Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, is referred to today as “O Sensei” He was born on December 14, 1883. His father was a farmer in the Wakayama Prefecture (now known as Tanabe). As a young child, O Sensei was weak and sick. His father encouraged him to study sumo wrestling and practice swimming, and the weak child was transformed into a highly skilled martial artist. O Sensei’s father was attacked and beaten by a group of thugs, which also motivated the boy to become as strong as he could. In 1903 O Sensei enlisted in the Army where he proved himself to be an excellent soldier. He returned home after the Russo-Japanese War an exceptional martial artist and powerful man. His father built a dojo for him on the farm and invited a well-known jujutsu instructor to teach there.
In the Spring of 1912, at the age of 29, O Sensei accepted an invitation from the government to lead a group of settlers to Hokkaido, the previously unsettled northern island of Japan. After a few years, the small village he helped build started to prosper.
It was during this time in Hokkaido that O Sensei met Sokaku Takeda, grandmaster of Daito-ryu Aiki Jutsu. O Sensei found himself no match for the teacher, and threw himself back into training, studying Daito-ryu along with the martial arts he learned as a child and in the military.
O Sensei eventually received word that his father was seriously ill and dying. He traveled home to see him. Along the way he met Deguchi Onisaburo, the founder of the Omoto-kyo religion, and became a disciple.
By 1925, O Sensei had organized his own style of Aikijutsu, one that addressed both his physical and spirtual needs.
During the next decade, O Sensei searched for the true martial way, the essential spirit of Budo, while running the Kobukan, his dojo in Tokyo. In 1942 his search lead him to leave the dojo to work at farming. Through his closeness with nature and continued training, he tried to unify his spiritual and physical being.
O Sensei diligently applied himself to the reworking of the techniques he had been taught, and synthesized them into a form that taught harmony rather than violence. In this way he was able to integrate his spiritual beliefs and his great technical proficiency in the Art of Peace.
After the war O Sensei returned to Tokyo. Aikido, as his jujutsu system was now called, grew rapidly at the Hombu Dojo in Tokyo under the direction of O Sensei’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. Right up to the end of his life, O Sensei refined and improved his “Way”, never losing his dedication for hard training. He continued to instruct right up until his death in 1968.
“The only true victory is over oneself” O Sensei said. “The secret of Aikido” , he wrote,” is to harmonize with the universe, bring peace to our hearts, and thus to our world.”