Do you know the story? “O-Sensei’s Adopted Son and Heir Apparent”

Kiyoshi Nakakura aka Morihiro Ueshiba

Interview with Swordmaster:
Kiyoshi Nakakura (1)

The story of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei and his adopted son and heir apparent is little known, but a very important phase of aikido history. In consultation with noted sword master Hakudo Nakayama, Morihei sought a suitable husband for his eldest daughter and an heir to his martial art. He chose one of the top young kendo competitors to marry his daughter and become his successor. You should know this story, and here it is direct from Morihei’s adopted son…

Aiki News: We understand that you came to the Kobukan Dojo as the adopted son of Morihei Ueshiba Sensei and your name at that time was Morihiro Ueshiba.

Nakakura Sensei: That’s right. I married the daughter of Ueshiba Sensei in 1932. Two Chinese characters, each from the names of two masters were used for my name, “Morihiro”. One was “Haku” (can also be read “hiro”) from my master, Hakudo Nakayama and “Mori” (can also be read “Sei”) from a famous master named Seiji Mochida. Therefore, when I was in the Kobukan I was known as Morihiro Ueshiba. Some old-timers still call me “Mr. Ueshiba.”

Aiki News: Was it due to the relationship between Ueshiba Sensei and Nakayama Sensei that you entered the Kobukan dojo?

Nakakura Sensei: That’s right. They became acquainted with each other for some reason. Ueshiba Sensei used to say that Aikido is closer to Kendo than it is to Judo. Therefore, he expressed his desire to receive an adopted son from the Kendo side. Ueshiba Sensei asked if Nakayama Sensei knew any appropriate person. There were lots of people from Kagoshima Prefecture in Ueshiba’s dojo then. For example, there was Count Gombei Yamamoto [2]. He was the one who called Mr. Ueshiba from Kishu, you know. There was also his son, Kiyoshi Yamamoto who was a lieutenant and his nephew, Eisuke Yamamoto, also an admiral who was a Commander-in-Chief of the Combined Fleet. Then there was Isamu Takeshita who had a keen interest in Aikido and was practicing the art very seriously. He also was an admiral and was from Kagoshima Prefecture. Given this situation, Nakayama Sensei chose me since I was also from Kagoshima Prefecture. Then Nakayama Sensei stood as my guarantor in place of my parents.

Aiki News: Did you practice Jujutsu while you were in the Kobukan?

Nakakura Sensei: I was practicing both Kendo and Aikido. Although I was practicing Aikido, I found Mr. Ueshiba to be superhuman and felt that I would never be able to master the techniques he was doing and so would not be able to succeed him. I felt that I should not cling to the position as his successor. Then I went to see Nakayama Sensei and told him that I did not think I would be able to succeed him and would like to leave the Ueshiba family. Nakayama Sensei said that he understood but told me to wait since he himself would go and talk to Mr. Ueshiba. It was just before I left the Kobukan. I departed in 1937.

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