Aikido is a modern martial art that was developed from 1930-1968. Ueshiba Moreshiba, the founder, based Aikido on traditional Japanese weapons martial arts. His insight was to adapt these ‘direct’ techniques into a more circular martial art.
Ueshiba, like many young nationalist men of his generation, studied martial arts and entered the army. He went to war and although he fought heroically, he did not like the experience and left as soon as he could.
The experience changed his world view, which was reinforced when he joined a Japanese’ revivalist religion and as Japan’s military expansion resulted in the terrifying firebombing of major cities and ultimately the country’s defeat, he increasingly emphasised a peaceful interpretation for martial arts.
Thus the name he used to describe his art evolved from a more traditional martial name, through several variations, in to ‘Aikido’ with an emphasis on the peaceful development of the student with the goal of defending oneself without injuring the attacker.
The word ‘Aikido’ can be translated in several ways including the ‘way of combining energy’ meaning using the attacker’s energy against themselves.
As well as Ueshiba and his direct descendants who, in the Japanese tradition, have continued to teach his techniques and lead the main organisation, there have been a number of key students who have been instrumental at developing and promoting the art. These students include Shioda, Tomiki, Tohei, Chiba, and Saito and they studied with Ueshiba at different times. Each has tended to emphasise a particular aspect of the founder’s art.
Therefore, their versions of Aikido can be viewed as both preserving a part of Aikido as developed by Ueshiba at that time as well as representing their own interpretation of Ueshiba’s art.
Unfortunately, after Ueshiba died, the inevitable arguments about which student had best understood his teachings and should lead the art arose. This is reflected in the limited number of 10 dans which were issued at this time, obviously as an attempt to placate these senior instructors and try and keep them within the organisation.
Eventually, Ueshiba’s son, Kisshomaru, following tradition, became the head of the organisation. Shioda, Tomiki, Tohei, and eventually Saito, slowly left and established their own organisations to preserve their own interpretations of Aikido.
As the last of Ueshiba’s direct students and Kisshomaru have passed away, Ueshiba’s grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba, (the current head of the organisation or Doshu) has had an opportunity to bring these groups together again. By emphasising that he follows a middle ground preserving the essence of his grandfather’s art and allowing senior instructors to fully explore the art he can minimise the opportunity for factionalism. He has been somewhat successful with Iwama dojo returning to the Aikikai.