Recommended reading: “Exploring the Founder’s Aikido” by Stanley Pranin

The article below has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Morihei Ueshiba’s teaching methodology that was out of synch with postwar Japanese society, his strong religious orientation, his frequent travels and irregular schedule made it difficult for most of his students to receive in-depth instruction from the Founder. To this can be added the fact that aikido developed and spread in Japan during an era of peace that later blossomed into a time of unprecedented economic prosperity. In such a societal setting devoid of the constant specter of war and a sense of physical danger, aikido training in a period of peace lacked the intensity and focus of the uneasy times of the prewar era. Also, the practice of judo and kendo was widespread before the war and taught in school. This meant that those students who learned from O-Sensei in the prewar era had a much better level of physical and mental preparation when embarking on their training compared to those after the war.

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  1. Something else occurred to me. If you started after WWII and your name wasn’t Saito you didn’t have a whole lot of time with O Sensei, maybe ten years or so. Nor did you see him teaching basics much if I understand things correctly. The descriptions I’ve heard is that he would demonstrate a technique a couple times and let the sempai work it out for the beginners.

  2. …or, after a year of consideration – “beginners” in the pre-war period probably had extensive background in other martial arts. young beginners in the postwar period were less likely to have that context. foreign students, particularly Americans in America, were and are unlikely to have any context. arguably O Sensei probably felt that spontaneity was both an appropriate exercise for his sempai, and, to an extent appropriate self-defense in a traditional art. makes us even gladder for Saito Sensei’s adherence to basics.

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