Morihei Ueshiba and Aikido – “Divine Techniques”


“Divine Techniques” is a collection of eight short films presenting Morihei Ueshiba’s art in the final years of his life. This video covers the period from 1962 to 1969, year of his passing, and includes O’Sensei’s last public demonstration

Video Contents

  • Introduction (00’00-1’24)
  • 1962 – Iwama Dojo and Aiki Shrine (1’25-18’45)
  • 1964 – Aikikai Hombu Dojo class (18’47-20’33)
  • 1964 – All-Japan Aikido Demonstration (20’34-22’06)
  • 1966 – All-Japan University Aikido Demonstration (22’07-27’35)
  • 1966 – All-Japan Aikido Demonstration
  • 1967 – Kumano Hongu Shrine Demonstration (27’36-31’14)
  • 1967 – Self-Defense Force Demonstration (31’15-32’44)
  • 1969 – Aikikai Hombu Dojo (32’45-33’43)

Introduction

Aikido is not a matter of merely acquiring physical strength or technique. Its founder Morihei Ueshiba conceived of his art as a discipline for purification of the self and as a means for converting the sword into a life-giving instrument.
For Ueshiba O’Sensei, the techniques of Aiki represent an expression of divine will. This is the key to understanding Aikido’s deeper purpose beyond self-defence. In its larger sense, it is a path leading to the merging of man’s spirit with the workings of the universe.
The secret of Aikido lies in uniting ourselves with the universe by purifying ourselves and harmonizing with the movement of the universe. For those who master the secrets of Aikido, the universe lies within. Thus may I say: I who am the Universe.

Part 1: 1962 – Iwama Dojo and Aiki Shrine 

This segment was shot both in the Iwama Dojo and inside the Aiki Shrine. It was realised in 1962 by Mr & Mrs William Nye for a television documentary that was never produced. 
It includes Morihei Ueshiba’s solo misogi kata with a nuboku, a sharpened jo which is supposed to represent the “heavenly-jewelled spear” from the Kojiki story of the creation. The nuboku was often employed by O’Sensei in his final years. There is also extensive footage of both his empty-handed and weapons practice where Ueshiba is assisted by American uchideshi Terry Dobson. Dobson is also filmed while receiving theoretical tuition from the Morihei Ueshiba. 
Terry Dobson (1937-1992) was one of the few Westerns that had the opportunity to study Aikido as a direct student of the founder Morihei Ueshiba. In 1959 he travelled to Japan for work and happened to watch an Aikido demonstration at the American military base in Yokohama. He decided to learn it and a few months after was accepted as an uchideshi at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, where he was a live-in student until 1964. Alongside André Nocquet, at the time Terry Dobson was the only non-Japanese to have been accepted as an uchideshi. He continued to practice at the Hombu Dojo until the death of the founder in 1969. The year after Dobson returned to the US, where he established the Bond Street Dojo in New York City and Vermont Aikido. He also taught seminars around the States and wrote several books on Aikido. 

Part 2: 1964 – Aikikai Hombu Dojo class

Low-quality footage realised in 1964 in the old Aikikai Hombu Dojo building. Having been taken in backlighting, it is of little interest. Morihei Ueshiba’s uke seems to be Seichi Sugano.

Part 3: 1964 – All-Japan Aikido Demonstration

The 1964 edition of the All-Japan Aikido Demonstration was held at Hibiya Kokkaido Hall. Morihei Ueshiba’s uke in the presented footage are Morihiro Saito, Mitsugi Saotome, Terry Dobson and Kazuo Chiba. O’Sensei performs his misogi kata with a nuboku, the sharpened staff from the Kojiki.

Part 4: 1966 – All-Japan University Aikido Demonstration

This footage relates to the 4th Kanto Student Aikido Demonstration, which was held in 1966. Among those taking ukemi for O’Sensei, it is possible to recognize Shizuo Imaizumi and Kenji Shimizu. At one stage, the founder is standing on one leg only while withstanding his assistant’s push. Ueshiba shows a misogi kata using a fan. 

Part 5: 1967 – Kumano Hongu Shrine Demonstration

This clip was taken at a demonstration given in 1967 by Morihei Ueshiba at the Kumano Hongu Shrine. It shows O’Sensei performing a ritual misogi bo kata and movements against ken attacks demonstrated with Michio Hikutsuchi as uke.
Morihei Ueshiba is reported to have said “I am the godsent child of Kumano” and also “Aikido is the manifestation of the Divine Breath of the deities of Kumano“. His connections with the area were very strong: his very first dojo was established in Shingu in 1928. Throughout his life, O’Sensei often visited Shingu, where his main student was Michio Hikitsuchi, the head of the Kumano Juku Dojo. Morihei Ueshiba never failed to pray at Hongu Grand Shrine. 
In 1969, Michio Hikitsuchi unofficially received the rank of 10th dan by Morihei Ueshiba just before his death.

Part 6: 1967 – Self-Defense Force Demonstration

This colour film shot at the Self-Defense Force Aikido Demonstration in 1967, shows the 83 years old Morihei Ueshiba in great form. Among O’Sensei’s assistants can be recognised Seishiro Endo and Minoru Kurita.

Part 7: 1969 – Aikikai Hombu Dojo 

Recorded on the occasion of the Kagami Biraki New Year ceremony at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo on January 15, 1969, this demonstration was Morihei Ueshiba’s last public appearance. The founder soon after fell gravely ill and was then incapacitated until his death on April 26. This colour footage shows O’Sensei, at the time 85 years old, demonstrating with the support of Mitsugi Saotome, Minoru Kurita, Mamoru Suganuma, Ikuo Iimura and Seishiro Endo as uke.

Words of the Founder from the “Divine Techniques” video

“True Budo is the cultivation of a power of attraction capable of absorbing the opponent’s entire being. Therefore it is enough for me to merely stand in this way.
Aikido renders its service by penetrating, breathing and caressing the Ki of the Universe. Aikido serves the path of completion of all things. It is not mere swordplay. Swordplay leads to cold war due to the reverberations produced when bodies come into contact with bodies and things with things.
We must seriously reflect on the history and geography of Japan. There are history books which tell all about the strategies of warfare of Japan. Classics such as the Kojiki discuss these subjects. Although everyone dislikes them, the teachings of our departed imperial ancestors themselves are strategies.
Fighting has long persisted in the world. We have to use the strategy of ki, in other words, the spirit of Aiki. The world up until now has been in a solid state dominated by physical power. The world is now entering a soft phase. My movements are soft in nature. That’s why I throw with ki, even without using my hands. Somehow I lead my partner as my spirit wishes.
Martial arts are not something you do by choosing a form. Techniques differ depending on the particular circumstances”.

“Techniques of Ki, bridled by the spirit! May the Kami of Heaven and Earth guide our acts of purification!”.

“All of the acts of man reveal the subtle workings of kotodama. It is the echoing of sounds which will lead you to an understanding when you truly examine yourself. Aikido, especially, is born amidst the echoing of sounds”. 

“If we look inside and gaze at our bodies with our inward eye, we see that the history of the divine world flows within us. The past and the future are played out in a single lifetime within us. All of the activities within reflect the history of the divine world. This is Aiki.
In a word, the principal object of Aikido is to build a paradise on earth by creating harmony in the world and making friends. Let’s make friends so there will be no enemies. This is the principle of non-resistance. I have everyone listen to my ideas in order to make this a reality. Only when people realize that this old man, Ueshiba, has taught them about Japan’s good points will they express their gratitude and consider me of value”.

“Invite him to approach, a breeze stirs. Slice it through! Polish your spirit immersed in the love of the Kami!“.


Aikido Italia Network is one of the main Aikido and Budo sites in Italy and beyond.
Researching and creating content for this virtual Aiki temple of ours requires a lot of time and resources. If you can, give us your support in the form of a small monthly subscription. It is a very small contribution, but we would accept it with gratitude. If you don’t want to do it, it’s okay. Aikido Italia Network is and will always remain free and we will always be delighted to have you here.
Thanks!
Simone Chierchini, Founder of Aikido Italia Network