History of Aikido

The Aikido | What is Aikido | History of Aikido | Principles of Aikido | Aikido Defense Techniques | Aikido Styles | Aikido Dojo Etiquette | Physics Of Forces In Aikido | Aikido Physical Training | Aikido Training the Mind | Concept of Ki in Aikido | Morihei Ueshiba | Interview with Morihei Ueshiba | Memoir of the Master Morihei Ueshiba | List of Aikido Organizations

Aikido was created by Morihei Ueshiba (Ueshiba Morihei, 14 December 1883–26 April 1969), referred to by some aikido practitioners as ÅŒsensei (“Great Teacher”). Ueshiba envisioned aikido not only as the synthesis of his martial training, but also an expression of his personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation.

During Ueshiba’s lifetime and continuing today, aikido has evolved from the koryÅ« (old-style martial arts) that Ueshiba studied into a wide variety of expressions by martial artists throughout the world. 

Initial development: Ueshiba developed aikido primarily during the late 1920s through the 1930s through the synthesis of the older martial arts that he had studied. The core martial art from which aikido derives is Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu, which Ueshiba studied directly with Takeda Sokaku, the revivor of that art.

Additionally, Ueshiba is known to have studied Tenjin Shin’yō-ryÅ« with Tozawa Tokusaburō in Tokyo in 1901, Gotōha YagyÅ« Shingan-ryÅ« under Nakai Masakatsu in Sakai from 1903 to 1908, and judo with Kiyoichi Takagi (Takagi Kiyoichi, 1894–1972) in Tanabe in 1911.

The art of Daitō-ryū is the primary technical influence on aikido. Along with empty-handed throwing and joint-locking techniques, Ueshiba incorporated training movements with weapons, such as those for the spear (yari), short staff (jō), and perhaps the bayonet. However, aikido derives much of its technical structure from the art of swordsmanship (kenjutsu).

Ueshiba moved to Hokkaidō in 1912, and began studying under Takeda Sokaku in 1915. His official association with Daitō-ryū continued until 1937. However, during the latter part of that period, Ueshiba had already begun to distance himself from Takeda and the Daitō-ryū.

At that time, Ueshiba was referring to his martial art as “Aiki Budō”. It is unclear exactly when Ueshiba began using the name “aikido”, but it became the official name of the art in 1942, when the Greater Japan Martial Virtue Society (Dai Nippon Butoku Kai) was engaged in a government sponsored reorganization and centralization of Japanese martial arts.

Religious influences: After Ueshiba left Hokkaidō in 1919, he met and was profoundly influenced by Onisaburo Deguchi, the spiritual leader of the Ōmoto-kyō religion (a neo-Shinto movement) in Ayabe.

One of the primary features of ÅŒmoto-kyō is its emphasis on the attainment of utopia during one’s life. This was a great influence on Ueshiba’s martial arts philosophy of extending love and compassion, especially to those who seek to harm others. Aikido demonstrates this philosophy in its emphasis upon mastering martial arts so that one may receive an attack and harmlessly redirect it. In an ideal resolution, not only is the receiver unharmed, but so is the attacker.

In addition to the effect on his spiritual growth, the connection with Deguchi gave Ueshiba entry to elite political and military circles as a martial artist. As a result of this exposure, he was able to attract not only financial backing but also gifted students. Several of these students would found their own styles of aikido.

International dissemination: Aikido was first brought to the West in 1951 by Minoru Mochizuki with a visit to France where he introduced aikido techniques to judo students. He was followed by Tadashi Abe in 1952 who came as the official Aikikai Hombu representative, remaining in France for seven years. Kenji Tomiki toured with a delegation of various martial arts through fifteen continental states of the United States in 1953.

Subsequently in that year, Koichi Tohei was sent by Aikikai Hombu to Hawaii, for a full year, where he set up several dojo. This was backed up by several further visits and is considered the formal introduction of aikido to the United States. The United Kingdom followed in 1955; Italy in 1964; Germany and Australia in 1965. Today there are aikido dojo available to train throughout the world.

The biggest aikido organisation is the Aikikai Foundation which remains under the control of the Ueshiba family. However, aikido has many styles, mostly formed by Morihei Ueshiba’s major students.

The earliest independent styles to emerge were Yoseikan Aikido, begun by Minoru Mochizuki in 1931, Yoshinkan Aikido founded by Gozo Shioda in 1955, and Shodokan Aikido, founded by Kenji Tomiki in 1967. The emergence of these styles pre-dated Ueshiba’s death and did not cause any major upheavals when they were formalized. Shodokan Aikido, however, was controversial, since it introduced a unique rule-based competition that some felt was contrary to the spirit of aikido.

After Ueshiba’s death in 1969, two more major styles emerged. Significant controversy arose with the departure of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo’s chief instructor Koichi Tohei, in 1974. Tohei left as a result of a disagreement with the son of the founder, Kisshomaru Ueshiba , who at that time headed the Aikikai Foundation.

The disagreement was over the proper role of ki development in regular aikido training. After Tohei left, he formed his own style, called Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido, and the organization which governs it, the Ki Society.

A final major style evolved from Ueshiba’s retirement in Iwama, Ibaraki, and the teaching methodology of long term student Morihiro Saito. It is unofficially referred to as the “Iwama style”, and at one point a number of its followers formed a loose network of schools they called Iwama Ryu.

Although Iwama style practitioners remained part of the Aikikai until Saito’s death in 2002, followers of Saito subsequently split into two groups; one remaining with the Aikikai and the other forming the independent organization the Shinshin Aikishuren Kai, in 2004 around Saito’s son Hitohiro Saito.

Today, the major styles of aikido are each run by a separate governing organization, have their own headquarters (本部道場, honbu dojo) in Japan, and have an international breadth.