Aikido and Weapons: The Last Word? by Stanley Pranin

“Let us be clear: the study and practice of weapons
was a long-term passion of the Founder.”

From Aikido Journal #108 (1996)

The debate about whether aikido should include weapons training is a long-standing one and we have frequently offered a forum to proponents of both sides of the issue in the pages of Aikido Journal. I have both observed and been a participant in these discussions and would like to bring up a few points which I don’t recall having seen mentioned elsewhere.

First of all, I think a reasonable starting point would be to review where Morihei Ueshiba stood on the subject of weapons. Without engaging in a lengthy historical assessment of this subject, let me simply point out a few facts. As we have documented exhaustively over the past ten years, the major technical influence on aikido is Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. Ueshiba’s teacher, Sokaku Takeda, was a master swordsman and weapons expert who spent many of his formative years studying a variety of weapons. Takeda only settled on jujutsu techniques as the main component of his martial arts instruction in deference to the times, when the carrying of swords was prohibited by law. Takeda’s bujutsu was comprehensive in nature and can in no way be considered to have been limited solely to jujutsu techniques. Daito-ryu technique is built on the principles of the sword.

Another fact: from 1942 through at least the end of the 1950s, Morihei Ueshiba spent a great deal of time at his country dojo in Iwama experimenting with the aiki ken and jo. One of his main students at that time, Morihiro Saito, was a first-hand witness to this process and the body of knowledge that remains from that effort on the part of the founder can be seen in Saito Sensei’s aikido today.

One of the criticisms voiced against the above observation goes something along these lines: “O-Sensei was merely dabbling in the area of weapons and never really developed this aspect of training into a finished discipline like his taijutsu or empty-handed techniques.” The problem with this view is that the period of time involved amounts to nearly twenty years. This certainly would be enough time for a skilled martial artist like Ueshiba to integrate such a body of technical knowledge into his training. Remember, too, that as early as 1937 the founder took active steps to expose himself to the weapons-based classical art of Kashima Shinto-ryu at his Kobukan Dojo. His blood-oath even appears in the enrollment records of that school!

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