View Full Version : O'Sensei's Aikido

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08-24-2000, 02:41 PM
Every so often we hit a post along the lines of "that is not O'Sensei's Aikido" or "that isn't Aikido". Personally, I'm stumped by this.

When I see films of O'Sensei, I see lots of different things. When I see people who trained with him, I see lots of different things. When I see different brands of Aikido (pick your type) I see lots of different things. O'Sensei's Aikido changed over the years. When I look at films of him in the 50's or earlier it's much different than what we see in the 60's. So which part is the real O'Sensei Aikido?

O'Sensei radically innovated his art into something very different from what he learned. Do you think he expected his students to rigidly apply what he taught them, do it exactly the way he did and not innovate?

If the goal of teaching is to produce students that surpass you then is it not expected that they will do things you would not?

I've also heard that O'Sensei was very difficult to understand, even for Japanese. Some have suggested that he was deliberatly unclear so that a student had to search and find the answer on their own so that they might value it more. To take things even further it seems as if he suggested different things to different students.

So at the risk of burning in Aikido hell, I'd like to suggest that there is no such thing as O'Sensei's Aikido anymore. O'Sensei's Aikido died with him. So why do we get all wrapped around the axle of trying to do his Aikido when it seems as if he may not have wanted or expected us to.


08-24-2000, 02:58 PM
this reminds me of a story one of my sensei told me:

One day, a student approached O'Sensei and said "O'Sensei, I want to do your Aikido," to which O'sensei replied:

"That's odd- everyone else wants to do their Aikido."

I still like that story as much today as when I first heard it :).



08-24-2000, 04:02 PM
that story is quoted in John stevens book "The Invincible Warrior," (well worth the price). Right next to that story is another quote from O'sensei late in his life, saying that he devoted his lifetime and his efforts to opening up the pathways of aikido, but when he looked behind him, he saw no one following.

Makes you wonder about the breadth of different interpretations of a technique across the aikido world.


08-24-2000, 04:54 PM
Since I'm already pretty much settled down here in Aiki-Hell, I'll say that I personally don't care to do the founder's aikido. I'd rather find my own aikido.

The founder had wonderful aikido because he was doing what worked for him. He defined what "good aikido" was because he was the embodiment of "good aikido."

I take a look at the first generation uchideshi and such and see a wide variety of styles and approaches and believe them all good. Certainly, I can't do some of the very well, but they're all good interpretations through each person's body and minds.

As I've said before in another venue, I'm not training to become an "O-sensei clone" or a clone of anyone else. I'd rather find my own aikido.

-- Jun

Chuck Clark
08-24-2000, 06:01 PM
Well said, Jun.

Unfortunately, it takes courage to find your own aikido through determined practice under a teacher and then grow into your own style. The principle of 'SHU HA RI' is the traditional way of describing this process.

Many people want to set Ueshiba on a pedestal and give him "special powers" so they can idealize his aikido as the ultimate. It's then fairly easy to never have to take responsibility for the freedom of doing your own aikido.

Others want to do their own aikido before they have learned the principles and established the foundation which makes their own aikido real.

Rant over...

08-25-2000, 04:57 PM
I think this is a relatively sensitive subject for Aikido, since it is relatively new and we'd all (well, most of us) would like to see the art preserved, we try to stick to "O-sensei's Aikido" in order to preserve his memory.

I can imagine the striking arts such as karate, okinawa-te, etc. have changed plenty over the years. From what I've read, jujutsu has too- the sengoku jidai would be an example- jujutsu involved a lot of tantowaza, which meant getting your opponent off balance, and stab him in a weak point of the armor.

My opinion: change with the times but also stick with tradition... as redundant as that sounds...

See ya in Aiki-Hell,


Dan Hover
08-27-2000, 10:17 AM
O'sensei's Aikido did die with him. But what he left behind was the key to self-perfection, So insofar as trying to do O'sensei's Aikido we all on a grail quest. Some say O'sensei studied all of the complemtary arts to Aikido (ken, Jujutsu, spear,sumo,etc..) so that we wouldn't have to. He left us the tools to create takemusu Aiki. And he imparted these tools to various people throughout his life. Each of them stressing what they thought O'sensei was stressing, and they are all right. O'sensei's gift to us was that each of us has the power of improving ourselves, this gift is Aikido. It is his legacy as well as his gift to the world.

Dan Hover

08-29-2000, 07:25 AM
I think you pretty much have it right. I'll go as far as to say that even when he was alive, nobody was doing O'sensei's aikido. As sensei has told us in the past, O'sensei didn't do a lot of technique instruction. Meaning he didn't get up there and break a technique down slowly for everyone to pick up all the little things. He would show the technique and step aside while everyone did the tecnique, leaving it up to his higher ranking students to break it down for them.