“During the last 15 years of his life, Morihei brushed hundreds of
calligraphies, many for his students to display in their aikido schools.”
Relatively late in his life, Morihei Ueshiba enthusiastically took up the art of calligraphy. The impetus for this was his long association with Seiseki Abe of Osaka, one of his devoted students. In addition to his passion for aikido, Abe Sensei also happened to be a renowned calligrapher. Beginning in the mid-1950s, Abe Sensei would give private lessons to Morihei when the Aikido Founder stay at his home in Osaka to teach aikido.
During the last 15 years of his life, Morihei brushed hundreds of calligraphies, many for his students to display in their aikido schools. Abe Sensei wrote this about Morihei’s calligraphy:
Ueshiba Sensei’s spirit resides in his calligraphy not in the forms or shapes of the characters, but in their resonance and light. Similarly, that spirit resides in aikido not in the techniques you can see with your eyes, but in those you cannot.
This photo shows O-Sensei preparing to brush some Japanese characters into a book as Fukiko Sunadomari assists with his brush. Fukiko Sensei was the elder sister of the late Kanshu Sunadomari, a famous aikido teacher of Kumamoto, Kyushu. Her elder half-brother was Kanemoto Sunadomari, the man who wrote the first biography of Morihei, published in 1969.
Fukiko Sensei was a long-time confidante of the Founder and lived for many years in O-Sensei’s Wakamatsu Dojo in Shinjuku with his family and the live-in uchideshi. She also served as the “Fujin Bucho” (director of the women’s section) at the Aikikai for many years.
Fukiko Sensei was often called upon to travel with O-Sensei on his frequent trips to the Kansai area where he frequently taught aikido while visiting long-time students and friends. Many unpublished photos from her personal collection survive, including our photo today.
Of particular interest was a series of trips in the mid-1960s where she accompanied Morihei to gather materials for her brother Kanemoto’s biography of the Founder. She also interviewed a number of old-timers, including Omoto church members who knew Morihei earlier in his career. These interviews with Morihei and the others were recorded on audio tapes that are preserved in Aikido Journal’s archives. A portion of her interview with O-Sensei can be heard on our Divine Techniques DVD.
I knew Fukiko Sunadomari very well. Our association began in 1984 and continued through the end of 1996. She loved to come visit the Aiki News office in Tokyo, and we spent hours talking about aikido, Morihei, and the Omoto religion. I have many hours of recordings of our talks, one of which is being transcribed now.
Fukiko Sensei knew a great deal about the Founder’s public and private life due to her living in the Hombu Dojo and role as an assistant to Morihei. Fukiko Sensei was also a devout Omoto believer and would frequently stress the importance of Morihei’s involvement with the church and Onisaburo Deguchi as an important factor in O-Sensei’s spiritual growth.
She was an outspoken person and distanced herself from the Ueshiba family following Morihei’s death. As such, her comments and recollections are not always suitable for publication, and we have long refrained from releasing transcripts of these recordings, even in edited form. Given time and resources, we hope to remedy this situation because Fukiko Sensei’s testimony is very important to a deep understanding of Morihei’s history, character, and art.