Aikido is one of the newest martial arts, having been formed near the end of World War II. Although it is a relatively recent development, it has caught on very quickly and is now practiced extensively around the world. Students everywhere can benefit not only from learning throws, holds, and locks, but by knowing a little bit about the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba.
Morhei Eushiba was born in the area now known as Tanabe on December 14, 1883. His father was a wealthy landowner and politician who served on the Nishinotani village council. Eushiba’s mother was a member of the prominent Itokawa clan, and his great-grandfather has also been a renowned samurai. During his childhood, his father encouraged him to learn sumo wrestling-something Eushiba took a special interest in after witnessing an attack on his dad by a competing politician.
At age 20, Eushiba was called up to military service, but failed the physical exam by being shorter than the required height of five feet. Devastated by his rejection, he began stretching his spine by placing heavy weights on his legs and swinging from tree branches in the forest. His efforts were successful, allowing him to pass the exam on his second try. According to Eushiba, “failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something.” He served as an infantryman for four years, returning once again to his father’s farm upon discharge.
Eushiba’s father encouraged his son to learn martial arts, and built a dojo on his farm where the young man could train. A well-known jujutsu instructor named Takaki Kiyoichi was hired to teach him, and under his instruction Eushiba became extremely well known for his strength and ability. Later, he met grandmaster Sokaku Takeda, at which time his training intensified. His enthusiasm for training led him to remark that “progress comes to those who train and train; reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere.” Eushiba built a dojo and invited Takeda to come and live in it. At that time, he was still developing as a martial artist, and could scarcely imagine that he would someday become the founder of aikido.
Father’s Death and Beyond
After his father’s death, Eushiba began studying the Omoto-kyo religion under the direction of Deguchi Onisaburo. It was through this religious training that he became enthralled with non-violent confrontation. He eventually ended his Omoto-kyo studies in 1927, at which time he headed to Tokyo and built another dojo. Eushiba continued developing a following until 1942 when he moved to the village of Iwana. It was there that Eushiba became the founder of Aikido, as the art was officially developed in his now-famous Aiki Shrine.
Morihei Eushiba once told his students to “create each day anew.” That’s what the founder of aikido did for much of his 85 years by looking on each day as a new learning opportunity. Although aikido has evolved quite a bit over the years, the fact that it is considered “the way of harmony” is something that has remained constant since its early development.