Kisshomaru Ueshiba: “Architect of Today’s Aikido”Today’s world of aikido bears the stamp of Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba more than any other person. There is no other figure who is more influential, not even the Founder Morihei Ueshiba himself. I realize that, for many of the aikido faithful, this will be a shocking statement. Allow me to elaborate.
First of all, aikido is a post-World War II phenomenon. Morihei Ueshiba and his fledgling martial art were known primarily in martial arts circles, not by the general public, prior to the war. What has become aikido today has been shaped primarily by the Ueshiba family through the auspices of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo system after 1955.
The arbiter of this process of dissemination and the content of Aikikai aikido is none other than Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the Founder’s son. In 1942, Kisshomaru assumed operational control of what would become the Aikikai at the tender age of 21. Morihei had retired to Iwama, World War II raged, and Tokyo would soon be bombed. Kisshomaru was thrust into a leadership position for which he was ill-equipped while a university student. He would continue uninterrupted as head of the Aikikai, the world’s largest aikido organization, until his passing in 1999.
The Aikikai was barely functioning as an entity after the war until around 1955. During that period, Kisshomaru was simply attempting to hold the remnants of the aikido structure together until better times, without much thought to the future direction of the art. In fact, he was obliged to hold down a full-time job in a securities company to support himself and the rundown Aikikai dojo.
Later on, as aikido began to gather some attention among the general public, it was Kisshomaru, in consultation with a group of elders and peers, who gradually began shaping the policies that would lead to a steady, if not spectacular, growth of aikido.