“Memoir of the Master,” by Morihei Ueshiba with commentary by Stanley Pranin

“I want considerate people to listen to the voice of Aikido. It is
not for correcting others; it is for correcting your own mind”

One of the first aikido books published in English appeared in 1963. It was authored by Morihei Ueshiba’s son, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, who later became the Second Doshu. This book contained a short section titled “Memoir of the Master.” It is a collection of aphorisms attributed to Morihei that encapsulates the essence and principles of Aikido.

The text of “Memoir of the Master” was very influential among early aikidoka, being widely disseminated in the aikido community, and translated into many different languages. I recall a small printed booklet available in some aikido dojos that contained the “Memoir of the Master” text. Like my fellow practitioners, I read these maxims over and over again. They formed the basis of my early understanding of the philosophical principles underlying aikido.

I ran across the text again recently and slowly re-read the passages. Now, nearly 50 years later, I find that the impact of “Memoir of the Master” has not been diminished with time. With a lifetime of experiences behind me, I have a different level of understanding, but remain in total awe of the innovative thinking of the Founder.

I would like to share these wonderful passages to readers who may be encountering them for the first time. I have added some thoughts of my own which appear italicized in the text.

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As ai (harmony) is common with ai (love), I decided to name my unique budo “Aikido,” although the word “aiki” is an old one. The word which was used by the warriors in the past is fundamentally different from that of mine.

Although Morihei did not actually choose the name “Aikido,” he embraced its use after the name was selected. He would refer to his art mostly as “Aiki” in conversation. The key distinction here is that Morihei was using the term in a different sense than that employed historically in a martial arts context. The older meaning of “aiki” relates to tactical matters of neutralizing and controling an opponent. Morihei expands the meaning of “aiki” to include a loving and harmonious mindset in applying Aikido’s techniques. This is an innovative concept.

Aiki is not a technique to fight with or defeat the enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family.


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