Ueshiba Morihei, Osensei (1883–1969)
Aikido was created by Ueshiba Morihei from his lifetime of martial experience and spiritual practice. Following a challenge by a naval officer, which involved repeatedly avoiding being hit with a bokken, Osensei experienced a major shift in his awareness. Alone in his garden, “At that moment I could understand that my life’s work in budo was actually based on divine love and the laws of creation” (Ueshiba).
He thus came to the realization that the source of true budo is love. From this perspective, competition had no place in his system. “There is no room in Aikido practice for conceptualization or opinion: no perfection, no right or wrong, only the reality of experience” (Ueshiba). Further, “Within love [ai], there is no competition, no enemy, no antagonism toward anyone else or anything” (Ueshiba).
For him, “Budo is a divine path established by the gods that leads to truth, goodness, and beauty; it is a spiritual path reflecting the unlimited, absolute nature of the universe and the ultimate grand design of creation” (Ueshiba). The principles of heaven and earth could be perceived through the virtue which would come from devoted practice.
In practice, “one must polish one’s ki and forge the spirit within the realm of life and death. . . . Realize that your mind and body must be permeated with the soul of a warrior, enlightened wisdom, and deep calm” (Ueshiba). He made a clear distinction between the manner of practice of sports as useful bodily exercise, and practice as budo. “Warriors, too, train the body, but they also use the body as a vehicle to train the mind, calm the spirit, and find goodness and beauty, dimensions that sports lack” (Ueshiba). Making the body strong and healthy was but a part of what came with practice. Sincerity, valor, goodness, and beauty are also nurtured and encouraged.
The ideal state of Aikido is considered as being “able to respond to, embrace, and blend with anything offered, without any conditions or preconceived notions” (Ueshiba).
Our techniques employ four qualities that reflect the nature of our world. Depending on the circumstance, you should be: hard as a diamond, flexible as a willow, smooth-flowing like water, or as empty as space.
The body should be triangular, the mind circular. The triangle represents the generation of energy and is the most stable physical posture. The circle symbolizes serenity and perfection, the source of unlimited techniques. The square stands for solidity, the basis of applied control. (Ueshiba)
Aikido may also be called the way of peace, as the practices are focused on harmonizing one’s body and spirit with the natural forces of the universe.
Aiki reflects the grand design of the cosmos; it is the life force, an irresistible power that binds the material and spiritual aspects of creation. Aiki is the flow of nature.
Aiki signifies the union of body and spirit and is a manifestation of that truth. . . . Aiki is the ultimate social virtue. It is the power of reconciliation, the power of love. (Ueshiba)
Do symbolizes both the cultural path of Aikido and the way of Aikido. This shows in how we relate to self, other, society as a whole, as well as how we deal with nature. Takemusu Aiki sums this up succinctly.
Take stands for “valor and bravery”; it represents the irrepressible and indomitable courage to live. Musu typifies birth, growth, accomplishment, fulfillment. It is the creative force of the cosmos, responsible for the production of all that nourishes life. Takemusu Aiki is code for “the boldest and most creative existence!” (Stevens)
Stevens, J. (1995). The secrets of Aikido. Boston, MA & London, UK: Shambhala.
Ueshiba, M. (1991). Budo. New York, NY: Kodansha.
Ueshiba, M. (1993). The essence of Aikido. New York, NY: Kodansha.
Kato Hiroshi, Shihan, 8th dan
Kato Hiroshi (1935–2012) lived in Tokyo, when he was not travelling to spread his knowledge of Aikido. In 1953, when he was 19, Kato sensei began his Aikido training at Aikido World Headquarters (Hombu Dojo) under the instruction of the Founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei. From 1975, he taught at his own dojo in the Ogikubo district of Tokyo.
He regularly traveled to affiliated dojo in Texas and California twice a year, as well as to other places around the world where he was invited to share his depth of experience and dedication to the ideals and principles of Aikido. Having studied directly with the founder, and having trained himself for over 56 years, he demonstrated an uncommon wealth of knowledge as he cultivated a world-wide community of practice dedicated to the art of harmony / peace.
Kato sensei focused upon the nonverbal aspects of instruction and practice, and emphasized that seeing is far better than hearing about something. He recommended that everyone try to do what he showed, even if you did not understand it. In his words, “Results come as you practice.” His style could be described as moving with a unified body, powered by one’s hips with knees soft, from a compact base, both grounded and fluid.
Kato sensei hiking January 2009
Cultivation of respect for the natural world was an intrinsic aspect of his training and experience. Hiking in the mountains was part of his training with Osensei, and integral to my experience of training with him during my 10 years in Tokyo. This served multiple functions: as physical exercise, as a time of community building, and as offering a welcome opportunity to shift perspective from one’s life in the city. Body, mind, and spirit were honored, respected, and interwoven on such outings.
Susan J. Newton, 4th dan
I began my study of Aikido as part of my doctoral program in transpersonal psychology in 1992. Following licensure as a Clinical Psychologist in CA, I traveled to Tokyo to deepen my practice in its home culture. While serving the international community as a psychotherapist, I had the great good fortune to study for 10 years with Kato Hiroshi Shihan, 8th dan, a direct student of Ueshiba Morihei, Osensei. Now living in Portland, OR, I work as a psychologist / processworker and consultant in private practice, as a free-lance editor, and continue to deepen my Aikido practice.