O Sensei, The Founder of Aikido

O Sensei (Great Teacher, The Founder) was born in 1883 as Morihei Ueshiba. He is referred to respectfully as O Sensei for the martial art he created.

Starting as a young man, O Sensei was a student of various martial arts. He practiced many different martial arts including sword (kenjutsu), spear fighting (sojutsu) and hand to hand (jujutsu). O Sensei was a deeply spiritual man and devoted most of his life to searching for the true meaning of budo (martial way).

O Sensei’s was greatly influenced by Sokaku Takeda, the master of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, whom O Sensei met and started to practice under in 1915. Practice of this martial art was rigorous and severe.

“The secret of Aikido is to harmonize ourselves with the movement of the universe and bring ourselves into accord with the universe itself. He who has gained the secret of Aikido has the universe in himself and can say: I am the universe.”
Morihei Ueshiba

After training under Takeda and receiving a 1st-level teaching certificate, O Sensei continued his search for true budo. Two significant events were to occur to transform him.

The 1st occurred during an expedition to Mongolia in 1924. During the expedition the group was attacked and fired upon. O Sensei believed his death was inevitable. But as he was fired upon he became calm and avoided the bullets by slight changes in body position. Later, he described the event saying that as calmness overcame him and he concentrated his vision, he could see small flashes of white light just before the enemy fired their guns. By avoiding the flashes, he escaped injury.

The second event occurred in spring of 1925. O Sensei was challenged at his dojo by a naval officer armed with a sword. O Sensei faced the attack bare handed. Whenever the navel officer swung or thrust his sword, O Sensei moved his body and avoided the strikes. Eventually, the officer gave up, exhausted. O Sensei once again recounted the incident saying his calmness allowed clarity of mind and body. Before the officer struck, there was a flash of white light which O Sensei would avoid. By avoiding the flashes of lights, the sword was avoided.

After the sword fight, O Sensei stated he was in his garden when he started to tremble and was overcome with an enlightening experience. At this point he felt he was one with the universe and realized the answer to his search.

He realized true budo was the way of harmonizing with oneself, with others, and with the universe. He came to call his martial system Aikido. Ai (harmony) Ki (energy of life force) Do (way) is roughly translated as the way of being in harmony with the universe.

O Sensei said, “I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind. This is Aikido. This is the mission of Aikido and should be your mission.”

O Sensei died in 1969, but the Aikido World Headquarters he established continues to teach his Aikido to students of all countries. Aikido World Headquarters is presently presided over by his grandson and successor, Doshu (Head of the Way) Moriteru Ueshiba.