Interview with Morihei Ueshiba published in Shukan Yomiuri in 1956

“Cutting people means being defeated by the world. Those who
are cut are losers, too. Both are losers in that type of practice”

Morihei Ueshiba, Founder of Aikido, c. 1965

The following interview was published in the “Shukan Yomiuri” newspaper on May 27, 1956, and is published with the kind permission of the Yomiuri Shimbun Company. O-Sensei was at the time 72 years of age.

Interviewer: Aikido is increasing in popularity, isn’t it?

Ueshiba Sensei: It is all due to you and people like yourself, Sir.

No. No.

Yes, it’s all thanks to your support.

You are good at making compliments, not Aikido!  I wonder how old you are?

I have forgotten my age… I was born in 1883, but I tell people I’m 25 years old. Please keep that in mind. (Laughter)

You are the same age I am then! (Laughter) They say that people stop growing physically at about age 25.

I didn’t stop growing. I grew until I was 55 years old. I became taller, too. I was my strongest when I was 50. I didn’t have much strength when I was in my twenties until the age of 32 or 33.

How about your skill in martial arts?

I get better with age.

It’s strange though. You kept growing taller until you were 50 years old!

Take it any way you please. (Laughter) If I emphasize that too much, I will be criticized.

You must be joking! You’re a difficult one to talk with!

Well, Sir, you and people like yourself know well about what’s going on in the world, and so we, the people, follow you. By the way, it is the martial arts which lead us to the way of harmony. Anything which strays from the path of harmony is useless. I believe that the martial ways of our nation will only last in the presence of harmony. “The beautiful form of heaven and earth is a manifestation of a single family created by the Kami.”

We should become a single family spiritually and make an effort to improve the nation of Japan. We have to try to achieve harmony at least here in Japan. We should become good friends with one another, all taking care of each other. The foundations of this harmony is Aikido. It is this Aikido which is the true budo. Budo used to be used for military rule or by feudal lords in battles for dominance among clans. I want to get away from that hostile world.

Your talk on Aikido philosophy started suddenly, didn’t it?

Democracy means the principle of nonresistance. True Japanese budo is the principle of nonresistance.

But unless you resist, it isn’t budo. That is why I don’t like it.

You’re talking about budo used for military rule. Kendo and Judo are said to be Japanese budo, but they are concerned with winning, aren’t they? Since Aikido pursues harmony, it is different from those arts.

So you throw your partner saying, “Be friends with me!”, don’t you?

How can I reply when someone like you says such things?

Please forgive me if I said something to offend you. I am the one in favor of military rule, you know! (Laughter)

When an opponent comes to attack you, you just move your body slightly to avoid his attack, and let him go wherever he wants. This is Aiki. In other words, you give him freedom.

I see there are many ways of expressing this idea, aren’t there?

Ueshiba I am not just explaining it that way. It’s really true!

Is the sword used in Aikido?

Yes, it is. A sword is opposing mirrors (awasekagami) of Heaven. It represents an act of celebration.

Now I’ve started to get lost! (Laughter) I personally think that a sword is nothing but a weapon to kill people. Therefore, I feel only sympathy towards those who look at blades in all seriousness and think how foolish they are.

Swords are dangerous. One shouldn’t play with dangerous things. Think of the world for once. The world is a site of religious worship (saijo) given to us. Therefore, we worship the path of Heaven and apply the rules of Heaven to the earth, and conduct the affairs of state according to the way of harmony. There is no war in Heaven, is there? Those dwelling there have lived in harmony for tens of thousands of years, haven’t they? If the earth is ours, we should celebrate this bounty and make friends of one another.

The sword is not good for making friends. I have a feeling that we will fare better if we make friends without swords.

The sword you are talking about is different from mine.

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