Morihiro Saito Sensei 3/31/1928 – 5/13/2002 9th Dan Aikikai
Morihiro Saito Sensei was born March 31st 1928. He grew up in a small farming town in Ibaraki Prefecture. As a boy in school he learned kendo, it was like a gym class, other students learned judo.
After World War II he decided to learn a hand to hand martial art since weapons were no longer allowed to be carried. He started training in Shinto-Ryu Karate.
Morihiro started working for the Japanese National Railways and was transferred to Iwama. He wanted to continue training in martial arts and decided to learn Judo. He trained in judo for a little while, until he heard about a “old man doing strange techniques up on the mountain near Iwama.” At the time people referred to this martial art as Ueshiba-ryu Judo.
So in 1946 at the age of 18 Morihiro started training in this martial art with Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. When he joined the dojo the first person he met was Minoru Mochizuki Sensei. Mochizuki Sensei brought Morihiro to meet O’Sensei.
O’Sensei was sitting with Tadashi Abe Sensei, the founder then asked the young man “Why do you want to learn aikido?” Morihiro just said he wanted to learn, to which O’Sensei asked “Do you know what aikido is?” and Morihiro didn’t know anything about aikido. O’Sensei said “I’ll teach you how to serve society and people with this martial art?”
Morihiro started training non-stop in Aikido from this point on. His work with the railway had a schedule that was 24 hrs on and 24 hrs off. This allowed Morihiro to train a lot, most of the time he was in class with O’Sensei alone. O’Sensei did a lot of farm work and Morihiro would join him. After a long while of hardwork O’Sensei would turn to Morihiro and say “Mou chan, bokken mote” meaning go get a bokken. They would then practice weapons out in the field.
Morihiro and his wife Sata were given a plot of land on the property of the Iwama Dojo to build a home. They also started taking care of O’Sensei and his wife. For 23 years Morihiro remained a student and care taker of O’Sensei while also working for the Railway.
In the 60’s Morihiro started teaching a Sunday class at Hombu Dojo. He was the only person given permission to teach weapons. His classes were quite full.
When O’Sensei passed away he left Morihiro in charge of the Iwama Dojo and was designated guardian of the Aiki Shrine. He continued to teach aikido as he was taught in Iwama by O’Sensei to students from all over the world. He started teaching international seminars in the USA, Sweden, Italy, Australia and many more.
Morihiro is one of the most highly regarded students of O’Sensei and with good reason. His technical knowledge of aikido techniques is very unique as well as his proficiency in the Aiki Ken and Aiki Jo.
In 2001 Morihiro was diagnosed with cancer and died May 13th 2002. He fulfilled his agreement with O’Sensei. He learned to serve society and people by spreading the art of aikido all over the world. He did a great service for all of his students and beyond.
Saito Sense’s legacy still lives on in his students and in their students.