Teachings of Ueshiba Morihei Sensei

Compiled and edited by Nathan Scott

"Fill yourself with ki and invite your opponent's attack"

Ueshiba Sensei - 38yrs old 

Ueshiba Morihei Sensei, founder of Aikido, has been often quoted and even more often written about by those that study Aikido.However, the choice of material quoted and discussed is almost exclusively in regards to his background or spiritual teachings. The following translations of his writings and lectures from the pre-WWII era are rarely acknowledged or discussed, and as such have been re-printed here to offer a bit of balance and perspective to those currently studying or researching Aikido.

Many of the excerpts are repetitive, and often times reflect the political and social mindset of the time. As such, they should be read with the proper historical context in mind. Some words have been added in brackets or modified to facilitate better understanding of the text:

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pg. 22 - "If you face an enemy who is coming in to attack in this manner [tegatana shomenuchi] and always block with a broad or imposing frame of mind as if enveloping the enemy inside your kokoro, you will be able to tell your enemy's movement in advance [premonition]."

pg. 22 - "When the enemy attacks with fire you defend with water. When you invite your enemy to strike, water should surround you from start to finish and you should move within that water."

pg. 23 - "Moreover, if the human mind once takes charge of water and fire, in accord the principles of 'Water-Fire, Yin-Yang", when your enemy attacks with water, you strike with water, with fire then hit with fire. Today, it is important to train thinking all this in terms of modern scientific warfare."

pg. 26 - "As your Bujutsu training approaches perfection you will be able to detect the [weakness in the enemy's technique], the suki, even before he can, and as if to satisfy some deficiency in him, you can fill the opening [weakness] with your technique."

pg. 26 - "True Budo is practiced not only to destroy an enemy, it must also make him, or his own will, gladly lose his spirit (seishin) to oppose you."

pg. 26 - "True Budo is done for the sake of 'building peace'. Train every day so as to make peace between this spirit [Budo] and all things manifested on the face of the Earth."

pg. 26 - "Above all, a person who trains in Bujutsu should come to understand the principle of 'Ikidoshi' (the flow of life). In Japanese Bujutsu all the teachings of the Universe are spelled out. For example, even when being surrounded by countless spears you should see them as one person as they thrust. It is a mistake to use pillars or trees and shrubs as a shield like the warriors of old. Stand right in front of the advancing enemy with his intention [kokoro] to attack as your shield; enter into the center of the thrusting spears and, utilizing the principle of 'turning the body'[tenkan], break out of their enclosure to safety without any trouble. In this way, even if you are completely surrounded by the enemy, you must move against them from an undefeatable posture (or attitude) based on the principle of Irimi-Tenkan."

pg. 26 - "Fight masses of the enemy as if they were one man, and deal with one enemy as if he were many; this is the way you must do battle. Move in such a way that without openings [suki] you make one principle fit the myriad of possibilities."

pg. 27 - "Like the light that pierces the darkness, you must discipline yourself with ever deepening training [keiko]."

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pg. 27 - "Through the virtue acquired from devoted practice [of Budo], one can perceive the principles of Heaven and Earth. Such techniques originate from the subtle interaction of Water (matter) and Fire (spirit),... (water and fire combined form "iki", life, breath and kami [deity, spirit])."

pg. 31 - "When facing the realm of life and death in the form of an enemy's sword, one must be firmly settled in mind and body, and not at all intimidated; without providing your opponent the slightest opening, control his mind in a flash and move where you will - straight, diagonally, or in any other appropriate direction. Enter deeply, mentally as well as physically, transform your entire body into a true sword, and vanquish your foe. This is Yamato Damashii ("spirit of Japan" - patriotism), the principle behind the divine sword that manifests the soul of [Japan]."

pg. 33 - "...and then pivot on the front foot as quickly as a flash of lightning."

pg. 33 - "Regarding technique, from ancient times it has been said that movements must fly like lightning and attacks must strike like thunder."

pg. 34 - "For example, when surrounded by enemies, you will be able to draw them out to attack in the direction you want, turn in the appropriate manner, and then down them from behind. One must illuminate the border between life and death. Regardless of what may arise, one should be prepared to receive ninety-nine percent of an enemy's attack and stare death in the face in order to illuminate the path."

pg. 34 - "Strike like thunder and fly more quickly than lightning - that is the way you should act."

pg. 34 - "If he attacks with ki, strike back with ki; if he comes with water, strike with water; if he comes with fire, strike with fire. Think about such things and their relationship to modern scientific warfare when you train."

pg. 36 - "When surrounded by a host of enemies think of them as one; when facing a single foe think of him as many. This is the best strategy. Learn how to use the one to strike the ten thousand without offering your opponent the slightest opening [for counter-attack]."

pg. 36 - "Always imagine yourself on the battlefield under the fiercest attack; never forget this crucial element of training."

pg. 39 - "[in regard to kamae (hanmi)] it is essential that your feet should always be open at a sixty-degree angle [the most stable posture]. If you face your opponent full of openings, you will be at a great disadvantage." (initially, the angle formed by the feet appear to be closer to ninety degree's opposed, but during/following execution of a technique point out at a sixty degree angle).

pg. 51 - "Though the virtue of training, understanding of aiki is acquired naturally."

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pg. 38 - ATEMI (Body blow prior to applying technique).

"Atemi accounts for 99% of Aikido was a remark once uttered by the founder. I introduced atemi at some length in Vol. 4. Atemi is virtually omitted in Aikido training on the ground that [a] preliminary blow should not become a matter of predominant concern. However, there are quite a few cases in which the meaning of a technique becomes incomprehensible if the attendant atemi is left out. I suggest therefore that after reading through Vol. 4, study should be made as to when atemi should be delivered in the execution of a technique and cases of it's omission."

pg. 24 - ATEMI - STRIKING (The moment of contact becomes a strike).

"The founder, Ueshiba Sensei, said, In a real battle, atemi is seventy percent, technique is thirty percent. The training that we do in the dojo is designed to teach us various sorts of techniques, the correct way to move our body, effective ways of using our power, and how to create a relationship with the other person." [This quote is repeated on page 19 of "Aikido Shugyo", also by Shioda Gozo].