In the years during and shortly after the war, O-Sensei was ensconced in Iwama. Finally from the early 1950s he began to resume his travels with occasional visits to Tokyo and the Kansai region. By the late 1950s his trips increased in frequency and it seemed no one ever knew where he would be at a given point in time. He divided his time between Iwama, Tokyo, and his favorite spots in Kansai which included Osaka, Kameoka, Ayabe, his native Tanabe, and Shingu. He even visited Kanshu Sunadomari in far away Kyushu. I remember hearing Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei state that O-Sensei visited Shingu more than sixty times after the war. Considering that this refers to a period of about twelve to fifteen years, we see that the founder was off in Kansai on the average of four to six times per year.
The astute reader will see no doubt see what I am leading up to. O-Sensei did not teach in Tokyo on a regular basis after the war. Even when he appeared on the mat, often he would spend most of the hour lecturing on esoteric subjects completely beyond the comprehension of the students present. The main teachers at the Hombu in the postwar years were Koichi Tohei Sensei and the present Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. They were assisted by Okumura, Osawa, Arikawa, Tada, Tamura and the subsequent generation of uchideshi mentioned above.
I want to make my point perfectly clear. What I mean to say is that Morihei Ueshiba was NOT the main figure at the Hombu Dojo who taught on a day-to-day basis. O-Sensei was there at unpredictible intervals and often his instruction centered on philosophical subjects. Tohei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba are the persons most responsible for the technical content and development of aikido within the Aikikai Hombu system. As before the war, the uchideshi of later years would teach outside the Hombu Dojo in clubs and universities after only a relatively short period of apprenticeship. Also, this period was characterized by "dan inflation," many of these young teachers being promoted at the rate of one dan per year. In a number of cases, they also "skipped" ranks. But that is the subject of another article!
What does all of this mean? It means that the common view of the spread of aikido following the war taking place under the direct tutelage of the founder is fundamentally in error. Tohei and the present Doshu deserve the lion's share of the credit, not the founder. It means further that O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was not seriously involved in the instruction or administration of aikido in the postwar years. He was already long retired and very focused on his personal training, spiritual development, travel and social activities. Also, it should be noted that, despite his stereotyped image as a gentle, kind old man, O-Sensei was also the possessor of piercing eyes and a heroic temper. His presence was not always sought at the Hombu Dojo due to his critical comments and frequent outbursts. This is the truth of the matter as attested to by numerous first-hand witnesses. In the past I have hinted at some of these things, but have only recently felt confident enough to speak out because of the weighty evidence gathered from numerous sources close to the founder. I can't say necessarily that these comments will help practitioners in the training or bring them closer to their goals, but I do sincerely hope that by shining the light of truth on an important subject, those committed to aikido will have a deeper understanding on which to base their judgments. I also hope that the key figure of Koichi Tohei who has in recent years been relegated to a peripheral role or overlooked entirely will be given his just due.
Aikido Journal #109 (Fall/Winter 1996)