History of Ki Aikido

Below is by no means the definitive all encompassing history of Aikido as a whole. Rather an insight in to the people who have been most influential to the development of the art which we practice today.


Morihei Ueshiba (The Founder of Aikido) was born in Wakayama Prefecture (Tanabe) on December 14 1883. At an early age he developed a dual interest in religious matters and a strong sense of himself, which was to stand him in good stead later in life as well as becoming an accomplished artist and poet.  Despite this resolve, he was prone to bouts of illness as a child.  Rather than feel sorry for himself he devoted many hours to reading about the arts and esoteric thought.

To balance these interests, his father encouraged him to develop his physical side as well, which became a matter of principal after learning that hired villains had attacked his father.  Several years at school did not satisfy his enquiring mind and it wasn’t until after a series of unsatisfactory jobs that he experienced Martial Arts for the first time.  However, this was cut short by a severe bout of illness causing him to return home where he later married.  He then successfully joined the army at the second attempt, and sufficient recognition to be offered a place on the National Military Academy.  Once again this did not appear to satisfy his ideals and he returned home.  It was clear by now that there was an increasing need to develop both mind and body.  Recognising this, his father built a Dojo in the family grounds and persuaded a Jujutsu instructor (Takaki Kiyoichi) to tutor his only son.  It was not long before Ueshiba showed great skill, and after leaving the family home practiced under Sensei Takeda Sokaki (Daito-ryu Aiki Jutsu). This led to a successful period of practice albeit very frustrating as he constantly felt overwhelmed by Sensei Takeda.

After learning of his father’s illness, he left Sensei Takeda and on his journey home he met Deguchi Onisaburo who was to be one of the most profound influences of his life. Based in Ayabe, he was exposed to Omot-kyo (a newly formed religion).  Soon after his father died and so distraught was Ueshiba that he sold all of his family property and returned to Ayabe to study under Onisaburo where he remained for several years.  It was here that he began to realize the path of non-dissention.  There followed further spiritual experiences that developed this realization into the belief that at the heart of budo was love.  His reputation as a martial artist grew steadily, and he began to attract celebrated students.  In 1927 Onisaburo persuaded Ueshiba to move to Tokyo whereupon he established the kobukan and subsequently in 1932 the Budo Enhancement Society was established under his teaching.  One of his more famous students of that time was Sensei Shioda.  Following another life-changing moment, he decided to leave for the remote village of Iwama, where he built another Dojo now known as the home of Aikido.  Having gone through several incarnations (Aiki-Jutsu and Aiki-budo), it was here that Aikido developed to become the spiritual art that we know today.  Having outgrown his feeble beginnings as a child to become a living national treasure (an accolade only bestowed on those who have achieved mastery in their field), Morihei Ueshiba was now referred to as O-Sensei or Grand Master.  To this day he is regarded as one of Japan’s greatest ambassadors and exponents of the martial arts.

He famously taught right until the end of his life, possessing an indefatigable spirit.  Before his death he handed over the position of doshu (chief instructor) to his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba. and on the morning of April 26th, 1969 passed away. Many aikidoka visit every year where a service is held at the Aiki Shrine in Iwama.

Koichi Tohei

Over many years of O-Sensei’s teaching several influential practitioners came to prominence, perhaps non more than Tohei-sensei.  It is widely accepted that his practice and teaching was second only to O-Sensei himself, developing many of the principles of co-ordination of mind and body and of Aikido that are widely practiced throughout the world today.

Koichi Tohei originally studied Judo as a child at school, went on to become a student of O-Sensei’s at the young age of nineteen.  As an early student with O’Sensei he is reputed to have been amazed that despite his judo training his experience was no match for that of his new and much older master.  Later years were spent in the army where he further developed his skills in the co-ordination of mind and body and a reputation as a lucky person, as he remained unscathed, as did all of his soldiers.

After the war he re-established his role as Chief Instructor, again refining his now formidable skills and successfully seeing of frequent challenges. After several years of as uchi-deshi O’Sensei sent Tohei-Sensei to Hawaii as a means of introducing the art of Aikido to westerners.  This was not well received by some practitioners, as there remained for many years an attitude of secrecy and exclusivity in some quarters. It is the legacy of Tohei-Sensei that an emphasis on the Ki aspect of Aikido has developed, as is currently practiced by the Ki Aikido of Great Britain.

During this period, his practice and teaching style began to differ from that of many other instructors.  This is perhaps most evident in his book on Aikido written in the late 50’s, when compared to that of Kissomaru Ueshiba (O-Sensei’s son) , which were  both favourably received by O-sensei.

Tohei-Sensei’s position as Chief Instructor at the Aikikai Hombu dojo led him to be the only person awarded 10th Dan by O-Sensei being issued with a formal scroll of rank.

After O-Sensei's death, Kisshomaru Ueshiba-Sensei became the second Aikido Doshu, and Tohei-Sensei remained as Chief Instructor.

Tohei-sensei had very clear ideas about the best way of teaching Ki Aikido.  He resigned from the Aikikai and then founded the Shin-shin Toitsu Aikiko, to teach Ki Aikido in accordance with the following principles:

Keep One Point
Relax Completely
Keep Weight Underside
Extend Ki

And principles of Aikido:

Extend Ki
Know your opponents mind
Respect your opponents Ki
Put yourself in the place of your opponent
Perform with confidence

To have any one of these principles is to have all of them.  For example, if you keep one point, you are relaxed.  It therefore follows that the opposite is also true, so if you lose one of the principles, then all are lost. These are the same principles used by the Ki Aikido of Great Britain today.  More recently, Sensei Sturdy has added the word ‘Always’ to the fifth principle of Aikido ‘Perform with confidence’ to give emphasis to these principles being applied to daily life.

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