An analysis of the 1935 film “Budo” Featuring Morihei Ueshiba by Phil Davison


The 1935 film of Morihei Ueshiba is an unusual and significant document.. At the time it was made, shooting film was very expensive and not something undertaken casually. For this reason, there is very little filmed record of martial arts from the earlier years of the 20th century. Moreover Ueshiba’s art was also documented in the books Budo Renshu (1933) and Budo (1938), as well as a series of photographs taken at the Noma dojo in 1935. All of these materials were made for different purposes, and reflect different aspects of Ueshiba’s art. Each of these resources shows us a different side to the development of Aikido, and the way Ueshiba practiced and taught in the 1930s.

Scene from 1935 film “Budo”

The purpose of this essay is to look at the 1935 film in detail, and to analyse it by comparing it to the other published materials by Ueshiba, and by materials relating to Daito Ryu. I do not have access to any information on the film other than that which is readily available, but I do have many years of professional experience of analysing film as an editor and teacher of filmmaking.


The film was shot at the Asahi News offices in Osaka. At the time, Ueshiba had been hired to teach the security personnel, led by the general manager of the Osaka office, Takuma Hisa. Stanley Pranin identifies the two main uke as Shigemi Yonekawa (1910 – 2005) and Tsutomu Yukawa (1911 – 42). Yonekawa is also the uke in the series of photographs taken at the Noma dojo in1935.


Prominent in the centre of the back of the set is a large Japanese flag, perhaps reflecting the nationalist sentiment of the times. To the left and right of the flag are large banners that carry the newspaper’s name. The banners obscure two large doors in the rear wall. There is a chair at the edge of the mat to the right. In other words, the dojo appears to be an improvised training space in an office building.


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