“The art’s finest exponent, and the man who conceived of the system of ethics that underpins the art, is not a major factor in discussions of aikido, be they of a technical or philosophical nature.”
Why did I choose such a title and why do I believe this statement to be true? I’ll explain my reasoning.
By the time aikido began to spread in the postwar era in Japan and abroad, the Founder was already an anachronism. He was elderly, selfish, cantankerous, spoke at times incomprehensibly, and moved in ways that only the most astute observer could follow. He was too much trouble to deal with, and he was consequently marginalized in the dojo he had built.
So what happened? Morihei’s words were edited and “prettified,” and made to sound like a sage. When rendered into English and other languages, what we have are “free” translations that are not identified as such. We are at least two levels removed from his original words. O-Sensei’s techniques that were poorly explained and too hard to learn were eschewed in favor of the approaches of the Founder’s son, Kisshomaru and Koichi Tohei, in particular. His weapon studies were judged to be amateurish and incomplete, and thus irrelevant to the art.
Where does that leave us?
It means that the Founder of aikido, perhaps the art’s finest exponent, and the man who conceived of the system of ethics that underpins the art, is not a major factor in discussions of aikido, be they of a technical or philosophical nature. O-Sensei’s influence is akin to a far off echo, weak and distorted. As a result, aikido has been impoverished.
To end on a positive note, if Morihei Ueshiba’s ideas were ever to be understood and widely discussed, the art’s potential as a martial art and a powerful social force would be greatly magnified.
The Morihei Ueshiba Founder’s Course is O-Sensei’s video legacy starting in 1935 and covering a span of 34 years until just before his passing in 1969. Besides the more than 30 films of the Founder, the course includes three rare audio interviews of O-Sensei with complete subtitles. These are wonderfully intimate conversations with the Founder that convey his bright personality, playfulness and sincerity. In addition, the course includes a series of video documentaries by Stanley Pranin on the life of the Founder and the spread of his art worldwide.