Now called O’Sensei (“Great Teacher”), founded the martial art known today as Aikido. In early twentieth-century Japan, involvement in the martial arts was a competitive and dangerous business. Contests, feuds, and rivalries often resulted in injuries and even deaths. The formulation of Aikido dates from an incident that occured in 1925.
In the course of a discussion about martial arts, a disagreement arose between O’Sensei and a naval officer who was a fencing instructor. The officer challenged O’Sensei to a match, and attacked with a wooden sword. O’Sensei faced the officer unarmed, and won the match by evading blows until his attacker dropped from exhaustion. He later recalled that he could see his opponent’s moves before they were executed, and that this was the beginning of his enlightenment. He had defeated an armed attacker without hurting him – without even touching him. O’Sensei continued to practice and teach Aikido into his old age.
Observers would marvel at his martial abilities, vitality, and good humor; he was still giving public demonstrations of Aikido at age eighty-six, four months before his death. After he passed away on April 26, 1969, the Japanese government declared Morihei Ueshiba a Sacred National Treasure of Japan. To learn more about the fascinating life of O’Sensei and the development of Aikido, please visit Aikido Journal and AikiWeb.