Modern Aikido: Its Founder and Current Status

It is said that as a young boy, Morihei Ueshiba (b. 1883) had an unusual interest in the martial arts, philosophy and religion. The environment of his youth, being one of religious discipline and tradition, had an enormous effect on the course of his life.

Until the war (Russo-Japan, 1904), he trained exceedingly hard under the instruction of several famous martial art men; but the war itself provided a real situation in which Ueshiba found the opportunity to develop himself both physically and technically. Upon being discharged from the army, Ueshiba was engaged to lead a group of immigrants to Hokkaido (Northern Island of Japan). During this time, Sokaku Takeda, then head of the family, began to teach Aiki-jujutsu outside the Takeda household, travelling throughout Japan and finally settling in Hokkaido. Ueshiba studied Daito Ryu Aiki-jujutsu under Sensei Takeda until he had mastered it and had obtained a license to practice its techniques. In addition, he continued to investigate and practice other martial arts, particularly Ken-jutsu and So-jutsu.

Unfortunately, he was recalled home to his sick father; on the way, however, he met Oni Saburo Deguchi, leader of the Omoto religion. Ueshiba was very impressed by this man and subsequently became one of his disciples. Although this led him to further develop him mind, the martial arts were not neglected. In 1925, Ueshiba organized what would be referred to as his style of Aiki-jujutsu, largely for his own spiritual and physical development.

During the next decade, Ueshiba’s students (Tomiki, Mochizuki, Shioda and others) were active in building a foundation for present day Aikido. Ueshiba, however, was interested in seeking the true martial way (Budo spirit). In his search he left the dojo to work at farming, and by practicing Aikido, he tried to unify his spiritual and physical being through a closeness with nature. After the war (1950), he returned to the Tokyo dojo with a mature, modified form which he then called Aikido.

Ueshiba continued to instruct at the dojo until his death in 1968. He received a government award as the designer of modern Aikido and for his contribution to its popularization.

After the war Ueshiba’s students began teaching Aikido in their own different ways, not necessarily to restricted groups of people but in the way they thought best to tech and spread Aikido throughout Japan and the world.

Gozo Shioda Kancho-Sensei

One of Ueshiba’s outstanding students has been Gozo Shioda (b. 1915 – 1994) who has contributed much to bring about the popularity that Aikido has enjoyed since the war. Shioda entered Ueshiba’s dojo at the age of 18, living and practicing there for eight years. Because he stayed at the dojo longer than any other student, Shioda learned to sense the ways of his master’s mind and spirit.

Shioda was sent to Formosa with the occupational army during the war years, and like Ueshiba was able to utilize a real combat situation to train himself, mentally and physically. Shortly after his return, Shioda left the master’s dojo. His principal concern was the promotion of Aikido since, until this time, Aikido has been restricted to special groups of people. Further, in popularizing Aikido Shioda was showing his gratitude for his Master’s kindness. During the next two decades many demonstrations were presented to police forces, army groups and dock workers, much of the support for these demonstrations coming from financial institutions. The tremendous interest in Aikido since the war dates back to 1954 when, under the Life Extension Society, an exhibition of 160 martial arts from all over Japan was held. This was the first time that Aikido had been demonstrated to a large public audience and Shioda’s first place performance attracted a great deal of attention.

Shioda’s branch of Aikido is known as “Yoshinkan”, a name which he had inherited from his father, whom owned a Kendo and Judo dojo under that name. “Yo” means cultivating; “Shin” translates to spirit or mind; and “Kan” means house. Sensei Shioda became highly respected in Aikido circles around the world for his attitude toward the Budo disciplines and for his belief in “Wa” (harmony) as a way of life.

It is amazing to think that Aikido’s foundations were laid over 800 years ago, compared to the oldest Ju-jutsu (Takeuchi ryu 1530) this represents a 500 hundred year difference.