Aikido Kobayashi Dojo

Aikido, My Way.

Part 1 The Founder Morihei Ueshiba

The first time I met the Founder, Morihei Ueshiba was several days after I had enrolled (in Hombu Dojo). He was short but broad-shouldered and massive. Although he was living in Iwama at the time, he would sometimes come to Tokyo and show himself at the dojo. My first impression of him (this guy’s the founder of Aikido?) was that he must be the spiritual leader, but…when O Sensei came to the dojo, all the uchideshi would line up to greet him in the entranceway.

The glint of O Sensei’s eyes inspired awe in all around him. He would talk about the Kojiki (the Ancient Chronicles of Japan about Japanese mythology) and other hard to understand spiritual ideas endlessly until we were left feeling like “won’t he ever stop?” Honestly, sometimes were dumbfounded. Today, I regret we didn’t listen closer and try to understand what he was saying, but anyway…

At other times he would move his body like flowing water and show us all kinds of techniques. There were many times he would call on us deshi to take falls, but many other times he would extend his hand to newcomers as well. With no sort of explanation, he’d easily toss around a partner just saying “watch this and remember it.”

I was thrown so many times by O Sensei, from his hand I’d crash to the mat; I’d concentrate on being centered but his throws were very distinctive. It was as if he hadn’t thought about anything at all and yet the throws hurt. Many times I’d let out an “ouch!” I was so surprised that even though O Sensei was in his 70’s, he could still throw with such power. “If he really cut loose, I wonder what he could do,” I’d think fearfully.

From time to time, a telephone call would come from O Sensei in Iwama “I’m sick; can someone come?” Someone was always sent and I had my turn many times. I’d get there, though, and O Sensei would be out gardening with the deshi looking pretty healthy for being sick.

“Ah, you came,” and smiling he served some cake to us.

In the beginning I didn’t understand this, but later I realized that when O Sensei grew lonely, he’d call on his young deshi to visit him by saying that he was sick.

In the spring of 1955, a special practice was held for yudansha from all over Japan at Hombu Dojo. The various instructors from Hombu joined with Sunadomari Sensei from Kyushu, Tanaka Sensei of Osaka, Hikitsuchi Sensei of Wakayama and from Tohoku, Shirata and Otake Senseis and others along with us deshi for a week of practice sessions. The last day there was a party which was attended by Shiod Sensei of Yoshinkan, Katori-Shintoryu’s Sugano Sensei, Ninjutsu’s Fujita Sensei, Matsuo Sensei of Iaido and many other noted martial artists. Sensei’s representing the various schools of Aikido were also invited along with the old officer class of the Navy; everyone had a pleasant interchange.

During this one-week special workshop, regular classes were cancelled but Kisshomaru Sensei seemed to have forgotten and I was ordered to be the partner for a woman who was taking private lessons. As I was instructing this woman who was the wife of a certain company president’s, O Sensei passed by in the corridor and noticed us practicing. Any other time, he would have scolded me in a loud voice, but seeing my partner was a woman, his eyes opened wider and he said “good” then went on without saying anything more.

O Sensei often gave demonstrations in which he would hold a bokken or jo in his hand and have a number of us deshi grab hold and try to push the weapon, but he would remain unmoved while with one technique would send all of us crashing down. I participated in such demonstrations but have no idea how he was able to do that. I know that it was his being centered and his precise movements, but it was unbelievable what he could do.

O Sensei passed away April 26, 1969 but several weeks prior to that, he had been released from the hospital and would be in his private room in Hombu Dojo. Hombu Dojo instructors attended him; in the afternoons we deshi practiced quietly and in the evenings we looked after him. He would often doze off and sometimes in the morning he would complain something like “I couldn’t sleep last night because someone was snoring.”

O Sensei would surprise us with how different he was from ordinary people. In his last year, he would have to be helped up the stairs and he said many times “I’m sick,” but as soon as he set foot in the practice hall, his back would straighten and he would look perfectly healthy as he gave an explanatory demonstration. But once again, as he stepped out into the hall, he would have to be helped by the deshi.

Then there were the times O Sensei would have to be helped to the toilet. We’d lift him up by his arms but it would take all our strength, it was like trying to move a giant stone.

“Sensei, we can’t move you…”

“Ah, I’m full of ki…” then he would stop extending ki and we could lift him off the bed. O Sensei was no ordinary person, that much I came to understand. He was 86.

To top of this page.