Kisshomaru Ueshiba, John Stevens, and Kodansha: “Shapers of the Image of Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei,” by Stanley Pranin

“The contents of Kisshomaru’s books on Morihei present a family viewpoint,
and one that reflects the agenda of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo”

An old saying attributed to Winston Churchill is, “History is written by the victors.” I think that most people would agree with the veracity of this observation. Certainly, those who control the flow of information in a particular context will indeed influence, and ultimately arbitrate, public opinion on a given topic.

Kisshomaru Ueshiba (1921-1999)

In the case of aikido and its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, I would say that this axiom certainly holds true. The main sources of information on Morihei Ueshiba in the English language are books written by his son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and American author John Stevens. Both have written a series of books dealing with Morihei and his writings that have been widely distributed in English and translated into several European languages.

A large percentage of these books have been published through the Kodansha Limited Company, Japan’s largest book publisher. Parenthetically, there is a historical relationship between Morihei Ueshiba and Seiji Noma, the founder of Kodansha. As Kodansha ceased its English publishing house in 2011, it is not known if other publishers will pick up the slack in producing books on Japanese martial arts including aikido.

John Stevens

Not surprisingly, the contents of Kisshomaru’s books on Morihei present a family viewpoint, and one that reflects the agenda of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, aikido’s largest organization. Mr. Stevens’ biographical works on Morihei have have been directed towards a popular audience, and have portrayed the Founder in a flattering light as one of the greatest martial artists of all time. Stevens has also translated a number of other books such as Morihei’s 1938 manual Budo, and various spiritual writings attributed to O-Sensei.


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