Morihiro Saito: “I saw nothing
but the real thing for 23 years!”

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“I don’t really know anything other than the Iwama style
taught by O-Sensei. My role is to preserve these teachings.”

An Aikido Journal reader named Marius was kind enough to compile a list of quotations of Morihiro Saito in response to Stanley Pranin’s article titled “The Iwama Aikido Conundrum.” Many of these quotes from Saito Sensei have appeared in Aikido Journal’s published interviews where he clearly explains what and how he was taught by Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei, and his personal contributions in the form of devising a technical methodology to preserve O-Sensei’s technical curriculum. Taken together these comments shed a great deal of light on this fascinating subject. Here they are:

“I don’t know any aikido other than O-Sensei’s.”

“Many shihan create new techniques and I think this is a wonderful thing, but after analyzing these techniques I am still convinced no one can surpass O-Sensei. I think it is best to follow the forms he left us.These days people are inclined to go their own way, but as long as I am involved, I will continue to do the techniques and forms O-Sensei left us.”

“It is a big mistake to think that there is no ki no nagare practiced at Iwama. The ki no nagare techniques of Iwama are executed faithfully as O-Sensei taught them. People tend to train in a jerky way. And when people do soft training they do it in a lifeless way. Soft movements should be filled with the strongest “ki.” People can’t grasp the meaning of hard and soft because they didn’t have contact with O-Sensei.”

“The aikido world is gradually distancing itself from O-Sensei’s techniques. However, if the technique of aikido become weak it’s not a good thing, because aikido is a martial art. My practice of aikido is always traditional, the old-style way. Now I am looking after my Sensei’s dojo. Also, I am guardian of the Aiki Shrine, the only one in the world. Many teachers create their own techniques, but I can’t do that, I’ve got a hard head! I’m following exactly the teachings of my Sensei.”

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“O-Sensei taught us two, three or four levels of techniques. He would begin with kata, then one level after another, and finally, it became just so… and now I teach in exactly the same way. Because O-Sensei taught us systematically I’ve got to teach in an organized way, too. Generally speaking, O-Sensei would make remarks like the following: “Everything is one. Everything is the same.” He taught us in that way. I’m just following his example.”

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“When O-Sensei explained Aikido he always said that taijutsu (body techniques) and ken and jo techniques were all the same. He always started out his explanation of Aikido using the ken. Although he didn’t use a one-two-three method, he always taught us patiently and explained in detail what we should do.”

“O-Sensei also drilled us in a step-by-step manner. I am simply trying to make this method my own through hard study and to have others understand it. As I follow O-Sensei’s instructions my students are appreciative.”

“O-Sensei would say: “That’s not the way. Every little detail should be correct. Otherwise, it isn’t a technique. See, like this… like that!” I was very lucky O-Sensei taught me thoroughly in detail, and I’m following his example.”


“When I starting teaching myself I realized O-Sensei’s way of teaching would not be appropriate so I classified and arranged his jo techniques. I rearranged everything into 20 basic movements I called “suburi” which included tsuki (thrusting), uchikomi (striking), hassogaeshi (figure-eight movements), and so on so it would be easier for students to practice them.I was taught first how to swing a sword. I organized what I learned and devised these kumijo and suburi for the sword. O-Sensei’s method may have been good for private lessons, but not for teaching groups. In his method, there were no names for techniques, no words. This was why I organized the movements into tsuki (thrusts), uchikomi (strikes) and kaeshi (turning movements) and gave them names.”

“I saw nothing but the real thing for 23 years. I don’t really know anything other than the Iwama style taught by O-Sensei. My role is to preserve these teachings. That’s the main thing.”

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Comments

  1. Charles Warren says:

    …and there are details inside details. How many numbers between zero and one? How many sides must a polygon have before you can’t tell it from a circle? I think that’s what keeps me going. I learned shooting pretty quickly. My marksmanship isn’t Olympic quality, but refining it further isn’t very interesting. So I don’t shoot that much. Perhaps the level of interest is related to how much of the body is involved and whether that involvement involves motion. Arguably shooting involves the whole body, but in the sense of setting up a stable platform. I’ve never been that good with shotgun. As that involves the body in motion, maybe that would be something I could work on and enjoy. But I can practice aikido while waiting for the train without upsetting anybody… ;-)

  2. JoeWilliams says:

    Very nice article.

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