I began the publication of Aiki News in 1974 centered on translations of a series of Japanese newspaper articles on Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. From this modest beginning, I gradually came to realize that many of the notions about aikido history I began with ran contrary to actual fact.
Over the years, I have endeavored to correct what I regard as erroneous information through editorials and essays published in Aikido Journal. Rather than offer undocumented opinions, I have attempted to clearly state my sources of information and the reasons for reaching such conclusions.
Many of the common mistakes made by historians have been perpetuated in print for decades. Unfortunately, they are here to stay. This is especially true for works written in Western languages which, in almost all cases, draw on secondary sources. Although Aikido Journal has a broad readership built up over 37 years of publication, we do not represent the mainstream of thought in the aikido world on historical matters.
Below I have listed a number of oft-repeated viewpoints on historical issues relating to aikido that one frequently encounters in mainstream publications. Have a careful look at these statements purported to be historical fact and see if you have encountered any of them.
1. Morihei Ueshiba’s father, Yoroku, was a wealthy farmer and councilman in Tanabe, Morihei’s birthplace. He funded Morihei’s activities as a young man. Moreover, he lent large somes of money to Tanabe families who joined Morihei on his move to the wilderness of Hokkaido. He also provided the financing of the considerable sums paid to Sokaku Takeda for Morihei’s instruction in Daito-ryu jujutsu.
2. Morihei Ueshiba learned only a short time under Sokaku Takeda. Daito-ryu was one of several old-style martial arts that influenced aikido. Morihei drew from several technical sources when creating aikido, not mainly Daito-ryu.
3. Morihei was not a regular member of the Omoto Sect, but rather a personal follower of Onisaburo Deguchi.
4. Morihei’s son, Kisshomaru, was groomed to succeed his father from childhood.
5. Morihei Ueshiba took an active role in the postwar dissemination of aikido.
6. Postwar aikido instructors studied directly under Morihei Ueshiba for lengthy periods in the 1950s and 60s.
7. Historically speaking, aikido forms are based on taijutsu or empty-handed techniques. The study of weapons is optional, and an adjunct to empty-handed training.
Please weigh in with your opinions on these viewpoints. Have you come across any of these in your readings? In what context? Add you comments, please. We have many smart and articulate readers here, and I would love to hear your viewpoints.
After we have heard from you, I will write a follow-up article to explain what I have found to be historical fact on these subjects. I will point to my sources and how I arrived at my viewpoints.
Over to you!