“Is O-Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?”, by Stanley Pranin

After practicing and researching aikido for a number of years, I gradually arrived at a hypothesis that went against conventional wisdom and the testimonies of numerous shihan who claimed to have spent long years studying at the side of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. I had over the years attended numerous seminars given in the USA by Japanese teachers, and also made several trips to Japan where I had seen and trained with many of the best known teachers. My theory was simply that aikido as we know it today was not the art practiced and taught by O-Sensei, but rather any one of a number of derivative forms developed by key students who studied under the Founder for relatively short periods of time. This would account for the considerable divergency in styles, the relatively small number of techniques taught, and the absence of an Omoto-like religious perspective in the modern forms of the art. This was not meant as a criticism of these “modern” forms of the art, but rather an observation based on historical research that ran contrary to common perception.

When I moved permanently to Japan in August 1977, I made a personal decision to study in Iwama under Morihiro Saito Sensei. In the final analysis, what attracted me to Iwama was the emphasis on firmness and precision of technique, and the inclusion of the aiki ken and aiki jo in the training curriculum. I’m sure that the proximity of the Aiki Shrine and the fact that training in Iwama took place in O-Sensei’s personal dojo were also contributing factors.

At the same time, I would hasten to mention that I didn’t consider Saito Sensei’s technique to be a faithful continuation of the aikido of the Founder, but rather regarded him as a technical master in his own right. Looking back, I put Saito Sensei in the same category with well-known teachers like Koichi Tohei, Shoji Nishio, Seigo Yamaguchi, and others who were all highly skilled and had developed original teaching styles which, though initially inspired by Morihei Ueshiba, had evolved into quite different directions.

I recall clearly that, even though my Japanese language skills were rather limited at that stage, I managed to communicate to Saito Sensei my thoughts on this subject and doubts that his aikido was essentially the same as that of the Founder as he claimed. My perception was based on the fact that Saito Sensei’s technique appeared to be quite different from the aikido of the Founder that I had seen on film. Somewhat amused at my skepticism and no doubt my cheekiness considering that I was his student, Sensei patiently explained that the reason for my confusion was that most of what was preserved on film of the Founder were demonstrations. He pointed out that the public displays of technique of the Founder were very different from what O-Sensei showed in the dojo in Iwama. Saito Sensei continued to insist that it was his responsibility to faithfully transmit the aikido of the Founder and that it was not his intention to develop a “Saito-ryu Aikido.”

Despite his best efforts, I continued to have strong doubts on the matter even though my admiration for his technical skills was never in question. Then, one day about two years after my arrival, I was conducting an interview with Zenzaburo Akazawa, a prewar uchideshi of Morihei Ueshiba from the Kobukan Dojo period. Mr. Akazawa proceeded to show me a technical manual published in 1938 titled Budo which I had never seen before. It contained some fifty techniques demonstrated by the Founder himself. As I slowly turned the pages of the manual, I was amazed to see that the execution of several basics techniques such as ikkyo, iriminage and shihonage were virtually identical to what I had learned in Iwama under Saito Sensei. Here was the Founder himself demonstrating what I had up until then regarded as “Iwama” style techniques. Mr. Akazawa kindly lent me the book and I hurried to show it to Saito Sensei.

Morihiro Saito reading "Budo"

I’ll always remember the scene as I called at Sensei’s door to share with him my new discovery. To my surprise, he had never seen or heard mention of the book before. He put on his reading glasses and leafed through the manual, his eyes scanning the technical sequences intently. I felt compelled then and there to apologize to him for having ever doubted his assertion that he was making every effort to faithfully preserve the Founder’s techniques. Saito Sensei laughed and, obviously with great pleasure, bellowed, “See, I told you so!” From that time on (about 1979) even up through this day, Saito Sensei always travels to his aikido seminars with a copy of Budo to use as proof to show that a particular technique originated in the Founder’s teachings.

It goes without saying that I was forced to admit that there was at least one instructor who was disseminating aikido in a manner faithful to the original teachings of the Founder. But did this disprove my general theory that the styles of aikido widely practiced today have little to do technically and philosophically with the art of the Founder? Consider the following. If you go to the dojos of any of the major teachers, you will find that their students’ movements closely resemble the teacher in question. Let’s face it, they would be poor students if they did not make every effort to emulate their teacher’s movements. It is often possible to identify students of a given teacher in the context of a large demonstration in which participants from many different dojos appear. Why is it then that there is a such a vast difference among the major styles of aikido if all of the shihan studied directly under the Founder?

Some have said that the Founder’s art changed greatly over the years and that this accounts for the differences in the techniques of his students who learned during different periods. Others state that O-Sensei would teach different things to different students according to their character and ability. I have never found either of these arguments to be particularly persuasive. In fact, when I discovered the old 1935 Asahi News film many years ago I was surprised at how “modern” the Founder’s art was even at that early stage. Moreover, the Founder usually taught groups of students, not individuals, and this fact does not lend support to the theory that he adapted his instruction to the needs of individual students.

No, I believe there is a very different explanation for this considerable divergency of styles. I think it is due primarily to the fact that very few of O-Sensei’s students trained under him for any protracted length of time. With the exception of Yoichiro (Hoken) Inoue, a nephew of Ueshiba, Gozo Shioda, the Founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, and Tsutomu Yukawa, O-Sensei’s prewar uchideshi studied a maximum of perhaps five to six years. Certainly this was enough time to become proficient in the art, but not enough to master the vast technical repertoire of Aiki Budo with its many subtleties. Most of these vigorous young men who enrolled as uchideshi were forced to prematurely end their martial arts training to enter military service. Furthermore, only a handful of these early deshi resumed their practice after the war.

The same can be said of the postwar period. The initiates of that period include such well-known figures as Sadateru Arikawa, Hiroshi Tada, Seigo Yamaguchi, Shoji Nishio, Nobuyoshi Tamura, Yasuo Kobayashi, and later Yoshimitsu Yamada, Mitsunari Kanai, Kazuo Chiba, Seiichi Sugano, Mitsugi Saotome and various others. Shigenobu Okumura, Koichi Tohei, and Kisaburo Osawa form a somewhat unique group in that they practiced only briefly before the war, but achieved master status after World War II. None of these teachers spent any lengthy period studying directly under O- Sensei. This may seem like a shocking statement, but let’s look at the historical facts.

Before the war, Morihei Ueshiba used the Kobukan Dojo in Tokyo as his base, but was widely active in the Kansai area as well. In fact, he even had a house at one time in Osaka. Over the years it has become clear to me from listening to the testimonies of the oldtimers that the Founder moved around a great deal and would spend perhaps one to two weeks a month away from the Kobukan Dojo. Also, keep in mind that the early uchideshi ended up being coopted as instructors due to the burgeoning popularity of the art and the wide-ranging activities of the Omoto-sponsored Budo Senyokai (Society for the Promotion of Martial Arts) headed by Ueshiba. These pioneers studied for relatively short periods, had only limited exposure to the Founder because of his frequent absences from the dojo, and were themselves often away from the headquarters dojo functioning in a teaching capacity.

In the years during and shortly after the war, O-Sensei was ensconced in Iwama. Finally from the mid-1950s, he began to resume his travels with regular visits to Tokyo and the Kansai region. By the late 1950s his trips increased in frequency and it seemed no one ever knew where he would be at a given point in time. He divided his time between Iwama, Tokyo, and his favorite spots in Kansai which included Osaka, Kameoka, Ayabe, his native Tanabe, and Shingu. He even visited Kanshu Sunadomari in far away Kyushu. I remember hearing Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei state that O-Sensei visited Shingu more than sixty times after the war. Considering that this refers to a period of about twelve to fifteen years, we see that the Founder was off in Kansai on the average of four to six times per year.

The astute reader will see no doubt see what I am leading up to. O-Sensei did not teach in Tokyo on a regular basis after the war. Even when he appeared on the mat, often he would spend most of the hour lecturing on esoteric subjects completely beyond the comprehension of the students present. The main teachers at the Hombu in the postwar years were Koichi Tohei Sensei and the present Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. They were assisted by Okumura, Osawa, Arikawa, Tada, Tamura and the subsequent generation of uchideshi mentioned above.

I want to make my point perfectly clear. What I mean to say is that Morihei Ueshiba was NOT the main figure at the Hombu Dojo who taught on a day-to-day basis. O-Sensei was there at unpredictible intervals and often his instruction centered on philosophical subjects. Tohei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba are the persons most responsible for the technical content and development of aikido within the Aikikai Hombu system. As before the war, the uchideshi of later years would teach outside the Hombu Dojo in clubs and universities after only a relatively short period of apprenticeship. Also, this period was characterized by “dan inflation,” many of these young teachers being promoted at the rate of one dan per year. In a number of cases, they also “skipped” ranks. But that is the subject of another article!

Koichi Tohei (1920-2011)

What does all of this mean? It means that the common view of the spread of aikido following the war taking place under the direct tutelage of the Founder is fundamentally in error. Tohei and the present Doshu deserve the lion’s share of the credit, not the Founder. It means further that O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was not seriously involved in the instruction or administration of aikido in the postwar years. He was already long retired and very focused on his personal training, spiritual development, travel and social activities. Also, it should be noted that, despite his stereotyped image as a gentle, kind old man, O-Sensei was also the possessor of piercing eyes and a heroic temper. His presence was not always sought at the Hombu Dojo due to his critical comments and frequent outbursts.

This is the truth of the matter as attested to by numerous first-hand witnesses. In the past I have hinted at some of these things, but have only recently felt confident enough to speak out because of the weighty evidence gathered from numerous sources close to the Founder. I can’t say necessarily that these comments will help practitioners in their training or bring them closer to their goals, but I do sincerely hope that by shining the light of truth on an important subject, those committed to aikido will have a deeper understanding on which to base their judgments. I also hope that the key figure of Koichi Tohei, who has in recent years been relegated to a peripheral role or overlooked entirely, will be given his just due.

Postscript: This article orginally appeared in Aikido Journal #109 published in 1996. I think in retrospect there is a deeper implication to this article that was not clearly spelled out. First, let me say that I made no attempt to pass judgement on the content or quality of the aikido that was disseminated in the postwar era. I was merely stating a conclusion I arrived at after many years of research and numerous conversations with first-hand witnesses from both the prewar and postwar periods. That being said, here is what I think is a key observation that follows from the thesis of this article: the techniques, history and spiritual underpinnings of the Founder’s aikido have actually been obscured, and consequently are poorly understood. Part of this is the result of political considerations, and partly due to the arcane nature of the Morihei’s world view and the terminology he used to express himself.

Aikido practitioners today are in an entirely different situation. By that I mean to say, they have access to a wealth of information about the Founder’s technique, his personal and professional life, and to a certain extent, his spiritual beliefs. I think our research has been a contributing factor in this regard. Therefore, serious aikidoka may, if they so choose, tap into the vast reservoir of O-Sensei’s vision of the art to enrich their practice in the present. Perhaps it is time that Morihei Ueshiba be given his proper place as the creator of aikido and a great innovator. Perhaps it is time to carefully examine his creation, and use it as a resource in charting our individual paths in aikido.


  1. This is an interesting article. This is clearly a statement based on factual evidence. I think that acknowledging this idea confirms the influence of Koichi Tohei, to which some would not like to see happen. Also, it would confirm Saito Senseis pedagogy in Aikido. Thank you Pranin Sensei.

  2. Justin Craft says:

    I am curious to know if there is any support for the possibility that various post-war uchideshi spent considerable amounts of time traveling with O’ Sensei. I am not attempting to argue or refute, as I have almost no corroborating evidence, but am trying to reconcile what I hear one person say in first person accounts versus what appears to be contradicting second or third person accounts.

    Again, thank You for all that you have done and continue to do in service to our Art.

    • Justin,

      This is a good question. I remember when interviewing several postwar students, they would mention how honored they were to be selected to accompany O-Sensei on trips. Then in the next breath, they would proceed to mention how tough it actually was because O-Sensei was elusive, and sometimes would leave them behind. Last week I spoke with someone who was at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in the early 1960s. This person told me that sometimes the uchideshi would try to get out of accompanying O-Sensei because it was so much of a hassle to travel with him. One could very well end up with a good scolding for being left behind! It seems there was some kind of a rotation system used. Also, remember the ranks of the Tamura-Yamada generation were thinned out because several of the uchideshi were sent abroad.

      This is a long way of saying that I don’t think any single uchideshi traveled with O-Sensei a great deal for the above reasons.

  3. Thank for such a good article. I have only recently returned to aikido and find the different views amusing. I trained some with Tohei when i was a teen and I have always been surprised at the lack of knowledge about him with current aikido teachers.. He certainly brought aikido to the US. Likewise, Roderick Kobayshi was an instrumental force in the spreading of aikido here in California. He too isn’t given enough credit. Both were good teachers to me.

  4. I have for a considerable amount of years, accepted what Pranin Sensei advocates or proffers as a suggestion of the leadership of the Tokyo-influenced Aikido. Although personally not seeking acrimony among others.

    Certainly the Aikido of Tokyo and Kishomaru Nidoshi did not not change very much after the sad departure of Tohei Sensei, a valuable asset to Aikido during his life and afterwards. Whereas Tohei Sensei, certainly altered his Aikido, after his departure from the Aikikai Tokyo-based Aikido. I have also given due consideration to Osensei`s point that we must find “our” Aikido. Were this done in acrimony it would show that leadership to be at fault, or have allowed personality clashes to promote desension. Tohei did not do this although others did. The seeking of the truth, does not mean that we belittle others concept of truth, given with tolerance and not possessiveness.

    Pranin Sensei has a right to give his thoughts on any question of Aikido, and may frighten others because of their own insecurity, and of his background in the jounalism of Aikido. The life history of Osensei, the courteousness of those around Osensei at that time, may have covered the truth as some prefer to see it, but not the actual occurrences.

    Thank you for your consideration, on reading my initial thoughts to this enquiry,

    Revd Geoff Flather

  5. Very good article. Thank you for sharing it!

  6. I recently visited an Iwama Aikido dojo not knowing anything about the style. Their website had an interview with Saito Sensei where he claimed that O-Sensei did not teach at hombu durring the post war period and further that when he did show up at hombu he would scold students for “not doing aikido.” This sounded a bit arrogant and self serving to me.

    Not too long after that my Sensei announced that a teacher named Henry Kono would be doing a seminar with us. Henry studied at hombu and sometimes traveled with O-Sensei as a translator. I did a little research on Henry and the first couple interviews I found confirmed Saito’s story. Henry said that O-Sensei would just show up, do demonstrations with little or no instruction and announce that they were “not doing aikido.” It also sounds like Henry may have been able to get some unique insight from the founder that no one else was able to, but that as you say, is another subject.

    I don’t think that this makes any style more valid than any other, if anything I think it points out that Tohei had a stronger influence on modern styles than just Ki Society and its offshoots.

  7. Major Pain says:

    Great, Insightful article !

    There has been so much “Historical Revisionism” over the years (especially regarding Western Practicioners). Perhaps, one day We will be able to read more about The Great Takeda Sokaku.

    Semper Fi,
    “Major Pain”

  8. daniel forga says:

    Rinjiro Shirata Sensei, who was an uchideshi since the early ’30s, also witnessed the evolution of the techniques and the changes as time passed by; he said that this is the reason why we see so many different styles today, because the deshi of one period or another kept practicing what they learned (Shioda, Tomiki etc.) He also says that the Aikido we know today was developed during the Iwama years, and that the person who systemized and refined those round techniques from the Founder’s last years was Kisshomaru Ueshiba.

    The fact that O-Sensei was practicing in Iwama other things than those taught at Hombu does not necesarily imply that Iwama style is real Aikido and Hombu style not. I think it’s rather the other way around, for various reasons; first of all, Kisshomaru Doshu was teaching what he learned from his father, he was not a creative mind like Tohei Sensei or Shoji Nishio that would come up with new techniques etc. I believe what was/is taught at Hombu expresses the kind of Aikido that O-Sensei wanted to share with the world and I have yet to see any valid arguments that refute that; in various interviews you had over the years with first hand instructors, they repeatedly said that the techniques were not different, but the way they trained was (comparing uchideshi with outsiders); I think this is the major difference; like Chiba Sensei wrote in his memoir honouring Saito Sensei – in Iwama training was a lot harder, but not necessarily different (meaning different techniques etc.)

    As Fujita Sensei said elsewhere, O-Sensei needed a partner for his weapon and body training in Iwama, and this person happened to be Saito Morihiro. The fact that he wanted to preserve what he learned from the Founder is ok, but that does not replace the Aikikai curriculum, nor does it imply that those techniques are better or more real and should be taught instead. I think that the Iwama training of the Founder went beyond what we call or should call Aikido. Like anyone else, Osensei had various interests in life. This doesn’t mean that an Aikido practitioner must have them as well. The fact that an Aikido instructor also practiced Judo or Karate, like Shimizu Sensei or Nishio Sensei, doesnt mean that those who only want to practice Aikido must do that as well.

    The founder was an accomplished warrior, trained in various styles and schools, weapons and tactics. His gift to the world (Aikido) is different, and does not require people to be military or martial oriented, quite the opposite. Also, we don’t have any proof that there was an animosity between the Founder and his son Kisshomaru, to suspect that the latter was following his own agenda and not trying to promote the art of Morihei Ueshiba; even if the training in Tokyo was different from that in Iwama, it is still possible that this very difference was endorsed by the Founder himself; moreover, Suganuma Sensei, Shimizu Sensei or Tamura Sensei all said it was a pleasure for them to travel with the Founder and be welcomed in different places, treated well etc. So the theory that the uchideshi were somehow trying to avoid travelling with the Founder is also somewhat flawed. At least I for one do not see how it can be sustained.

    To give another example, weapons were not trained at Hombu; an uninformed person might conclude that Kisshomaru’s style was different and he went doing other things etc.; but we know that Osensei himself used to get angry when people practiced weapons at Hombu! So clearly what he was doing as his own personal training (physical and spiritual) and what he wanted to share with the world were two different things (albeit related). Does this mean that Kisshomaru was acting against his Father’s will? My feeling is that he was rather fulfilling his wish. It is obvious that Aikido was born out of Budo; it is also clear that Aikido went beyond Budo in the traditional sense, and became a spiritual path with roots in Omoto. Now the question arises: which one of these trends did Osensei want to share with the world? The martial dimension or the spiritual dimension? I think we all agree that the latter. (Aikido as a path towards unifying mankind in one big family etc. – which can be almost literally traced back to Oomoto, Onisaburo’s Tales of the Spirit World etc.)

    So if the Founder’s message is primarily spiritual in nature, rather than martial, does it not naturally follow that what was taught at Hombu also had the agreement of the Founder? Of course he was an old time warrior, a samurai, a person who trained all his life in martial arts and could not simply throw everything out the window. That is not the point. The point is that Aikido, as the Founder envisioned it for everyone in the world, as a way to peace, is not as martial in nature, as it is spiritual. I wouldn’t expect many to understand this, even among uchideshi, simply because people enrolled in training wanting to become physically strong, not spiritually; but the Founder said that those who understood him best were the ones who had an interest in spiritual things as well (Goi Sensei, the members of Sunadomari family etc.)

    Here’s a simple question for you Stan (and this is probably the major fallacy in your essay): did Osensei ever say that the things practiced in Iwama were Aikido? This is a serious question, silly as it may seem. I am pretty sure his answer would have been no, and this is how the whole confusion gets started: we all understand different things by the same word (love, God or whatever… in this case Aikido). Another mistake is to equate whatever the Founder did with Aikido, so that if he practiced weapons in Iwama, agriculture, Shinto rites or horseback riding, it naturally follows that those should be part of Aikido. Wrong. He never said that. He never said weapons should be part of Aikido practice (even if numerous techniques are based in kenjitsu), which also did not prevent him from practicing ken or the jo, if so he wished.

    To conclude – my intention is not to turn different styles against each other, they are perfectly fine in their own right; I simply do not share the opinion that the Founder was somehow tricked by his own family and the Aikido practiced today at Hombu is not his creation. Quite on the contrary, I think Kisshomaru Sensei was one of the few people who truly understood what Osensei’s Aikido was all about.

    • A couple of observations if I may:

      “O-Sensei told us, “I think it suits me to train in Iwama. You should work from Tokyo in whatever way you think best to achieve the growth of Aikido there.”
      – Kisshomaru Ueshiba quotes Morihei Ueshiba in the mid-1950s with the above statement in p. 297 of “A Life in Aikido.”

      You should recall that the Aikikai Hombu Dojo was located in Iwama until 1953 when it was decided to move the headquarters back to Tokyo. Thus for a period of 8 years, the techniques practiced at Iwama under the tutelage of O-Sensei constituted the official aikido curriculum. After the headquarters was moved to Tokyo, this changed and it was Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei, the senior instructors and the dojo directors who made the decisions, not the Founder. As can be gleaned from the above quote, O-Sensei left things up to the judgement of his son and the others.

      O-Sensei did not direct the training curriculum at Hombu Dojo. In fact, he was often critical of it. There was a heap of animosity between O-Sensei and the Aikikai in many regards, especially training practices. This caused a problem at Hombu Dojo especially in his final years as his health declined. Kisshomaru and the others were not following O-Sensei’s example as they regarded his teaching and training methods as antiquated and totally unsuitable for society of the postwar years.

      I would certainly agree that there are many — including the leadership of the Aikikai — who believe that aikido does not include weapons study. I have no problem with this at all and have written to this effect. What my research shows is that Morihei considered the study of weapons, namely the ken and jo, as an integral part of the art. So today’s practitioners are free to choose their preferred way of looking at these things. They will in all likelihood follow the example of their direct teacher. It’s perfectly natural.

      You have grouped together the study of weapons in Iwama together with “agriculture, Shinto rites or horseback riding.” Please consider that O-Sensei always used the ken and jo in his aikido demonstrations, but did not attend riding on horseback while brandishing a hoe.

  9. daniel forga says:

    Regarding your last paragraph, I exaggerated on purpose in order to underline a simple fact, I thought it was obvious; the fact that O-Sensei did certain things in Iwama does not mean those are necessarily part of Aikido (whatever he did). Sure he used ken and jo in demos, but so did Kisshomaru Ueshiba Sensei, even in instructional videos such as the following: I see no discrepancy in the curriculum that far (maybe a simplification, that has its own justification as I try to explain below).

    The irony of it all, in my opinion, is the fact that, had Kisshomaru, Tohei, Okumura and the other Aikikai instructors not tried to “modernize” Aikido (without turning it into a sport), none of us would probably be practicing AIkido today. You are able to write things like the article above and you were able to get in touch with Saito Sensei and other “old school” teachers precisely because we all started in our own respective countries with this “modified” (in your words) version of Aikido, whether with Tohei, Tamura, Tada or other instructors, all sent by Aikikai abroad in order to spread Aikido. This would not have been possible following the “old ways” you invoke (suffice to have a look at other traditional martial arts, yawara, Daito-Ryu etc.) that are not nearly as popular as Aikido today.

    You were basically able to uncover OSensei’s practices in Iwama precisely because the other instructors did what they did (the very things you criticise). Had those things not been done, Aikido would not have spread the way it did and so it happens that the very things you criticize are the ladder you climb upon in order to get there (wherever you want to get). Isn’t that ironic? Don’t you think? :)

  10. daniel forga says:

    Another aspect to consider is, in how far the techniques taught by Saito Sensei are really the same Aikido the Founder used to practice/teach? From a strictly formal point of view, sure they reflect the martial rigour of the earlier period, and the Iwama martial repertoire might have been richer by comparison to what was taught at Hombu. But is that the essence of Aikido? I think we run the risk of failing to see the forest for the trees, because the goal in Aikido is not developing from a strictly formal or martial point of view, but rather spiritual, through development of Ki energy. Now this is exactly the one thing that Morihiro Saito did not do, for various reasons (either his legs would hurt, or because this style of approach did not fit him or whatever). The point is that the teaching approach of Saito Sensei only appeared after the Founder passed away, so it does not have his endorsement. And so it looks like the very things taught in Iwama do not reflect the Founder’s Aikido anymore than what was taught at Hombu, because of the method of teaching and the way a technique is taught. Like Tohei Sensei used to say, if you take the Ki out of Aikido, it is no longer Aikido. I am afraid Saito Sensei’s method of breaking a technique down into a thousand pieces, in order to make the learning process easier, did just that. If you break a technique down like that, it can be anything, but not Aikido. Tohei said the same thing about Nishio Sensei, just to give another example; Nishio mastered various disciplines and was very technical from a martial viewpoint, but his movements did not denote any sort of ki flowing, as they do in the case of Shimizu Sensei or other masters. You have noted yourself elsewhere, that the accent at Hombu was put on ki no nagare, and the training was hard rather because of the exhaustion derived from the continous, uninterrupted training, technique after technique, rather than from the martial technicality of it. I couldn’t agree more, but unlike you, in my opinion that is the very essence of the training in case of a discipline such as Aikido. Like Saotome Sensei noted elsewhere (another interview with you I presume), you need to exhaust the physical resources, before you can tap into the limitless ocean of Ki. So the physical exhaustion is a necesarry and required step in order to get to the point where you MUST resort to Ki energy, because the physical one is already out. And in order to do that, a certain dynamic of the training is absolutely required. The intensity of the training is a key element in developing Ki energy, and that’s exactly what Saito Sensei did NOT do. His demonstrations got lost into technical details over time, but the dynamic of the training was close to none, and that’s definitely a major flaw in that style of training.

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