Startling Revelations: Rare interview with Morihei Ueshiba

“Cutting people means being defeated by the world. Those who
are cut are losers, too. Both are losers in that type of practice”

Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido, c. 1965

The following interview was published in the “Shukan Yomiuri” newspaper on May 27, 1956, and is published with the kind permission of the Yomiuri Shimbun Company. O-Sensei was at the time 72 years of age.

Interviewer: Aikido is increasing in popularity, isn’t it?

Ueshiba Sensei: It is all due to you and people like yourself, Sir.

No. No.

Yes, it’s all thanks to your support.

You are good at making compliments, not Aikido! I wonder how old you are?

I have forgotten my age… I was born in 1883, but I tell people I’m 25 years old. Please keep that in mind. (Laughter)

You are the same age I am then! (Laughter) They say that people stop growing physically at about age 25.

I didn’t stop growing. I grew until I was 55 years old. I became taller, too. I was my strongest when I was 50. I didn’t have much strength when I was in my twenties until the age of 32 or 33.

How about your skill in martial arts?

I get better with age.

It’s strange though. You kept growing taller until you were 50 years old!

Take it any way you please. (Laughter) If I emphasize that too much, I will be criticized.

You must be joking! You’re a difficult one to talk with!

Well, Sir, you and people like yourself know well about what’s going on in the world, and so we, the people, follow you. By the way, it is the martial arts which lead us to the way of harmony. Anything which strays from the path of harmony is useless. I believe that the martial ways of our nation will only last in the presence of harmony. “The beautiful form of heaven and earth is a manifestation of a single family created by the Kami.”

We should become a single family spiritually and make an effort to improve the nation of Japan. We have to try to achieve harmony at least here in Japan. We should become good friends with one another, all taking care of each other. The foundations of this harmony is Aikido. It is this Aikido which is the true budo. Budo used to be used for military rule or by feudal lords in battles for dominance among clans. I want to get away from that hostile world.

Your talk on Aikido philosophy started suddenly, didn’t it?

Democracy means the principle of nonresistance. True Japanese budo is the principle of nonresistance.

But unless you resist, it isn’t budo. That is why I don’t like it.

You’re talking about budo used for military rule. Kendo and Judo are said to be Japanese budo, but they are concerned with winning, aren’t they? Since Aikido pursues harmony, it is different from those arts.

Click here to read the entire interview with Founder Morihei Ueshiba


“Noriaki Inoue: Aikido’s Forgotten Pioneer,” by Stanley Pranin

“A Master of Early Aikido Nearly Written Out of History…”

Noriaki Inoue (1902-1994)

Morihei Ueshiba is universally recognized as the founder of aikido. Historians of this martial art mention to varying degrees the significant roles of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu and the Omoto religion in providing the basis for Ueshiba’s technique and spiritual beliefs, respectively. Similarly, the founder’s debt to such benefactors as Admiral Isamu Takeshita, Kenji Tomita, Kinya Fujita, and others who assisted him over the years is clearly acknowledged. Several of Ueshiba’s early students including Kenji Tomiki, Minoru Mochizuki, Gozo Shioda, Koichi Tohei, and his son Kisshomaru are also widely known for their contributions in spreading the art in the postwar period as the heads of their respective organizations. In contrast, the name of Yoichiro Inoue is mentioned only occasionally as one of Morihei’s early students who also happened to be his nephew. That such an important contributor to the development of the art has been given such short shrift in aikido histories is an inexcusable omission and one that I hope to right through the article that follows.

Because of a lack of historical context presented in Morihei biographies published thus far, one is easily left with the impression that the founder made several major life decisions that proved key to the subsequent birth of aikido primarily on his own initiative. I refer specifically to such important events as his stay in Tokyo in 1901 with the intention of becoming a merchant, his relocation to Hokkaido as a settler in 1912, and his precipitous move with his entire family to the Omoto religious community in Ayabe in 1920. The reality of the matter is that the wealthy Inoue family of Tanabe to which Yoichiro belonged played a significant part in all of these major life choices of the young Ueshiba. The Ueshiba-Inoue family link is an undeniable fact of history and the names of Zenzo and his son, Yoichiro, as well as Zenzo’s younger brother Koshiro emerge with conspicuous frequency in connection with Morihei Ueshiba from around the turn of the 20th century through 1935.

The Inoue Family

Zenzo Inoue

Yoichiro’s father, Zenzo, was born in Tanabe about 1861. He was the patriarch of the Tanabe Inoue family and it appears that he inherited his wealth from his father Isuke. Zenzo married Morihei’s eldest sister, Tame, about 1889 and together they had eight children, the fourth of whom was Yoichiro. Yoichiro was born in Tanabe in 1902 making him Morihei Ueshiba’s junior by 19 years. Zenzo owned a great deal of property in Tanabe and elsewhere and was involved in various manufacturing activities.

Zenzo and his younger brother Koshiro relocated to Tokyo around 1887 at the urging of their father Isuke. They both achieved success in business, but Zenzo later returned to Tanabe leaving the business ventures they had established together in the hands of Koshiro. At a later date, Zenzo operated a clothing business in Kyoto as well. At various points in his career Koshiro was involved in the soapware business, metal goods and paper manufacturing and sales. According to his son, Koshiro made his fortune during the Russo-Japanese War period when he provided a range of products of necessity that were in short supply. Eventually, Koshiro would become one of the top ten of Japan’s highest taxpayers and a mentor of Konosuke Matsushita, founder of the Matsushita group of electrical appliance companies.

[Read more…]


Free PDF Magazine download: Aiki News Number 67, May 1985

“The historian is not free to neglect or delete important persons or happenings merely because they do not conform to some preconceived image of the figure or events under scrutiny.”

Access: free through May 3

Contents of Aiki News Number 67

  • Editorial – “Why We Do What We Do,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Interview with Nobuyoshi Tamura (2), by Stanley Pranin
  • History of Daito-ryu, by Tokimune Takeda
  • O-Sensei Biography: Chapter VI – Part 4, “Training in the Way and Farming in Iwama, by Kisshomaru Ueshiba
  • Morihiro Saito Technical Notebook (36) — Tachidori kokyunage, by Morihiro Saito
  • Heard in the Dojo
  • Aikido Friendship Demonstration Report, by Stanley Pranin
  • Letters to the Editor

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating group weapons attack in Shingu, c. 1960. Courtesy of Michio Hikitsuchi Sensei

Click here to get access to the pdf file of Aiki News Number 67

2012 San Francisco Aikido Project featuring Christian Tissier, Bruce Bookman, and James Friedman

“Welcome to the San Francisco Aikido Project”

Thank you for coming to the San Francisco Aikido Project web site. May 2-6, 2012 will be the dates for our international Aikido summer camp. Our guest this year will be: Christian Tissier Sensei 7dan, from Paris, France and Bruce Bookman Sensei, Tenzan Aikido Kai-cho from Seattle. The seminar is hosted by James Friedman Sensei. The seminar will be held at Suginami Aikikai San Francisco, California. Aikidoists of all styles are welcome.


Magazine: Aiki News Number 34, May 1979

“I am what I am because I trained hard style for 60 years. What can you do?”

Access: free through April 19


  • “Doshu Seriously Ill”
  • Editorial – “The Generation Gap,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Interview with Morihiro Saito (3), by Stanley Pranin
  • Morihiro Saito Technical Notebook (3) — Katatedori Dai-sankyo omote waza, Katatedori Dai-sankyo omote waza, by Morihiro Saito
  • Kawaridane Nihonjin (3): “Bokuto ni shinken, no hikari” (Japanese, translation appears in Aiki News Number 5), by Kazuhiko Ikeda
  • The Founder of Aikido: “Family Background in Tanabe, Kii Province” (Chapter 2, Part 1), by Kisshomaru Ueshiba

Click here to download the PDF file of Aiki News Number 34 free through April 19


Featured Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin-Budo Kai of Marc Abrams Sensei

In an effort to encourage readers to register their dojos for exposure on the Aikido World School Directory, we would like to highlight especially well-done listings to give you an idea of what can be achieved to promote your school.

“Aikido Arts of Shin-Budo Kai is an Aikido school that is dedicated to passing on the teachings of Shizuo Imaizumi Sensei, founder of Shin-Budo Kai and direct student of O’Sensei. Instruction is strongly oriented toward developing the Aiki and internal body skills that are at the foundation of the art of Aikido. The teaching of Aikido techniques is viewed as an expression of those underlying body skills. The curriculum and testing criteria include work with the Bokken and Jo. Classes are available for adults, teens and children. The school is conveniently located near major highways and within walking distance to the local train station. Visitors and potential students are encouraged to not only watch, but try classes to decide if this school is a good fit.”

Aikido Arts of Shin-Budo Kai in the Aikido World School Directory

Click here to sign up your dojo today!
* We strongly recommend our “Basic Package” to produce a beautiful listing for your dojo


Morihei’s Adventure: “They were thrown in jail… and left in their underwear!”

“When they were thrown in jail, all their clothes and belongings were taken from them, and Deguchi, Ueshiba and the others were left with only their fundoshi underwear!”

Access: free through Tuesday, April 3


  • Editorial – “The American Aikido Federation,” by Stanley Pranin
  • Kawaridane Nihonjin (15): “Admirals and Generals among O-Sensei’s students”, by Kazuhiko Ikeda
  • Low-cost transportation to Japan for Aikido students
  • Letter from Yoshimitsu Yamada of New York Aikikai on formation of American Aikido Federation
  • Draft of Constitution of American Aikido Federation
  • Outline History of Aikido
  • Glossary of Japanese terms used in names of aikido techniques
  • Lee Green’s “Rendez-vous with Adventure,” tv documentary on Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei

Aikido Journal Members Site subscribers: If you are already a subscriber, click here to login and download the PDF file of Aiki News Number 15


Historical photo: “Time Machine Back to Osaka in 1935,” by Stanley Pranin

“Morihei Ueshiba’s Vanguard Dojo in Japan’s Second Largest City.”

This is a rare photo of unusually high quality depicting Morihei Ueshiba in Osaka with the leading figures of his Asahi News dojo. The photo is almost certainly from 1935 judging by Morihei’s visage, and the fact that it was taken at a time prior to Sokaku Takeda’s arrival in Osaka in June 1936. The people who appear in the photo reflect aspects of Morihei’s activities that extend beyond his martial arts teaching into family areas and the political realm.

First of all, here is a list of those persons we are able to identify by assigned number:

1. Mitsujiro Ishii
2. Kenji Tomita
3. Takuma Hisa
4. Morihei Ueshiba
5. Hatsu Ueshiba
6. Kiku Yukawa
7. Yoshitaka Hirota
8. Yoshiteru Yoshimura
9. Tsutomu Yukawa

Mitsujiro Ishii (1889-1981)

Mitsujiro Ishii

We start with Mitsujiro Ishii. Ishii was an early student of Morihei Ueshiba beginning around 1927 when O-Sensei was being actively promoted by Admiral Isamu Takeshita in Tokyo. In 1933, he provided the introduction that led to Morihei becoming the martial arts instructor of the Osaka branch of the Asahi News. At the point in time this photograph was taken, Ishii was a managing director of the Asahi News company headquartered in Tokyo, and wielded a tremendous amount of influence in the Asahi company. He was a mentor and supporter of Takuma Hisa, who also appears in this photo, and helped in the formation of the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Takumakai after the war.

Ishii would later become an important figure in Japanese postwar politics. At one point, in 1957, he was one of the top candidates to become prime minister of Japan. Ishii served as a cabinet member in several administrations from the late 1940s through the early 1960s. He was also a golf enthusiast and served as president of the Japan Golf Association. Parenthetically, Ishii was the father of Yoshiko Ishii, a famous Japanese chanson singer who was a Japanese star for many years, and was also well-known in France and performed in major European venues….

Click here to read Stanley Pranin’s “Time Machine Back to Osaka in 1935”


“Will Aikido Survive?” by Nev Sagiba

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

“The influence of Aikido is unstoppable. It will continue to progress further than we can now see into the distant future.”
The history which led to the arrival of Aikido as we now know it, was a long one. Many hundreds of years.

But is there as much of a driving need for the physical survival attributes of the art now as then?

Is the art at risk of becoming a quasi religious cult replete with superstitious beliefs and myths about its history?

What has driven Aikido?

What are the forces that led to its phenomenal popularization following WW2?

Has the advent of Aikido made a difference in the world?

If so for the better or for worse?

Since the death of its Founder, Morihei Ueshiba, has Aikido improved the life of its practitioners and the world in general?

Some find it in their minds to criticize Aikido. Always a good sign. Envy has that tendency. Envy is a sign of success the complacent would like to acquire, but are too lazy to work sufficiently to earn!

What do the critics have to say?

That Aikido does not work in a fight is a myth propagated by some incompetent practitioners. Some of the best security personnel on the planet utilize Aikido daily with immense success in both harm reduction and successful arrests.

That the “philosophy” of Aikido is bogus? Which “philosophy? Aikido has no dogma (Thank God for that!), but is a path of personal discovery. It is notable that the philosophies of dedicated practitioners, whilst each unique, do have a measure of similitude in the practical application in augmenting social harmony.

Can that be an accident?

As for being a “martial” art, Aikijutsu techniques have been incorporated, quietly drilled and deployed in action by elite special forces in the military. More so than in “the ring.”
[Read more…]


“The Last Swordsman: The Yoshio Sugino Story,” by Tsukasa Matsuzaki

“One day a message arrived informing him that film director Akira Kurosawa would be making a new samurai drama, ‘The Seven Samurai’, and hoped Sugino would instruct the actors.”

Yoshio Sugino (1904-1998)

Yoshio Sugino, swordsman of Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, is respected worldwide as one of the elder statesmen in the world of Japanese kobujutsu (classical martial arts). Born in 1904, his life has paralleled much of the development of modern Japan, and during that time he has been fortunate enough to know and study under many of this century’s legendary martial artists.

He has also provided martial arts instruction for many of Japan’s most popular historical movies, including Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai, adding dynamism and reality to what had been staid and poorly stylized fight-scene choreography. He has also appeared frequently in the media as a representative of the world of Japanese kobujutsu. In such ways he has contributed much toward introducing the truly wonderful aspects of Japanese martial arts to the public. But despite Sugino’s tremendous service to the budo world, information on him has been limited to fragmented interviews and popular articles that do little toward painting a realistic portrait of the man himself, his origins and his history. In this series I look back on Sugino Sensei’s life and the paths he has taken, along the way presenting some of the thoughts on bujutsu he has developed during his 92 years.

In November 1995 Yoshio Sugino suddenly noticed a queer sensation in his left arm while reading a book at his home in Kawasaki, a feeling that told him something was very wrong. The arm had lost all feeling and his elbow, wrist and fingers had become as lifeless as a doll’s. As if the flesh was no longer his own, he could not put any strength at all into the arm. Staring down at his useless arm, he was shocked to see that the entire length of it, from the upper arm to the back of the hand and even the palm, had turned a deathly shade of white. He knew only too well that his physical condition was not the best. The previous summer he had fallen at his home and struck his head and the doctors had ordered him to forgo his beloved budo training. And now this! “Perhaps it’s the nerves,” he thought. “There must be something wrong with the nerves.”

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Is Magnetism the Same as Ki?

Lulu Hurst, "The Georgia Magnet"

“The Georgia Wonder Meets the Great Japanese Wrestler”

One of the new students in our dojo happens to be a professional magician of note. Last evening we had a discussion that touched upon a variety of different topics. The name of “The Georgia Wonder” came up. This refers to a diminutive woman named Lulu Hurst who performed amazing feats in vaudeville acts in the latter part of the 19th century. She had many imitators and a legion of researchers who attempted to debunk her show as nothing more than physical and mind tricks. My student sent me this link about Lulu Hurst that I thought our readers might find interesting.

One of the branches of aikido, popularly known as “Ki Aikido” established by Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, uses demonstrations of such things as the “unbendable arm” and the “unliftable posture” as part of the curriculum. These are learnable skills that involve focus the mind and body in specific ways. Is this “ki power” related to what Lulu was doing in her “magnetic act”?

Lulu Hurst, also known variously as the “Little Georgia Wonder” and as the “Georgia Magnet”, was a music hall sensation during the mid-late 19th century. Claiming to possess a supernatural power of electrical or magnetic force, but in fact skilfully exploiting subtle principles of physics, anatomy and the ideomotor effect, the apparently frail “Magnet” was often matched against heavyweight strongmen, boxers and wrestlers in carefully controlled “tests” using simple props such as pool cues, wooden chairs and umbrellas. The results were often both spectacular and amusing to the “Magnet’s” many fans.

Later, Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright was to produce a written expose of the “magnetic act”, including many of the feats first popularised by Lulu Hurst.

There follows an account of one of the “Georgia Magnet’s” New York performances, pitting her skills against the strength of sumo wrestler Sorakichi Matsuda….

Click here to read the entire article


“Morihei in Tanabe,” by Stanley Pranin


“It would not be an exaggeration to say that the major steps in Morihei’s life… can be traced back to the influence of his immediate and extended families.”

Historians, like scientists, are fond of coming up with theories. The scientist forms a hypothesis based on previous studies and his own observations and then proceeds to see how well his theory stands up to testing and experimentation. The historian, for his part, seeks to catalog facts and events and from them to glean an understanding of the actions and motives of the subjects of his research.

The minutiae recorded and cataloged by the historian serve as signposts that guide him through the maze of historical events and provide a means of testing out his hypotheses. An offhand comment by a relative, an old newspaper article or program, an object on display on the wall in the background of a photo, any of these seemingly insignificant details can hold the key to a new and important revelation.

Unlike other periods in the life of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba, his early years in Tanabe and family circumstances are not well documented. Our principal sources of information on this period of Morihei’s life are the biography of Morihei Ueshiba published by his son Kisshomaru in 1977, later interviews and conversations with the author, and a few pages from the first biography of the Founder written by Kanemoto Sunadomari in 1969. To this can be added the recollections of members and relatives of the Ueshiba and Inoue families.

Undated photo of Tanabe rice fields

The information gleaned from the latter sources does not represent the aikido viewpoint, but has nonetheless proved valuable by shedding new light on Morihei’s early years and suggesting areas of discrepancy in the primary sources.

Given the limited data available on the Tanabe period, our main task here will be to recall the key events and influences on Morihei’s early years. We will also endeavor to identify those character traits and patterns of behavior that led to the formation of the man who would go on to create aikido.

Ueshiba Family Background

In Japan of the Meiji Era, the family unit had a more decisive role in the life and career of an individual than it does today. With this in mind, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the major steps in Morihei’s life that prepared him for a career as a martial artist can be traced back to the influence of his immediate and extended families. This is the case early in his life when he tried his fortune as a merchant in Tokyo, on the occasion of his move to Hokkaido, and when he finally settled on a career as a martial arts instructor.

The Ueshibas

Morihei’s father, Yoroku, was born in 1843 and was a prosperous landowner who was engaged primarily in farming. He is reputed to have been a hot-tempered man of great physical strength with an interest in martial arts. Yoroku was also a prominent citizen of Tanabe and served on the Tanabe and Nishinotani village councils from 1892 to1910. Morihei’s mother, Yuki, was from the Itogawa family of Tanabe and was born in 1850. Interestingly enough, Morihei’s later bride, Hatsu, belonged to the same Itogawa family.

Yoroku and Yuki probably married in the late 1860s and their union produced a total of five children. Morihei was the only son and was born on December 14, 1883. His three older sisters were Tame, Hisano, and Chiyo. The last of the Ueshiba children was a daughter named Kiku…

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