“34 year-old mystery solved!” by Stanley Pranin

Today I had a big surprise waiting for me. One of Aikido Journal’s Facebook fans was kind enough to send me the following link of a Japanese-language movie whose English title is: The Power of Aikido. Being curious, I clicked on the link and lo and behold saw the figure of the Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba doing a stylized randori demonstration as the introduction to a commercial Japanese martial arts movie. When the title came on in Japanese, I was stunned: 激突合気道 (Gekitotsu Aikido, literally “Crash Aikido”). I had been looking for this film for 34 years!

Here is the announcement I wrote back in 1976 when this movie first came out:

Aiki News learned recently that a commercial movie dealing with the life of O-Sensei as a young man was released in Japan in November (1975). The movie, with the unfortunate title, ‘Gekitotsu Aikido’ (Crash Aikido), was produced by a major Japanese film company, Toei Films. It stars Jiro Chiba as Morihei Ueshiba, the young man, and the well-known actor, Ryunosuke Kawada, as the famous religious leader, Onisaburo Deguchi. The film is directed by Shigehiro Ozawa. We don’t have any information on the content or quality of the movie but it certainly will be interesting to see its effect on the Japanese and possibly the world public.”

[Quoted from p. 11 of Aiki News #16, January 1976]

Not surprisingly for a commercial film, this production plays fast and loose with historical fact. In fact, very little of the story line bears resemblance to real life events in the life of Morihei Ueshiba. Having some knowledge of this subject, I have a few observations to make.

First of all, the script writers had access to and the cooperation of Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei. There were a sprinkling of details that only an insider would have known about. One such detail in particular caught my eye. When Morihei opened the “Ueshiba Juku” in Ayabe in 1921, Onisaburo Deguchi brushed a scroll for him to display with these characters, a great honor. This scene appears in the movie and the resulting scroll is an exact reproduction of the original. Kisshomaru’s hand was certainly at work here. Morihei even took this scroll with him and hung it in his Kobukan Dojo when it opened in 1931. Have a look for yourself.

Although most of the facts are totally jumbled up compared to real events, one can at least get an idea of the historical milieus of the wilderness of Hokkaido and the atmosphere of Ayabe, the religious center of the Omoto Church.

For those purists who love details, I’ve compiled a little list of characters and names that appear in the movie and what they correspond to in reality.

Morihei Ueshiba = Morihei Ueshiba
Hatsu Ueshiba = Hatsu Ueshiba
Engal = Engaru
Kitouryu = Kito-ryu
Yagyu-ryu = Yagyu Shinkage-ryu (probably)
Shiten School = Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu jujutsu
Soubei Honda = Sokaku Takeda
Onisaburo Deguchi = Onisaburo Deguchi
Scene of Ueshiba thrusting hanging balls in Ayabe garden is true
Ozaki Sensei = composite of Admiral Isamu Takeshita and Vice-admiral Seikyo Asano
Sanae = perhaps name suggested by Morihei’s niece of the same name

Altogether, I enjoyed watching the film. The action is at times quite mediocre, but sometimes reasonably well-choreographed. Anyone with a bit of knowledge of aikido history will have a great time trying to figure out who is who. Please have a look for yourself. Also, be sure to turn on the English subtitles.

And thank you T.K., for your amazing find!


  1. Allen Beebe says:

    Dear Stan,

    I want to thank you for posting this. Actually, a friend/student pointed it out to me, so I owe him thanks as well.

    I actually have this movie (without subtitles) and so I assumed that everyone must.

    Funny thing is, when I first saw the pic in your article my brain did a hiccup and I wondered what my dojo gaku was doing in a picture on Aiki Journal, what my dojo gaku was doing in a picture with Onisaburo Deguchi holding it. . . and then I read the gaku and woke up. That isn’t my dojo gaku!

    But the cool part for me is, there is a reenactment of Onisaburo giving Ueshiba a gakku for his dojo and saying (essentially), “Yes, open your first dojo!” And realizing that that is exactly what Shirata sensei did for me. He gave me a gakku (Hand carried to the U.S. by Prof. John Stevens. I’m grateful to him as well.) with dojo name on it (and signed with his title) and a letter saying, among other things, (essentially), “Yes, open your first dojo!” What a cool parallel that I never realized even while possessing the movie. In fact, if you hadn’t posted your article I probably never would have drawn the parallel.

    At that time Shirata sensei also gave me a very cool poem written on a kakejiku that included the dojo name as well. I believe that these were the last things I received from sensei before his death. Thanks Sensei!!!!

    Thanks again Stan!,
    Allen Beebe

  2. Thanks, Allen. That too is a fascinating story. I have also posted it on Facebook so many more people will read your comments.

  3. Don Crawford says:

    Unfortunately, it appears that this film has been removed from YouTube by the uploader…

Speak Your Mind