O’Sensei Morihei UESHIBA
Iwama style Aikido is the result of the life’s work of O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba (1883–1969). He is known to thousands of students of Aikido throughout the world as O’Sensei (Great Teacher). Iwama, Japan, became the place where he refined his art and built his spiritual dojo.
O’Sensei felt strongly that winning at someone else’s expense was not truly winning. In his search to resolve this conflict, he began a period of intense study, practicing movements, exploring them deeply, and sitting long hours in meditation. The result was the birth of Aikido, an entirely new martial art based on harmonious resolution of conflict in all its varied forms.
The Japanese word ‘Aikido’ consists of three Japanese characters that can be translated as ‘the way of a harmonious spirit’ or as ‘the way of unifying (with) life force energy’. O’Sensei maintained that Aikido is a work of love, a path to overcome discord in ourselves and bring peace to the world, “To make the heart of the universe one's own heart.” O’Sensei taught that true awareness is not grasped by intellect alone, “This is not mere theory”, he said. “You must practise it”.
As a young man, O’Sensei was an extraordinary martial artist; a master of the sword (aiki-ken), the wooden staff (aiki-jo), the spear, as well as the art of ju-jitsu. He developed Aikido when he realized that a true martial art (budo) must go beyond concerns of winning and losing. A true martial art must be a means of personal transformation leading to harmony. The art of budo is a discipline for perfecting the spirit. Aikido is a true form of budo. It has evolved in the historic tradition of the Japanese warrior arts.
Spiritual principles are embodied in the flowing movements of Aikido. Negative force is not met with conflict, rather, it is joined, controlled, and redirected. The practice and study of Aikido deepens one’s appreciation for nature’s balance bringing into harmony with the environment, other people, and oneself.
To train in Aikido is to challenge yourself, to face your fears and overcome your own aggressive instincts. Through serious Aikido training, negative fighting spirit becomes a creative martial spirit, one that can be examined and refined in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
beyond concerns of winning
—O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba
MORIHIRO SAITO SHIHAN
Sensei (teacher of martial arts) Morihiro Saito is known to thousands of students of Aikido throughout the world. Saito Sensei was accepted by O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba as a student. This was the beginning of a very long and close relationship. Early morning classes were devoted to prayer at the Aiki Shrine followed by weapons practice.
During this period, O’Sensei was deeply engrossed in the study of the sword (aiki-ken) and the wooden staff (aiki-jo) and their relationship to empty-handed techniques. Saito Sensei received Ninth Dan, having studied the longest under O’Sensei’s guidance and is the only true Aikido weapons specialist.
Before O’Sensei passed on, he left Saito Sensei in charge of his Iwama dojo (place of martial arts practice) and its grounds. During the 1970s Saito Sensei opened an uchi-deshi (live-in student) system at the dojo. Aikido students from many countries began to visit and stay at the Iwama dojo to study with Saito Sensei. This gave students from all over the world not only an exceptional opportunity to train, but also taught the culture from which these techniques and adherent principles belong.
With Japanese and foreign Aikido practitioners training, working and living together, this was truly a wonderful example of sharing the rich cultural heritage of budo (true martial art), in its traditional form, with the people of the world. Hundreds of students have trained at the Iwama dojo since.
‘Saito Sensei studied under O’Sensei’s guidance’
SENSEI MARK LARSON (TAKUTO)
Sensei Larson is the founder and chief instructor of Minnesota Aiki Shuren Dojo, in Minnesota, USA, a dojo name bestowed upon his dojo directly by the late, great Morihiro Saito Shihan. In 1992, Sensei Larson's Aikido studies took him to Japan for nearly a decade where he experienced living, learning, and training as a live-in/direct student (uchideshi) of Morihiro Saito Shihan at the Founder’s Dojo in Iwama, Japan, the birthplace of Aikido.
Sensei Larson received the highest sword (aiki-ken) and staff (aiki-jo) weapons certification (menkyokaiden) from Morihiro Saito Shihan, and he currently holds a sixth-degree black belt (rokudan) from the World Aikido Federation (Aikikai) Headquarters in Tokyo, Japan. Sensei Larson makes annual trips back to Japan and serves as a technical advisor for a number of Aikido schools in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia, travelling to various US states and countries teaching, disseminating, and preserving Iwama Aikido. For more information, visit aikido-shuren-dojo.com.