Aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba (O-Sensei), was born in Japan on December 14, 1883. According to the founder’s son, Kisshomaru, when O-Sensei was a boy, he saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons. He set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu. In spite of his impressive physical and martial capabilities, however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began delving into religions in hopes of finding a deeper significance to life. By combining his martial training with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial art of Aikido. Ueshiba decided on the name “Aikido” in 1942 (before that he called his martial art “Aikibudo”and “Aikinomichi”).
On the technical side, Aikido is rooted in several styles of jujitsu (from which modern judo is also derived), in particular daitoryu-(aiki)jujitsu?, as well as sword and (possibly) spear fighting arts. Oversimplifying somewhat, we may say that Aikido takes the joint locks and throws from jujitsu and combines them with the body movements of sword and spear fighting. However, it may be that many Aikido techniques were the result of the founder’s own innovation.
On the religious side, O-Sensei was a devotee of one of Omotokyo. Omotokyo was (and is) part neo-Shintoism, and part socio-political idealism. It is impossible sufficiently to understand many of O-Sense’s writings and sayings without keeping the influence of Omotokyo firmly in mind.
At the core of almost all philosophical interpretations of Aikido, however, we may identify at least two fundamental threads:
• A commitment to peaceful resolution of conflict whenever possible.
• A commitment to self-improvement through Aikido training.