O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba

O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba 12/14/1883 – 4/26/1969

O’Sensei was born Morihei Ueshiba on December 14, 1883 in Tanabe, Japan. His father was very happy to finally have a son after having three girls previously. Morihei was quite sickly and small as a child so his father made him learn sumo and swimming.

Young Morihei Ueshiba

He was also very interested in Shinto and Buddhism as a boy.

He grew up much stronger. When he was 17 he joined his first martial arts dojo. The art was called Tenjin Shinyo Ryu. O’sensei trained in this for a while and also in another art Kito Ryu. He eventually went to join the army but was too short. Rumor has it that he would try to stretch himself out to try to be taller. Either it worked or he grew taller cause he was accepted into the army.

During his military training in the army he learned Yagyu Shinkage Ryu. A sword style. He received a certificate in this art. After the war he returned home and started training in Kodokan Judo for a while. He eventually moved up to Hokkaido where he met Sokaku Takeda Sensei. Takeda Sensei was a martial arts master of an art called Daito Ryu. Morihei became a close student and invited Takeda Sensei to live in his home and teach him Daito Ryu.

Sokaku Takeda Sensei, O’Sensei’s Daito ryu teacher

After a few years Morihei’s father was dying so he left Hokkaido, leaving his home to Takeda Sensei. On his way home he met man on a train who spoke a spiritual man in Ayabe near Kyoto.

This was when he met the leader of Omoto-Kyo, Onisaburo Deguchi. He asked Deguchi to pray for his father. By the time Morihei made it home his father had died. He left Tanabe and moved to Ayabe to become a fulltime student of Omoto-Kyo under Deguchi.

Onisaburo Deguchi, leader of the Omoto Kyo

Morihei started teaching Daito Ryu at the Omoto-Kyo compound and started calling it Daito ryu aiki jujitsu at Deguchi’s encouragement. Takeda Sensei showed up soon after and would teach as well.

A few years later Deguchi led a small group into Mongolia on a spiritual journey. Morihei went along with him. They were arrested by the Chinese authorities and sentenced to death but the Japanese government intervened and they were brought back to Japan.

O’Sensei and Deguchi as prisoners in Mongolia

Morihei moved back to Ayabe and began deep spiritual practices.

During this time he started teaching his art to an Admiral Isamu Takeshita who was a big supporter of Morihei. He encouraged him to start teaching in Tokyo

O’Sensei doing interesting pins

He started a dojo in Shinjuku and was visited by Kano Jigoro, the founder of Judo, who was very impressed by Morihei and had some of his top students go and train with him.

In the 1930’s he decided to move into the country, to a town of Iwama where he started a small dojo. This dojo is known as the Iwama dojo. He built a shrine there and this is when he gave his art the name aikido.

O’Sensei praying in the rain under the Aiki Jinja in Iwama

He started to be called O’Sensei by his students which means great teacher. A few students who would carry on his art trained with him at this time. Including, Koichi Tohei, Gozo Shioda, and Morihiro Saito.

O’Sensei continued to teach aikido until his passing on April 26, 1969. His legacy still carries on.