A Statue for Morihiro Saito Shihan in Iwama

“All over the world we are ready and willing to contribute for a full size statue of Morihiro Saito Shihan in Iwama…”

Morihiro Saito (1928-2002)

The powers-that-be have decided that Morihiro Saito, 9th dan, did not exist in Iwama. It would appear that no mention of the name of Morihiro Saito is to be found on the current Iwama Dojo websiteoperated by the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. This is a rather misleading omission and attempt at reshaping aikido history. Perhaps a project such as this will help rectify matters insofar as concerns historical accuracy.

[A reader has pointed out–see the comment below by Miguel Serra–that there is a mention of the name of Morihiro Saito on the English Aikikai website. The comment contains a strong criticism of the Saito family and is very difficult to navigate to in the Japanese version, it being necessary to click about 10 pages to arrive there. Please see my comment below for more information. Apologies for the misunderstanding.]

Since our teacher’s passing, we having been thinking about a statue for the person responsible for the spreading of O’Sensei’s Aikido to the world. Morihiro Saito Shihan formed thousands of teachers in Japan and abroad. He turned Iwama into an internationally known village and because of him even today thousands of practitioners and supporters of Aikido travel to this city. For this reason and many others it is only fare that we all direct and indirect students of Saito Sensei, get together and honor him with a full size statue in Iwama. Please join us and invite all your friends to join us in this venture!

Morihiro Sensei on the Aikijinja grounds wearing a casual nobakama, haori and geta. This photo was taken by Mark Larson and then Sensei had it distributed to many of his deshi present at the time in Iwama.

To access the Facebook page proposing this laudable project and to see many wonderful photos of Morihiro Saito Sensei, please click here


  1. Very courteous of you to post this.
    All of us, students and admirers of Saito Shihan are in debt to you.

    • I really consider it a duty considering all I derived from my experiences with Saito Sensei. In terms of logistics, it seems to me that if Hitohiro Saito Sensei were to be involved in this project, something concrete could actually happen. You need someone on the ground in Iwama who knows key people to get started. Anyway, that’s my take on the subject.

  2. Politics, Politics, Politics it always has to spoil things, it would be a great shame if this project does not happen.

  3. …In “real life” i “do dirt”. So, where in Iwama would the statue be situated? Presumably it would not be welcome on the actual dojo property…

  4. DrX Nguyen says:

    Facebook, Youtube, the WEB will enshrine Morihiro Saito Sensei beyond the physical boundary of Iwama and beyond the reach of Aikikai.

  5. Manny Trejo says:

    Wow. This going to be a very interesting project.

  6. That is a shame, what Aikikai Hombu is doing – let’s get behind the Saito Statue at Iwama !!!

    I am not Aikikai, but would be happy to work with others in making the Saito statue come to fruition!

    To the organizers: What is needed? I would imagine that a little time and a small contribution from many of us akidoists would help…

  7. Andrew Bedford says:

    I think this would be truly wonderful.
    O`sensei on one side, and Saito Sensei on the other. great Idea, just hope it come to fruition.
    For what its worth.

    Andy B

  8. Gawad Adham says:

    I find it very strange and cannot understand the reasoning behind Aikikai’s omission of such a great and influential teacher !! what exactly did he do to piss them off so much ?? it must be true then, that he was the only person capable of teaching the true aikido of o’sensei !

  9. Miguel Serra says:

    I have the greatest respect for Saito sensei, and for his contribution to aikido, but I do not agree with this sort of approach.

    The problem I see is that this decision is being made as an aggressive stance towards Aikikai, which is evident from the emotional tone of this newsletter, in an attempt to restore acknowledgement for Saito sensei’s work. Nobody contests his contribution to aikido, nor does anyone debate whether or not he did teach, and was dojo cho at Iwama for many years. This is obvious from recorded videos and books that has been left behind as a legacy to aikido, which is still strong with all of us.

    Furthermore, we should also remember that as foreigners it is not our place to be proposing to erect a statue of someone we might idolise in a country we do not belong to, and whose customs we do not fully understand. How many Japanese people have actually been honoured with a statue? Only those who have made a considerable difference to Japan, it’s culture or the Japanese people. I do not mean to offend anyone by this statement, but I do not believe that Saito Sensei falls anywhere near this category. In fact, I’m sure that there are many far greater Japanese martial artists, and others who were considered Japanese treasures in their own right who haven’t had the honour of having a statue erected in their memory.

    Bitterness is no reason to proceed with such a project, and doing so will only force a divide where Saito sensei would have never wanted to see one, putting him and his legacy right at the centre of it.

  10. Miguel Serra says:

    I would also like to add that the initial statements in this blog are mislead, as after looking into the historical blogs on the website link provided for Ibaraki Dojo, I came across the following post:

    Aikikai Foundation Ibaraki Branch Dojo (2004/06/24written) – at bottom of webpage


    This not only acknowledges Morihiro Saito sensei’s contribution, but also explains the stance Aikikai has taken in ensuring that this dojo remains a legacy for all who practice aikido in future.

    • I must confess that I did not see this mention of Saito Sensei and Hitohiro Saito Sensei on the Hombu Dojo website for the Iwama Dojo. For the purpose of clarity, here is the relevant text as it appears in English:

      “This dojo has a distinguished history. It was built by the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, in 1945, the last year of the Second
      World War. It has absorbed the sweat and effort of O-Sensei like no other dojo in the world. For more than thirty years after the passing of O-Sensei the dojo and shrine were managed and cared for by Morihiro Saito Shihan who was Dojo Head during that time.

      Saito Shihan passed away in May 2002 and his son, Hitohiro Saito, assumed the role of Acting Dojo Head under Dojo Head Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu. However, in November 2003 Hitohiro announced; “I am relinquishing the responsibility for managing and caring for the shrine and dojo. I am withdrawing from the Aikikai Foundation and will have no further relationship with it.” Therefore, in December 2003 a new structure came into being. Moriteru Ueshiba Doshu is the Dojo Head and Hiroshi Isoyama Shihan is Acting Dojo Head. They are supported by a core of direct students of the Founder. Non-competitive aikido is now practiced in more than eighty countries throughout the world. This is surely due to the fact that, more than just a combative sport, aikido has deeply spiritual elements. The Founder’s teaching is more than mere technique. Through the practice of aikido, we should seek for the true path of being human. The Founder always wished for peace throughout the world. Our efforts should not be for ourselves alone, but should serve our community, and the nation’s peace and prosperity. Furthermore, we should join together to build world peace.

      Aikido must not be a vehicle for blind self interest. From now onwards the Ibaraki Branch Dojo will be open to all, irrespective of race, religion or national boundaries. The instructors wish to work enthusiastically as one to develop an enlightened dojo.”

      Notice the last sentence, in particular, where it is directly implied that the Saito family used the Iwama Dojo for “blind self interest.”

      As you can see. there is an obvious attack on Hitohiro Saito Sensei and failure to mention that he was presented with an ultimatum by the Aikikai to dismantle the organization set up by his father as a condition to remain within the Aikikai.

      Also, please note that, although the same text appears in Japanese, you have to click back through about 10 pages to find it. In other words, for Japanese readers, it is as though the text doesn’t exist because it is buried at the bottom of a list of announcements with no direct link and few people will ever find it.

  11. adolfo braga says:

    I am very surprised that the current Doshu is not taking a firm stand against the old Hombu mafia. To honour Saito Sensei is a MUST. If the true Aikido of O-Sensei is still alive and highly appreciated is only due to the great effort and teaching of Morihiro Saito. My students and myself shall participate to the project.
    P.S. ( unfortunately I don’t like nor trust Hitohiro)

    Adolfo Braga 5° Dan TAAI – Umbria / Italy

  12. I am a full-time professional sculptor located in the US with a deep respect for the level of effort and discipline that is required to excel in the martial arts. When you are ready to move forward, I would love to compete for the opportunity to sculpt Morihiro Saito.

    Brian R. Owens

    Florida, United States


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