Aikido's founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan on December 14, 1883.
As a boy, he often saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons.
He set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He devoted
himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of
martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of
jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting. In spite of his impressive physical
and martial capabilities, however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began
delving into religions in hopes of finding a deeper significance to life,
all the while continuing to pursue his studies of budo, or the martial arts.
By combining his martial training with his religious and political
ideologies, he created the modern martial art of aikido. Ueshiba decided on
the name "aikido" in 1942 (before that he called his martial art
On the technical side, aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from
which modern judo is also derived), in particular daitoryu-(aiki)jujitsu, as
well as sword and spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say
that aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them
with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, we must also
realize that many aikido techniques are the result of Master Ueshiba's own
On the religious side, Ueshiba was a devotee of one of Japan's so-called
"new religions," Omotokyo. Omotokyo was (and is) part neo-Shintoism, and
part socio-political idealism. One goal of Omotokyo has been the unification
of all humanity in a single "heavenly kingdom on earth" where all religions
would be united under the banner of Omotokyo. It is impossible sufficiently
to understand many of O-sensei's writings and sayings without keeping the
influence of Omotokyo firmly in mind.
Despite what many people think or claim, there is no unified philosophy of
aikido. What there is, instead, is a disorganized and only partially
coherent collection of religious, ethical, and metaphysical beliefs which
are only more or less shared by aikidoka, and which are either transmitted
by word of mouth or found in scattered publications about aikido.
Some examples: "Aikido is not a way to fight with or defeat enemies; it is a
way to reconcile the world and make all human beings one family." "The
essence of aikido is the cultivation of ki [a vital force, internal power,
mental/spiritual energy]." "The secret of aikido is to become one with the
universe." "Aikido is primarily a way to achieve physical and psychological
self-mastery." "The body is the concrete unification of the physical and
spiritual created by the universe." And so forth.
At the core of almost all philosophical interpretations of aikido, however,
we may identify at least two fundamental threads: (1) A commitment to
peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible. (2) A commitment to
self-improvement through aikido training.