi section,
-Five techniques against one uke - the first is B8 (Kote Gaeshi). For the remaining four the techniques are ki-no-nagere style in rapid succession
-Techniques against two attackers. These are ki-no-nagere techniques in rapid succession
-This is followed by four techniques against two attackers simultaneously. The attackers are thrown against or on top of each other in a manner strongly reminiscent of Daito Ryu
-Six ki-no-nagare techniques against one attacker
In this section we can see the stylised gesture or stance with one hand raised and the other low that Ueshiba often adopted at the conclusion of techniques throughout his life. Sometimes the gesture has the weight on the front leg with the front hand raised, and at others it uses the weight on the rear leg with the rear hand raised (as in the closing position of BR43). In post-war films we usually see the rear-hand raised version. This one-hand-raised stance can be seen in one of the few photographs of Takeda Sokaku actually performing a technique - in this image Takeda is pinning two or three students with his hands free (the photo can be seen in Shiro Omiya’s book on page 23).
The first technique, Type A, is perhaps remarkable in that it is flawed. Uke does not fall as Ueshiba anticipates - perhaps the technique is directed too much downwards as opposed to encouraging uke to roll out, and Ueshiba losses his grip on uke. So Ueshiba throws him again, successfully the second time. Presumably the only reason we get to see the flawed first technique is that there is no clear point to cut the film after the first technique, and the editor was faced with the choice of cutting both techniques or leaving the first technique in.
There are eight techniques before the first cut: the first two against a single uke, the next five against two uke, being executed in rapid succession, and the last one involving one uke thrown into the other. All the techniques are very flowing, mostly Type A. Although the uke are very compliant there is no doubt that Ueshiba is demonstrating a high level of skill here.
After a cut there is a second section of kokyunage, this time against a single attacker. In this section Ueshiba’s tunic appears to be torn at the back of his right sleeve. This tear is not in evidence during any other shot in the film - further evidence that some time elapses between cuts in the film. There would need to be enough time between the conclusion of this shot, and whichever section was shot next, for the filmmakers to find a sewing kit and someone with sufficient skill to mend the tunic. There are another eight techniques against a single uke here, again Type A, B, C and D throws that work on a precise understanding of use’s balance.
The kokyunage section is concluded by two multiple attack sequences. In the first, Ueshiba is surrounded by four attackers who grab him at close range. Ueshiba slips out between them and pushes them over so that one lands on top of the other. The same technique is can also be seen demonstrated by Tokimune Takeda in the video clip of the 1985 Japan-China demonstration (Takeda) and could be said to be a signature technique of high-level Daito Ryu demonstrations.
As soon as the uke return to their feet, Ueshiba walks into the middle of them to be grabbed again, but as soon as the uke begin to grab they are unbalanced. It is hard to see exactly what Ueshiba does to his assailants in either technique since the uke obscure the detail. As the uke return to their feet and move back towards him Ueshiba glides down to a kneeling position and glides between their legs, in what to my eyes is the most impressive technique in the film - the uke at the left side of the screen appears disoriented and continues to look where Ueshiba was, but, by changing his posture radically, Ueshiba manages to get to a safer place and disrupt the balance of two more of the uke as he does so, throwing them into the centre. The uke at the left side of the screen is required to keep looking where Ueshiba was since that place is now occupied by two of the uke who have been thrown towards him. One can imagine that this person might have the impression that Ueshiba had completely disappeared. Ueshiba’s movements here remind me of the way a skilful stage magician controls where an audience looks to perform slight-of-hand tricks.
This is followed by ten rapid throws where the uke attack in quick succession and Ueshiba often throws them into each other. It is difficult to say to what extent some of the uke are being very compliant in falling without actually being thrown here - some throws do not look very convincing when examined frame by frame. However, given that the uke are faced with a potentially dangerous situation in that they need to be careful not to injure each other by falling on each other and that this section involves a lot of movement in a very short space of time, and limited physical space, it is probably not possible to make an accurate assessment of the level of ukes’ compliance.
-B43a (this is the unnumbered technique that follows BR43, described by Saito as Yaridori Kokyunage. The text in Budo says that defending against a bayonet is similar to defending against a spear.
-B40 In this technique Ueshiba does not succeed in grabbing the weapon. It may be that he succeeded in unbalancing uke and did not need to grab the weapon, but it might also be that he failed to get control of the weapon and that uke took the fall anyway. Note that at the conclusion of the technique his hands are by his sides, and it is a moment later, after uke has fallen away, that he raises his right hand in the stylised one-hand-raised gesture that appears intended to cover a poor technique.
-B40 The next technique appears after a cut in the film, and is taken slightly slower. This time it is a textbook-perfect version of the B40 technique. This time Ueshiba concludes the technique holding the juken, which tends to suggest that he expected to gain control of the juken in the first technique.
-B40 - a more flowing variation
-B40 (flowing variation) Ueshiba finishes in a gesture holding the juken vertically in front of him, but on the ground - a gesture reminiscent of the one-hand-raised gesture above.
-B40 (another variation where Ueshiba takes the juken low along the ground) finishing in the same kamae as the technique above
In the third-to-last technique, Ueshiba stands surrounded by his students. He suddenly dashes out of the circle - he is almost out of the circle before the students react, and indeed the two uke on the left of the screen do not move at all until he is out of the circle. Ueshiba throws one uke forward, and the others stab at the point he had been standing at a moment before, and collapse. It is hard to take this technique seriously since Ueshiba initiates the technique and there is no real reason for the students to fall over. At the end of the technique Ueshiba is kneeling beside the circle of students who have fallen over.
The second-to-last technique is another take of the same technique that is almost identical, except that Ueshiba finishes standing outside the circle with his right hand raised in the on-hand-raised gesture. Perhaps this was how the technique was supposed to go the first time?
The last technique in this section does not involve juken, but rather six students grab Ueshiba in a circle. Ueshiba utters a very loud, piercing, high-pitched kiai and twists out. The kiai needs to be heard at the correct speed to be appreciated - it is very vigorous. Given that (to the best of my knowledge) this film is the only sound recording of Ueshiba’s kiai, it is especially important that it is heard at the correct speed. As Ueshiba manages to get outside the circle, the students all fall over. It is not clear why they fall. Presumably the kiai was linked to an aiki technique that needs to be experienced to be appreciated. Hearing the kiai at the correct speed would be essential listening for anyone following the many threads on web forums about the use of internal energy in Aikido and Daito Ryu.
The first set here is a multi direction sword cut form, similar to happo giri.
If we assign directions to the so that North (N) is towards the camera, South (S) is away from the camera, East is to screen left, west to screen right, and North East (NE) is diagonally towards the camera and to screen left, and so forth, the form can be described as follows:
(note: the term kiri-orishi refers to a straight downward cut)
-N (right foot forwards). Beginning with the bokuto held as if in a saya, draw and kiri-orishi
-S (pivot without step so the left foot is facing S) and kiri-orishi
-W (left foot forwards i.e. W) and kiri-orishi
-E (pivot without step) and kiri-orishi
-NE (Left foot forwards i.e. NE) and kiri-orishi
-SW (pivot shuffle-step, right foot forwards) and kiri-orishi
-Several small adjustment steps, momentarily assuming hasso no kamae facing NW
-NW (left foot forwards) and kiri-orishi
-SE (pivot, right foot forwards) and kiri-orishi
-Several small adjustment steps
-N left single-handed handed kiri-age (left foot forwards)
-S right single-handed cut downwards similar to the MJER technique Sunegakoi
-Pivot anticlockwise 180 degrees
-S right foot forwards, kiri-orishi
-step backwards to SW (facing NE), kiri-orishi to NE with right foot forwards
-S right-handed kiriage (right foot)
-NW kirioroshi right foot forwards
-SW Step strongly on right foot and kiri-orishi
-Pivot anticlockwise by stepping back with left foot
-NW kiri-orishi, right foot forwards
-NE cut down but change direction as the cut gets to men
-W right foot and kiri-orishi
-SW left foot and kiri-orishi
-N right foot and kiri-orishi
-Pivot, and kiri-oroshi to south
-Momentarily assume jodan no kamae facing NE
-Stand facing N to conclude
There is no chiburi visible, and the film cuts very soon after Ueshiba stops moving - so possibly there might have been a chiburi movement after the cut. His stance at the end is not typical of a swordsman - he appears to be standing in a natural stance with his hands by his sides, the sword held sticking out in front of him parallel to the floor.
The most notable thing about this sequence is that it does not appear to be particularly well executed on a technical level. The form is certainly vigorous, but lacks the fundamental body structure and stability seen in well-known Japanese weapon exponents. Ueshiba’s head jerks backwards with each cut.
The kata appears to be improvised. Looking at the structure, as described above, we can see that it starts as if to be in a happo-giri form, but soon deviates from that simple structure in to what appears to be an extemporised sequence. One wonders if extemporised sequences such as this are what led to the (apparently) improvised jo kata seen in later films of Ueshiba.
It was not long after this that Ueshiba invited instructors from the Kashima Shinto Ryu to come to the Kobukan dojo to teach. While Ueshiba is said to have not participated in the lessons, he apparently observed the lessons closely. Perhaps Ueshiba was aware of his failings as a swordsman and sought to rectify that by observing the Kashima instructors’ lessons?
In the final technique in this section, Ueshiba is surrounded by twelve students who attack simultaneously, in a manner similar to the juken technique. One student holds his bokuto in jodan no kamae, the remainder in chudan. The circle is wider than the juken circle and the distance between Ueshiba and the students is greater. Once again, Ueshiba initiates the technique by moving first, but this time the students react a little faster. However, by the time the students have raised their swords to jodan, Ueshiba has moved to the side of the circle and is already too close to the attackers to be cut at. As the students cut down, Ueshiba throws one student across the circle, and a moment later he throws a second uke across the room.
TRAINING THE SWORD SPIRIT
Empty hand against sword
-B27 Kote Gaeshi
-The next technique is a kokyunage technique based on a pivot in the opposite direction to the previous one (i.e. Type A)
-The previous technique is repeated. It is notable that this time Ueshiba initiates the technique, moving first, while uke cuts to where Ueshiba was.
-B27 Kote Gaeshi. Ueshiba takes the sword from uke’s hands.
-B38 - in Budo (Ueshiba 1938) Ueshiba stops the blade in front of uke’s chest; in the film he puts the blade slightly to the side to indicate running uke through.
-Iriminage - essentially B28 except the Ueshiba holds a sword
This is followed by empty hand techniques
-In the first Ueshiba simply grabs uke’s sleeve and throws him down
-Uke comes forward and grabs around Ueshiba’s waist, and Ueshiba pushes him down
-Three times uke comes to grab Ueshiba (double chest grab) and Ueshiba repels him without using his arms, using a kokyu technique
-All the students come to grab Ueshiba. Ueshiba utters a powerful kiai and the all fall down - it is not clear why they fall unless it can be explained by “Aiki”. He remains standing in the concluding stance of BR43 (but with forward hand raised.) This is similar to the last technique in the Juken section.
It is worthwhile to look at the material presented in the books that Ueshiba either wrote or sanctioned just a few years before and after the production of the 1935 film.
Budo Renshu is a fascinating document that appears to be strongly based on the ikkajo set of Daito Ryu. For anyone interested in the development of Daito Ryu, Budo Renshu is interesting in that it appears to contain techniques that may have originated with Takeda Sokaku, but have been omitted from the syllabus developed by Tokimume. However, this book contains a large number of specific techniques that seem only partly related to the material in the film.
A few years after the 1935 film, Ueshiba prepared the book Budo’ which shows a condensation of technique into a form more recognisable as modern Aikido and the inclusion of techniques from the nikajo and sankajo levels of Daito Ryu - yet, once again, the improvisatory nature of the film is at variance with the book.
Lastly, if we look at the series of photographs taken at the Noma dojo only a few months after the shooting of the film, we can see an array of complex techniques that looks more close to Budo Renshu and Daito Ryu than to modern Aikido.
It would seem the film was produced in a way that consciously intended to present material for a different purpose, and possibly to present material more suited to the medium of moving pictures.
It is my belief that, in the film, Ueshiba sought to display elements of his art that could only be seen in motion, whereas the books and photographs from the same period show phases of techniques, in the manner of a training manual, in the film a very flowing style is presented. Conceivably, Ueshiba considered the flowing style to be the highest level of his art, and for this reason chose to demonstrate this when the opportunity presented itself to make the film.
In 1935, film was an unwieldily medium for viewing. The books are intended as materials that might assist a student in training, and given the large number of un-named techniques such manuals must have been invaluable. But a film could not be used in the same way as a book could be, or as someone might use a DVD today. A film, in 1935, required the use of a bulky and expensive projector, a darkened room with a screen, and extreme care in that early film stocks were fragile (and, in the case of nitrate stock, very dangerous). Therefore it was not to be expected that anyone would be able to view the film repeatedly, or use it as an instruction manual.
So it would seem that budo was presented as a demonstration of the highest levels of Ueshiba’s version of Daito Ryu, whereas the books and photographs were prepared as guides for students that actually presented a series of techniques to be learned. Given that only very few people have ever had access to the highest levels of Daito Ryu we can only speculate on whether this film shows a version of high level Daito Ryu or Ueshiba’s personal vision of what an ideal budo might be.
Given this, the most surprising thing is probably that the technical standard is fairly average, especially when viewed at the correct speed.
However, in the post-war film clips, Ueshiba appears to have reached a much higher technical level. This means that he did not reach the peak of his abilities until he was in his 60s, perhaps even his late 60s. For myself, nearing 50, this is good news. I can look forwards to improving my own skills, and do not need to think of my age as a hindrance.
Hisa, Takuma (Producer), Budo. Privately produced in 1935, reissued recently by Aikido Journal.
Omiya, Shiro, The Hidden Roots of Aikido: Aiki Jujutsu Daitoryu. Kodansha, 1998
Pranin, Stanley (Ed.) Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu: Conversations with Daito Ryu Masters. Aiki News, 1996.
Pranin, Stanley Remembering Takuma Hisa. Aikido Journal / Aiki News issue 129 retrieved from the world wide web 29th June 2008.
Saito, Morihiro, Budo: Commentary on the 1938 Training manual of Morihei Ueshiba, Aiki News, 1999
Takeda, Tokimune (demonstrator) Video clip retrieved from the world wide web 29th June 2008.
Ueshiba, Morihei (author) and Stevens, john (trans), Budo. Originally privately published 1938, republished with translation by Kodansha International, 1991
Ueshiba, Morihei (author) and Bieri, Larry and Mabuchi, Seiko (translators), Budo Training in Aikido (original title: Budo Renshu). Originally privately published in 1932, republished with translation by Sugawara Martial Arts Institute / Japan Publications 1997, 2002.
About the author
Phil Davison teaches Iaijutsu and Aikijujutsu at the Seishinkan dojo in Dunedin, New Zealand, and is a student of Sekiguchi Komei. He holds the grade of 4th dan in Aikijujutsu and the Shibucho license from Komei Juku. He teaches filmmaking and film analysis for the Southern Institute of Technology and is the author of White Cranes and Drunken Masters..
©2008 Phil Davison