Morihei Ueshiba’s Budo Manual (1938): Saito Sensei’s Video Version

Anyone who has attended a Morihiro Saito Sensei seminar will remember how the master often referred to a small illustrated manual written by Morihei Ueshiba. He would open this booklet to the page pertaining to the technique he was explaining, walk past each pupil to show it to them and repeat: ‘O’Sensei. O’Sensei”, as if to validate his technical explanation with the seal and approval of the supreme authority: Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido [1].

The manual that Saito constantly consulted and held in such high regard, because it presents a historical overview of the Founder’s Aikido techniques from the early 1930s up to and including the Iwama period after the end of World War II, is Budo [1]. Budo was published privately by Ueshiba as a limited edition and had never been distributed through any commercial outlets. In fact, in the publication note at the end of the book, the indication ‘Not for sale’ appears in bold type. From anecdotal information we know that only a few hundred copies were printed [1].

Originally the book was produced for Prince Kaya Tsunenori, one of the founder’s most prestigious pupils at the time, as Kisshomaru Ueshiba testified in 1988: “Budo was published as a textbook when my father was teaching Prince Kaya. Because of this, a staff officer came to take pictures. My father did not give this book as a licence, but presented it to those intellectuals who practised very hard at the dojo and to those by whom he was helped in his daily life” [1].

“Budo” by Morihei Ueshiba

However, the manual remained in oblivion for about 50 years, only to be rediscovered by chance by Stanley Pranin during an interview with pre-war Aikido pioneer Zenzaburo Akazawa, who had shown Pranin a copy on that occasion (July 1981) [1].

This was Stanley Pranin’s reaction to the discovery: “As I slowly scrolled through the pages of the manual, I was astonished to discover that the execution of several techniques such as ikkyo, iriminage and shihonage was virtually identical to what I had learned in Iwama under Saito Sensei. Here was the Founder himself demonstrating what I had, until then, considered the techniques of the Iwama style’ [2].

Pranin, who had studied with Morihiro Saito in Iwama since 1977, immediately recognised the significance of what he had in front of him and felt he had to share it with Saito sensei as soon as possible: “Mr Akazawa kindly lent me the manual and I ran to show it to Saito Sensei. I will always remember the scene when I knocked on Sensei’s door to share my discovery with him. To my surprise, he told me that he had never seen or heard of that manual before. He put on his reading glasses and leafed through the manual while his eyes carefully examined the sequences of techniques. At that moment I could not refrain from apologising to him for doubting his claim that he was making every possible effort to preserve the founder’s techniques intact. Saito Sensei laughed and, evidently with great satisfaction, erupted: “See? I told you so!” From then on Saito Sensei always went to his seminars with a copy of Budo to use as evidence to show that a particular technique originated from the Founder’s teachings” [2].

Morihiro Saito showing “Budo” during a seminar

Where did the pictures in Morihei Ueshiba’s legendary Budo come from? Kiyoshi Nakakura, the founder’s adopted son and heir, as well as his son-in-law, had introduced Ueshiba to a good friend of his, Hisashi Noma, who had taken up with the Kobukan. Noma was a young up-and-coming kendoka of the time, a former member of the Yushinkan Dojo. He was also the son of Seiji Noma, the founder of Kodansha, the publishing house that would later print most of the Aikido best sellers [3]. Hisashi expressed interest in photographing Morihei’s innovative Aikibudo techniques and in 1936 a photo shoot was organised in Noma’s private dojo, producing 1100 photographs. Shigemi Yonekawa, Gozo Shioda and Kisshomaru Ueshiba acted as uke for Ueshiba, then 52 years old. A selection of these shots was used in ‘Budo’ [3].

In this extraordinary programme, Morihiro Saito Sensei reads and demonstrates the fifty techniques presented in Budo, including taijutsu, aiki ken and jo, spear and bayonet exercises. The Founder’s art, as fixed in this work, is closely related to the Iwama Takemusu Aiki period immediately following the end of World War II. This video documentation constitutes an invaluable documentary heritage for Aikido enthusiasts as it shows authentic pre-war Aikido techniques as they were created by its Founder, demonstrated by one of his most important students.


[1] Saito Morihiro, Takemusu Aikido – Vol. 6: Budo Special Edition – Commentary on Morihei Ueshiba’s 1938 Training Manual, Edizioni Mediterranee, 2011

[2] Pranin Stanley, Is O’Sensei Really the Father of Modern Aikido?, Aikido Italia Network, 2011

André Cognard: Living Without Enemy
The Ran Network – The Budo Classics #1

In this philosophical essay steeped in body practice, Aikido teacher André Cognard discusses Eastern traditional martial arts by exploring his own history, perceptions and emotions.
Cognard dwells in particular on the areas concerning the relationship with others and the conflicts that inevitably arise with them. In a direct and effective way, the author does not present us with “the object of a sudden revelation, but rather the fruit of a slow evolutionary process due to a laborious, humble practice, studded with failed attempts and repeated with a doggedness that sometimes defies reason”.

André Cognard tells us that “Living Without Enemy” is possible and that the way to reach such a state through martial arts is through the awareness that they have evolved and continue to do so.

André Cognard analyses conflict, present and past violence, the inner enemy, bodily identity, friends, enemies, and hatred. Explaining the pivotal words in martial arts, he offers us a decalogue for learning to serve and be free, to respect, acknowledge, accept, thank and love.

The author explains how essential is the concept of transforming energies within oneself: anger, anxiety, fear can indeed be fully mastered and lead to new and potentially enriching circumstances. It is therefore necessary to know how to work on oneself: this book effectively shows how to manage our fears of the unknown. Because our first enemy is within ourselves!


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