Osensei Morihei Ueshiba The Founder of Aikido
A collection of Videos and Photos of Osensei, Aikido’s Founder
O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba. Osensei (Great Teacher) is what us Aikidoka call him out of respect because he was the Founder of Aikido.
After WWII he retired in Iwama Japan and there he refined Aiki Jujutsu and created modern Aikido. YES, Aikido was born in Iwama.
By the way, there are many ways to spell 大先生/翁先生 in English, O’Sensei, Osensei, or O-Sensei. My prefered method of spelling is O Sensei. The ‘O’ means great or BIG in Japanese, like the word O Dachi which means BIG Sword. O Sensei is referred to as the Great Teacher. For the record, I don’t like using the spelling O’Sensei because it looks Irish (lol).
I’ve never met O Sensei, he passed years before I was born. Like most Aikidoka around the world, I feel like I know him well, after all his work led me to one of my professions. I look at O Sensei as the ‘Miyagi’ or the ‘Splinter’ that I never had. You may say that I meant that in jest. Well, the photos I’ve seen of him looks like a character of an old wise sensei.
When I was in Iwama, I was in his quarters where he slept and meditated. As an Uchideshi, I even cleaned and took care of his bokken. It was an honour to do so. For 30 years I bowed to his photo near the Kamisama in most dojo(s) I trained in. Although he’s passed, I think his character is the egregore that still (somewhat) fuses Aikido together.
Like a lot of Aikidoka(s) around the world, I’ve read as much Aikido history as I can to be well informed, but I am not an academic historian of Aikido. The late Stanley Pranin Sensei did a mighty fine job of that. So I won’t deep dive into the long history of Aikido. I’ll let my fellow Aikidoka scholars do that for me.
One of the things I always wondered about is ‘How did O Sensei get to be so good at Aiki’. This question could be shocking or even vulgar to a lot of purists Aikidoka, and it may even be deemed blasphemous to ponder such a question. I can’t help myself. I wanted to know how did O Sensei become a master of Aiki? When did he master Aiki – at what age? As a beginner, how did his daily Keiko look like? Can we be as good as O Sensei if we pour our time, effort, hearts, and minds into training? Is it even possible?
Well, it’s now the 21st century and the days of O Sensei and the age of the great Senseis that followed him have passed. It is up to us to continue O Sensei’s Aikido, his martial art. I guess I am lucky, I am a third (and fourth) generation Aikidoka, my Sensei’s sensei is O Sensei. I heard stories about him, how he sounded, how he moved, what he ate and drank, what were his daily habits, and even his sense of humour.
I was blessed and grateful to be where he lived in Iwama, went to his dojo, went to his quarters, walked his path, meditated under the same waterfall (taki) where he did (different water though), hang around the Aiki Jinja, and I even carried his bokken. Yes, I carried his bokken every day whilst I was there in Iwama. I was trying to absorb O Sensei’s ki via the bokken whilst cleaning it every day as an uchideshi. 😊
But still, I am not a direct student and I didn’t go to O S ensei’s Aikido classes. I wasn’t even alive in the 1950s nor 60s.
So all I’ve got of Osensei’s Aikido and movement are from the videos of him. Most of his Aikido videos are demonstration videos of him. From what I heard from my teachers, Osensei’s demonstration videos were omote, but his Aiki classes were ura. If you train Aikido, you’ll understand what I meant by that.
So here we are. I’ve collected as many videos of OSensei as I can so we can all watch closely, how he moved and did Aikido. This is what we’ve got. Yes, this post may be controversial because I’m being brazen about my words and blatant about my Aikido hunger for Aiki mastery. Oh well. That’s why I created Good Aikido, so we can see what Osensei’s Aikido all about. I can only wish I had these resources when I was just starting Aikido. So I am grateful that we can do this now.
This is a rare aikido video of Osensei Morihei Ueshiba in Iwama doing jiuwaza. It’s amazing to see Osensei (in his old age) displays such dynamic and good aikido. In this video Osensei mainly does three Aikido technique in many different forms. Irimi Nage, Kokyu Nage, and Kaiten Nage. Notice that Osensei when doing Aikido is like the wind, he keeps ongoing and doesn’t stop. One Aikido move unto the other.
This video is from 1935. This is when O Sensei’s Aiki was still officially known as Aikijujutsu. Having said this when compared to current Daito Ryu Aik Jujutsu moves, Osensei’s Aiki is already different and far more dynamic.
Remember I wrote at the beginning of this post that “Most of his Aikido videos are demonstration videos”, this video is rare because in this video, we get a glimpse of what an Aikido class (Keiko) looks like in Iwama. In this video, O Sensei was supervising Keiko, whilst Saito Morihiro Sensei was running the class. Look at the Aiki techniques it looks different from overly circular demonstration videos that we normally see in Osensei’s video. According to Saito Sensei (O Sensei’s apprentice for 25 years) this is how every day Aikido Keiko looks like in Osensei’s classes.