“Obfuscated… the martial nature of aikido,” by Charles Warren

Watch the videos. O-Sensei just DID inspired aikido. He undoubtedly selected ukes who could handle the random without getting hurt (much, or often). It took me years to see what he was doing, and even now it’s not especially obvious. I firmly believe that if the ukes hadn’t been exceptionally aware and versatile there would have been broken and writhing bodies littering the mat. When “challenged” he, in what I believe is a very Japanese fashion, picked contests which were not particularly martial, trying to push him over and such. The objective was widely understood in Japan and the results were accepted as proxies for martial ability. Translation to foreign cultures did not always preserve that nuance.

Tohei, as a fairly young student came to O-Sensei late in his career. He was dedicated and talented. He learned the shorthand techniques and systematized many of the “tricks” underlying the barely martial contests. I have no doubt that he could have done and taught the same material Saito Sensei chose to emphasize, but putting on a little show is fun. It also fills the dojo and pays the rent.

Musashi, commenting on his times and martial arts instruction, said something like, “the flower is regarded as more valuable than the fruit.” Well, when lives aren’t imminently on the line… Who doesn’t like flowers? The difficulty is that many aikido schools have gone so far into “flower arranging” that they are completely unfamiliar with picking fruit.


Click here for information on the complete collection of Morihei Ueshiba films in downloadable format


  1. After 22 and something years in martial arts, I am asking myself a question for the past year: What practicing them means to me every day?

  2. It’s only what you LET it mean

  3. The difference between you, Taisho, and me is I actually care about it.

  4. So does he….

  5. ksenia….why?

    “The objective was widely understood in Japan and the results were accepted as proxies for martial ability. Translation to foreign cultures did not always preserve that nuance”…Right On.

  6. Bob Frager says:

    Excellent points Charles. Thank you for making them so clearly and succinctly. I don’t know why so many choose to ignore Osensei’s thought and his Aikido. As Sugano sensei once pointed out, Osensei was the only who who mastered Aikido and the rest of us are still trying to figure it (him) out.

    Just one addition, Tohei sensei has certainly been a marvelously creative Aikido teacher, but most of his innovations were either inspired by or taken directly from Tempu Nakamura sensei. For example, Tempu sensei taught the unbendable arm and a host of other “tricks.” Tempu sensei acknowledged that they were tricks and that their purpose was to demonstrate the incredible power of a unified mind and body (Tempu’s phrase taken over by Tohei).

  7. Obfuscated describes this article well.

  8. How can I accept what’s happening to me when it’s right in front of me? It is the key to receiving what I need to receive–not so easy, though!

  9. After 47 years of Aikido I cannot begin to list the benefits that walking this Way but I shall make a weak start. An MD told me that, were it not for “the Japanese stuff you do” I would have been in a wheelchair for life by age 33. Several times I have walked into gang situations and come out alive and without violence happening. I am afflicted with systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) but still teaching Aiki (with lots of breaks to sit down). I enjoyed a successful 35 years of pastoral ministry and teaching Aiki despite the SLE. When I was stuck on my back on a board I could do Ki exercises that kept me as healthy as I could be with all the pain medications and relatively sane. I have used Aikido to avoid and to end fights, again without violence. Among other things we believe that the purpose of Aikido is “to become the kind of person to whom and in whose vicinity violence never happens.” With none of the “martial arts” I studied before beginning Aiki in 1966 could these and other benefits have happened.

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