Historical photo: Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei and Morihiro Saito at Self-Defense Force demonstration c. 1955 by Stanley Pranin


Here are three rare photos from the personal collection of Morihiro Saito taken c. 1955. Morihei is aged 71 years and Saito Sensei is about 27 years old. Although the exact location is unknown, it appears as though the event is taking place at a Self-Defense Force facility due to the presence of uniformed observers.


Saito Sensei would accompany O-Sensei frequently during this period as his partner for demonstrations. One of the main reasons this was possible was his flexible work schedule. Saito Sensei was an employee of the Japanese National Railways working on a 24-hour on 24-hour off schedule. In this respect, he was unique among Morihei’s senior students in Iwama whose training was constrained by their job commitments.


Also of note is the fact Morihei is demonstrating with the bokken with Saito Sensei as his partner. Well before the advent of the war, Morihei was keenly interested in both the ken and jo and would practice these weapons regularly in Iwama in addition to taijutsu training in the dojo. Saito Sensei had the good fortune of being able to learn the Founder’s weapons techniques on a one-on-one basis during outdoor training. Few of Morihei’s students in Iwama from that era learned this important part of aikido’s curriculum.

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