George S. Ledyard
I just want to clear up something... since there is a revisionist tendency prevalent these days that the ushi deshi didn't really spend a loot of time with the Founder. Yes, the Founder only taught his early morning class daily. But the ushi deshi were with him every moment of every day. Training was a 24 hour a day issue for them. Chiba Sensei talks about the job they had of helping O-Sensei to the bathroom in the middle of he night. He learned to come awake just as O-Sensei opened his eys and was ready with his slippers. That's training.
Don't take this the wrong way. I'm going to paste a rather long section of stuff. Even though it's long, it's only a portion of my research and at that, my research doesn't encompass a whole lot of what's out there.
I'm posting it here because I want you to see what *I myself*
am trying to reconcile. As you read through it, you will see that, through many different people, Ueshiba Morihei didn't teach in Tokyo often, didn't show much when he actually did teach, that tending to Ueshiba on off hours wasn't a very good learning experience in regards to aikido, talked quite a lot, entertained visitors, traveled, etc. On top of all that, you start to see that Ueshiba Morihei really didn't teach that often in Iwama, either.
Moriteru Ueshiba: I remember when I was small, there was not yet much activity at the Hombu Dojo. For a time my father (Kisshomaru) was actually in Iwama instead. He married there, and starting around 1949, he worked for about seven years at a company called Osaka Shoji. He had no other choice. Even if you have a dojo, you can't make a living if nobody is coming to train, which was largely the case after the war.
Having a wife, two children and several hungry uchideshi to feed, Doshu was at that time employed full-time at a securities company and taught aikido classes in the morning and evening. His father (Morihei) remained ensconced in Iwama training a few close students, among them Morihiro Saito. As practice in Tokyo gained momentum, Kisshomaru started to direct part of his efforts toward the spreading of aikido to a public almost totally ignorant of the art. A major turning point was a large demonstration held in the Takashimaya Department Store in 1956 where for the first time, not only the Founder, but senior instructors as well as demonstrated.
By the mid 1960s, large numbers of trainees crowded the mats of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo along with scores of foreigners who streamed to Japan to train in the mecca of aikido. The founder, although now in Tokyo much of the time, was already in his eighties and Kisshomaru and Koichi Tohei were the major figures at the dojo.
Mitsunari Kanai (1939-2004)
1959-1966 Uchideshi at Hombu
1966 Dispatched to America (yondan)
Yoshimitsu Yamada (1938-)
1955-56 Uchideshi at Hombu
1964 Dispatched to NY Aikikai
Kazuo Chiba (1940-)
1958- Uchideshi at Hombu
1960 -- Sandan. Assigned to Nagoya
1962 Yondan and teaching at Hombu
1966 Dispatched to England
1970 6th dan
4 years from start to 4th dan.
12 years from start to 6th dan.
Mitsugi Saotome (1937-)
1955 Started Aikido
1958 Uchideshi at Hombu
1960 Teaching at Hombu
1975 Departed to America
Seiichi Sugano (1939-2010)
1957 Started training at Hombu
1958-59 Direct student of Morihei Ueshiba
1965 Dispatched to Australia
AJ: Do you have any particular memories of the old Wakamatsu-cho dojo?
Seiichi Sugano Sensei: The present Doshu (Kisshomaru Ueshiba) was one of the first people I met there. The place had the feel of an old-style dojo; quite different from the way it is today. Most of the time only O-Sensei and Doshu were there. Koichi Tohei was the head of the teaching staff. In the afternoon we were taught by people like Sadateru Arikawa, Hiroshi Tada and Shigenobu Okumura. A few years later Saito Sensei started coming down from Iwama to teach on Sundays
1965-ish Started training at Hombu
NCT: Really? So you started training there. Did you have a chance to train with O'Sensei then?
Ishii Sensei: Well, at that time he was already retired and he didn't have a regular class. I was only 15 years old. I went to Hombu dojo many times, where there were many teachers teaching regular classes. I expected to see O'Sensei at the dojo. His home was just next to Hombu dojo, and I expected him to come out of his room to teach us. But he didn't come to the dojo often. After a few months I learned that it was only for Yamaguchi Sensei's and Kisshomaru Sensei's classes that he came to the dojo to join us. This means that O'Sensei was not interested in other teachers training.
Q: Who among the Senseis today have been uchi deshis?
A: Well, if you speak of Senseis like; Yamada, Tamura, Tohei, Saotome and Kanai they all are students of Kisshomaru Ueshiba. They never went to Iwama and practised for O-Sensei. Chiba Sensei once stayed in Iwama for 3 months.
Black Belt Magazine Vol 1 No. 2.
In an article about Tohei. "His contributions to the art of Aikido are legend. He has devised many of the exercises and throws which are now standard and taught in all Aikido schools both in Japan and the United States."
Yoseikan NA website:
9. What is the relationship between Yoseikan's robuse and the similar techniques practiced as ikkyo in most other aikido schools?
Mochizuki Minoru Sensei said that when he was studying with Ueshiba Sensei (late 1920's), robuse was the name given to the technique that later became Ikkajo, then Ikkyo after the war. The present ikkyo as taught by most Aikikai (and Aikikai related) teachers is the result of the modifications made by Tohei and Kisshomaru Sensei in order to simplify Aikido and make it available to more people....[edited for length]
Patrick Augé Sensei
Black Belt 1966 Vol 4 No 5
"The uchideshi's day begins around 6 a.m., when he cleans the dojo and the grounds outside. The first class of the day starts at 6:30. This class is usually taught by Uyeshiba himself, the Osensei, which means the old teacher. The young uchideshi sit on their knees during this hour, which can be an uncomfortable and tiring experience.
The first class is usually taken up mostly with discussions about God and nature - Uyeshiba doing the talking and the uchideshi listening. It is in this hour that the young uchideshi is exposed to Zen philosophy and the deeper meanings of aikido - its nonviolent and defensive perfection and understanding.
If this all sounds rather remote and difficult to grasp for a Western reader, he may be interested to know that the young Japanese uchideshi often feels the same way. The 83-year-old Uyeshiba many times speaks about highly abstract topics, lapsing usually into ancient Japanese phraseology, so that his listeners often find it difficult to follow him.
When this long hour is over, the young uchideshi exuberantly spill out onto the dojo floor for a half-hour exercise break. All the restless energy pent up within seems to come out and they throw themselves into the practice of their techniques with each other.
At 8 a.m. begins the real study of aikido techniques. This class is taught by a different instructor every day, and is attended by a large number of persons from outside the dojo. Sometimes this hour is taught by Uyeshiba's son, or Waka sensei as he is called. Sometimes Tohei sensei, the greatest of Uyeshiba's followers, instructs the class."
"If the uchideshi isn't helping out at this time, he may have a private class of his own with Tohei or Waka sensei or some of the other instructors."
Black Belt 1968 Vol 6 No 5
At a typical training session, the instructor demonstrates a technique once or twice, then everyone practices for at least five minutes. Another technique is then shown and the practice is resumed.
The concept of ki is part of the regular instruction, because as the younger Ueshiba points out, you can't separate ki from the ordinary lessons."
Article also notes that because of the shortage of instructors, Kisshomaru has a battery of promotion examinations.
While his 45-year-old son handles the administrative end, the 85-year-old father spends most of his time these days at the martial art's tutelary shrine known as the Aikido Shrine in Iwama, Ibaragi Prefecture, north of Tokyo."
Black Belt 1974 Vol 12 No 2
Article by Andy Adams about Yoshinkan.
Quotes Shioda, "I don't really feel that I broke away from the mainstream of aikido since there was nothing to break away from back then. Uyeshiba sensei (the late Morihei Uyeshiba) was farming, his son Kisshomaru was working for some company, and the sensei's aikido dojo at Iwama in Ibaragi Prefecture was being rented out as a dance hall."
But Shioda notes that Hirai, Koichi Tohei (chief instructor at the WAF hombu) and even Kisshomaru Uyeshiba were not used as the sensei's uke and therefore didn't have to undergo the constantly rough treatment at the sensei's hands that he and a handful of others experienced."
From 1947 to 1950, there was virtually no aikido for Shioda, who was forced to devote all his energies to the task of scraping out a living in a ravaged, destroyed Japan.
Black Belt 1984 Vol 22 No 10
Article by Gaku Homma
Regarding Ueshiba entering a class…
Usually instructors taught only basic techniques when Uyeshiba was in the dojo, knowing he preferred those over fancy, advanced techniques. In some cases, instructors were scolded openly when caught teaching dangerous techniques.
In the dojo, after greeting a few students, he would lecture on the essence of aikido in Omotokyo teachings, which few students could understand completely.
The day began as usual, Uyeshiba rising at 5:00 a.m., taking his bath and putting on a set of clean kimono. At about six o'clock, he headed for the Aiki Shrine for his morning religious ritual, which took about an hour and a half each day.
Black Belt 1985 Vol 23 No 7
Article about Shoseki Abe by James and Mari Berkley
Abe: In 1954, there was an opening ceremony for the Shingu Dojo. I went with O-Sensei and we stayed two weeks. We trained in the morning from six to seven, and then again from 11 to 12. The afternoons were free, and then we trained again in the evenings from six to seven.
Black Belt 1989 Vol 27 No 8
Interview with Mochizuki
BB: What was the status of martial arts in Japan after World War II?
Mochizuki: Uyeshiba Sensei's techniques had lost most of their martial appearance. He apparently had gone through some very deep emotional states. The war, the atom bomb, all contributed to his belief that there would be no other war, that budo had to become only a do (way). Uyeshiba Sensei believed that, after the war, an era of peace and love had started. Since there was no necessity to fight, aikido had to become a means of physical education. Also, in order to make it easier for a lot of people to take it up, he had to simplify it. That's where I did not agree.
Intro to Takemusu Aiki book by Morihiro Saito
Saito quoted as saying, "In the early 1960's, even though the Founder was still enjoying good health, he did not teach weapons or basic taijutsu techniques anywhere other than Iwama. His teaching elsewhere consisted mainly of demonstrations-like performances with little explanation."
Aiki News Issue 025
Doshu: After the war, he isolated himself in Iwama. He lived on potato gruel while there. In any case, that experience became one of the spiritual bases for our training.
Aiki News Issue 027
In 1942, largerly because of the fact that the Second World War war in progress and most of his students were involved in the war effort, O-Sensei retired to the small country town of Iwama in Ibaraki Prefecture where he had purchased land the year before. His was a very secluded existence devoted primarily to training, meditation and farming. He remained in Iwama for the most part for the next ten or so years.
From the 1950's until his passing in 1969, O-Sensei divided his time between Tokyo and Iwama.
Aiki News Issue 028
Letter by Bruce Klickstein
During the "taisai" the best teachers in the world talked about how so much of what is called Aikido barely even resembles the Aikido O-Sensei taught. There will be some changes here (in Japan) to correct this.
From all that I've heard of O-Sensei teaching daily classes from Saito Sensei, Inagaki-Sempai, Isoyama Sensei and other people I've trained with, he stopped to do static, basic techniques. He broke them up, said, "This is right. This is wrong," etc., ... and was severe in his corrections. In his later life he just would demonstrate once or twice and then watch. At that time, the sempai would go around and correct.
Aiki News Issue 031
Editor: During O-Sensei's long martial arts experience, he underwent a number of changes. In the initial period he especially emphasized power and technique, later, I understand he attached greater importance to spiritual matters.
Doshu: During his later years, rather than teach, my father demonstrated movements which were in accord with the flow of the universe and unified with nature. Thus, it was a matter of students watching his movements, learning by themselves, in that way understanding his technique. He wasn't deeply concerned about teaching students …
Editor: You mentioned earlier that O-Sensei in his later years would demonstrate his technique in front of his students and that the students learned Aikido by watching and being attracted to his movements rather than O-Sensei teaching them. Was O-Sensei's teaching method like that from the beginning?
Doshu: No. At first he taught techniques point by point although it didn't seem that he was attached to a specific teaching goal. But he emphasized that you have to do things exactly, one by one, so you won't make mistakes. Recently, there has been a tendency for Aikido training to become too soft and flowing and some beginners lightly bypass hard training. That's not the way it should be. If you are going to practice you must practice basics earnestly. This he told me frequently even in his later years … exactly, not changing anything … if you don't reach the level of softness beyond technique by getting the basics down perfectly, you won't develop true strength. If, from the beginning, you practice a "tofu-like (bean curd) soft style, you will be vulnerable to an attack.
Doshu: That's how it was. So, he went from Hokkaido to Ayabe in Kyoto prefecture; he trained in Ayabe; he came up to Tokyo where he was, let's see … for about 14 or 15 years; then he went to Iwama and spent about 10 years there; and again he came to Tokyo for five or six years where he came to the end of his life.
In the dojo, he would sometimes intently watch students training, or gather everyone together and lecture on the Aiki path, or sometimes he would personally teach beginners.
… he was besieged by visitors starting from early in the morning and he spent large amounts of time in receiving them. In addition, the occasions when he would, on invitation, travel to teach or lecture were not few.
Thus, the sight of those present not immediately understanding the true meaning of his remarks and ending up completely baffled was a frequent one. This was understandably so because O-Sensei 's lectures involved difficult to comprehend explanations based on mental and physical austerities far more numerous than those undergone by ordinary people, remarks about intuitive spiritual realizations, and words about extraordinary things he experienced.
Aiki News Issue 032
Saito: During the war O-Sensei had been busy. Though he had old students in many places those who learned from O-Sensei were few. All the junior students learned from their senior students. We were lucky because O-Sensei himself remained at Iwama all the time. During the war he was ordered by the military to teach the martial art he himself had studied as a method to defeat the enemy and to kill people. He was also asked by the military school at Nakano to teach lethal techniques. But the war ended and it became unnecessary to do so. O-Sensei was glad because he was finally able to absorb himself in the Aikido of harmony which he had been contemplating … Aikido according to his own belief. Morning after morning he would pray to the kami and instruct us. Since we had to eat, we also farmed. O-Sensei was so exhuberant that he was not satisfied with using the normal farming tools that his students used. He ordered a blacksmith named Narita to make an especially heavy tool for him. He also carried double the weight of rice bundles on his shoulders compared to we students. We raised silkworms together, too … and we would harvest and plant rice.
Aiki News Issue 033
[Summary from Kisshomaru's book]
As I have written above, the Founder was in his prime from 1927-40. Then after the war the popularization of Aikido was handed over to a group of we young people while the Founder oversaw our activities with a benevolent eye from Iwama.
At about the same time, in 1942, he established himself in Iwama, along with his wife and handed over the direction of the Tokyo dojo to me. He then built the Aiki Shrine and immersed himself in training and farming.
Aiki News Issue 038
Editor: I have been studying the life of O-Sensei and the history of Aikido. As a result, some of the points that had previously given me trouble have slowly cleared up. Don't you think that probably most of the present teachers actually received only a little direct teaching from O-Sensei? The reason for this being that for 15 years after the war he lived in Iwama and visited other dojos for only very short periods of time. I wonder if a proportion of the teachers didn't have very much opportunity to learn the sword and stick.
Kanai Sensei: I suppose that one could say that, but in my own case, when I entered as an uchideshi (circa 1958), O-Sensei divided his time equally between Iwama and the Hombu Dojo. For that reason, I don't think anyone can say that Hombu people didn't learn much directly from O-Sensei. It's simply a matter of each person taking from within O-Sensei's technique that which he could grasp and the resulting differences are another problem. Isn't it unfortunate that the number of such people is so small?
Kanai Sensei: He would throw the uchideshi (live-in disciples) with very little in the way of explanation and we would grasp what we could of the feeling of the technique while we were flying through the air.
Editor: Were you allowed to start training right from the beginning? [references Yonekawa and early training]
Kanai Sensei: We were in the same situation. Field work, splitting firewood, hauling water, laundry, and preparing the bath … In the first place, these were jobs that I thought no one ever did any more and, in addition, there was nothing to eat!
Aiki News Issue 045
Abe Sensei: For 20 years I spent one week of each month with O-Sensei.
Aiki News Issue 049
Mr. Kamata: Those trainees who came from outside would attend one class a day but the live-in group trained four times a day; the early morning and morning classes, plus the afternoon and evening workouts. In addition, they had the various classes outside such as those held at the Naval Academy or the Army Secret Police School (Kempai Gakko), among other places.
Editor: Did O-Sensei give verbal explanations of techniques?
Mr. Kamata: It varied. Sometimes he would explain and at others his idea seemed to be to let us find out for ourselves. He always said, however, "You have to enter into the inside of the training partner; get into the inside and then take him into your inside!" But in the end you can't learn just by having Sensei throw you and taking ukemi. A person has to positively take action to master it, don't you agree?
Aiki News Issue 056
Doshu: The dojo was entrusted to me around 1942. That is because my father left for Ibaraki with the rest of the family.
Doshu: After the war, I began to practice seriously because I thought it was my duty.
Doshu: I have come to hold the belief that the most important task for Aikido since the war has been to conform our way of thinking, teaching and philosophy to the trends of the time. It was around 1937 or 1938 that I began to practice Aikido seriously. I had already learned techniques by then. One can learn techniques in two or three years.
Doshu: Until the war ended, the dojo was closed. After the war I re-opened it and about 100 people came to live in it but unfortunately they had no sense of propriety.
Doshu: It took until about 1955 to get them all to leave.
Doshu: I started practicing seriously in 1949.
Doshu: I used to work in a company for a living until 1955. At the same time I managed the dojo.
Aiki News Issue 058
Okumura Sensei mentions that he returned to Tokyo in 1948. He states there were no people training because of lack of food. This situation changed after the Korean War started (1950).
Okumura Sensei: It was at the time that a French gymnastics teacher named Andre Nocquet entered the dojo that it became active [1954-55].
Aiki News Issue 060
Editor: When you began practicing Aikido [around 1951], was O-Sensei living in Tokyo?
Nishio Sensei: No. He rarely came down from Iwama. It was half a year after I joined the dojo that I saw his face for the first time. Until then, I only knew about him by hearsay.
Editor: When you entered the dojo, there weren't many students, were there?
Nishio Sensei: No, there were only a total of seven or eight. Some days no one was there and I swung the sword by myself and went home. The present Doshu and Mr. Tohei were the teachers. Everybody was at about the same level.
Nishio Sensei: (When I was a beginner) I asked how they applied the body techniques to the ken, but no one showed me. Since there was nothing to be done about the situation, I began practicing the ken in 1955 soon after I began Aikido training. What else could I do? Nobody taught me! O-Sensei did sword techniques at lightning speed and would say, "That's how you do it," and then disappeared from the dojo. I tried in vain to understand what he was doing and the next moment he was gone.
Yonekawa recollected, "The new uchideshi started his day cleaning the toilet, eventually being promoted to taking care of O-Sensei - massaging his shoulders and accompanying him on trips and so forth. Doing everyday jobs was a form of training in a certain sense."
Aiki News Issue 066
Aiki News: Who was teaching at that time? [1953 or 54]
Tamura Sensei: Since the present Doshu was head of the dojo then, he usually taught classes. We used to call him "Wakasensei" (young sensei) in those days. Of course, we called Morihei Sensei, O-Sensei. At that time, these two were the only instructors at Hombu dojo so I thought they were the only teachers of Aikido.
Aiki News: Did O-Sensei come to the dojo every day?
Tamura Sensei: As I said earlier, since his house was attached to the dojo, he would pop in when the present Doshu was teaching and show 2 or 3 techniques and then disappear like the wind. He sometimes taught the entire class but on occasion he would talk for more than half of the practice time.
Aiki News: Proportionally speaking, how long would O-Sensei stay in each place?
Tamura Sensei: Well, there were times when he stayed in Tokyo for about a week or a month and other times when he stayed for two or three days and then went of to the Kansai area.
Tamura Sensei: When O-Sensei came to the dojo, he threw us one after another and then told us to execute the same technique. At the beginning we didn't even know what kind of technique he did. When I practiced with a senior student he would throw me first. Then, he would say, "It's your turn!", but I didn't know what to do. While I was struggling to throw him, O-Sensei began to demonstrate the next technique. During the first period of my training which lasted a long time, I was just thrown and made to feel pain. It took one or two years for me to be able to distinguish techniques a little.