Video: Morihei Ueshiba — “Channeling the Power of the Gods,” by Stanley Pranin

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“Many of the old-timers spoke of some kind of extraordinary power
that O-Sensei possessed beyond the dimension of physical strength.”

I began collecting films of the Founder Morihei Ueshiba at a young age, probably about 18 or 19, when my first teacher Isao Takahashi lent me a copy of the 1953 film taken in Wakayama Preference. It was very enjoyable watching this powerful, old man throw around much younger students with ease.

More than anything else, it was a curiosity, an item of interest to be shown on special occasions. Our model at that time was Koichi Tohei Sensei, and our teachers modeled themselves after him

Over the years, I collected a few more films, and began translating articles about the Founder’s life from the Japanese. Then later, I moved to Japan and started interviewing O-Sensei’s students one by one. Little by little, I got a clearer picture of how the Founder’s aikido was, and what made it so special.

Many of the old-timers spoke of some kind of extraordinary power that O-Sensei possessed beyond the dimension of physical strength. Some said that it seemed as though the Founder were enveloped by some kind of impenetrable energy barrier. They said his body was as hard as steel, and that they were defeated before they could physically attack.

The Founder couched his explanations in religious metaphor, and stated that his extraordinary abilities sprung from a universal source. He spoke of channeling the powers of the kami, or deities.

Have a look at this brief video clip to get a glimpse of what I am referring to here.

Duration: 1:07

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This sort of claim mystified his students who had no idea what he was talking about. Those who dismissed the Founder’s beliefs as the source of his superhuman powers fell back on technique-based aikido, minus the spiritual dimension that O-Sensei spoke of. Thus, the influential figures in the Aikikai sphere were Koichi Tohei, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and several of the senior instructors such as Kisaburo Osawa, Seigo Yamaguchi, and Morihiro Saito.

Because of the many years we have dedicated to the research of the life and martial art of Morihei Ueshiba, and the many written, photographic, and film documents we have discovered, I feel it is now possible to reconstruct and revive the Founder’s art to a certain extent.

Obviously, we are observers far removed from the events that shaped aikido history, and approaching the subject more than four decades after the passing of Morihei Ueshiba. That being said, there are many advanced practitioners today all over the world. Such individuals have far more experience that some of the aikido greats we revere today did early in their careers. This is in large part due to their enormous contributions.

What I am suggesting is that these advanced practitioners and teachers today should take a long, hard look at the aikido of Morihei Ueshiba. Examine photos of the Founder, read his doka and dobun, analyze his films frame by frame. These are materials that are now accessible to everyone. Don’t dismiss the spiritual dimension of Morihei’s aikido out of hand as unfathomable or irrelevant. This, coupled with decades of dedicated training and meditation, gave birth to the art we practice today.

I will be revisiting this theme again and again because I’m determined not to let the Founder become relegated to the dust-bin of history!

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The Morihei Ueshiba Founder’s Course is O-Sensei’s video legacy starting in 1935 and covering a span of 34 years until just before his passing in 1969. Besides the more than 30 films of the Founder, the course includes three rare audio interviews of O-Sensei with complete subtitles. These are wonderfully intimate conversations with the Founder that convey his bright personality, playfulness and sincerity. In addition, the course includes a series of video documentaries by Stanley Pranin on the life of the Founder and the spread of his art worldwide.

Comments

  1. JasonCasteel says:

    nice, is this clip part of a longer one to be found elsewhere?

    • I’m pretty sure this is all there is to the O-Sensei part. There are a few seconds of a woman applying a self-defense technique that we did not include. There are very few films of the Founder from this period.

  2. Brian George says:

    Keep these coming Stan I long for as many of the old footage as you can possibly give us. There is so much to be learnt in them if we just keep an open mind and look deeper.

    Brian George

  3. Jennifer Paige Smith says:

    I’d like to better understand the correlation between the last two sentences of the first paragraph. In part, it say’s, minus the spiritual dimension that O-Sensei spoke of. Thus, the influential figures in the Aikikai sphere were Koichi Tohei, Kisshomaru”..etc.. I don’t understand if you are positing that these teachers taught technique minus a spiritual dimension or whether these were the teachers who embraced those spiritual aspirations. I have my own idea about what this. What were you saying? I believe it’s a language use issue. Would you be so kind?

    Thanks again for the great resource.

    • Jennifer, the Aikikai figures mentioned did not teach the art using the terminology or cosmology stressed by the Founder in his teachings. Therefore, this aspect of the art of the Founder was not taught in the postwar era and has become a relic of the past.

  4. Robert Pruitt says:

    I feel blessed to be a part of this. Perhaps I will get a real subscription.

  5. scott santarpio says:

    Would it be possible to say that the founders art could not be passed on in one person alone? That we should look at certain sensei as responsible for passing along or emphasizing different aspects of the art? For example; Morihiro Saito, definitely the technical, Koichi Tohei, took the aspects of KI, It’s importance even healing ideas of Ki, Kanshu Sunadomari & Noriaki Inoue the spiritual? Just a few to make the point.

    As we move from Kihon into Ki No Nagare through to Takemusu Aiki. Kihon include Oyowaza, Henkawaza and kaeshiwaza mixed into or with Ki No Nagare. Remember Saito sensei said often in the lost seminars DVD’s that “Ki No Nagre was for sandan and above” but I feel in order to advance from this to Takamusu Aiki one MUST add in the Spiritual dimension. Like misogi, kotodama, prayer or chants…….

    I would love to explore this further.
    Humbly,
    Scott

    • I think O-Sensei was one of a kind. Different students at different points of time were exposed to part of Morihei’s aikido. Few of them attempted to emulate his life style or religious practices. Even if they did, the postwar period was totally different from the prewar era. Before the war, there was a tremendous amount of tension in society which crushed some people’s spirit and brought out the best in others.

  6. scott santarpio says:

    If Aikido is truly a “Do or way” then it must be possible for others to reach the level of O-sensei.

    Editor
    “I think O-Sensei was one of a kind. Different students at different points of time were exposed to part of Morihei’s aikido. Few of them attempted to emulate his life style or religious practices. Even if they did, the postwar period was totally different from the prewar era.”

    Scott,
    So if Aikido is truly a “way” of libration or enlightenment, what difference would the prewar & postwar era make other than the process O-sensei went threw in evolving old style martial art to a ” Do “. True that those periods of development and refinement were important to say the least. When Aiki budo finally emerged as Aikido it was a ” Do or way” or to use a different word a yoga. If one only dose the yoga asanas or postures and leaves out the other spokes or aspects of the wheel, one is left with a good work out but not a “way “. So the problem is figuring out which sensei were exposed to the various parts of Morihei’s aikido and put them together. I once read a quote supposedly by O-sensei ” everyone says to me they are following my pathb but when I look behind me I do not see anyone following me”.

    • Scott,

      My whole thesis here is that the Founder got it right. He was the complete package. We don’t have information about him or his technique in the way we do for say, Koichi Tohei, Morihiro Saito, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, etc. We have to work a lot harder to understand his technique and mind. But it is possible to understand in what ways he was different ,and the essential elements of his aikido through studying his films, photos, and things like the doka and dobun. As the Founder, he should not be neglected which is, I think, the state of affairs now. He should be taken very seriously even though he was an eccentric and very unorthodox in his ways.

  7. Thank you very much, Pranin Sensei! I really hope I can count on you and your studies so I can improve my understanding of the art in all possible ways. Thank you! Wish you well!

  8. I find it interesting that someone mentioned Yoga because the Yoga postures we all do in modern Yoga are really not part of Yoga as outlined in Patanjali’s sutras, which is the basis of Yoga. There are actually no postures listed in the Yoga sutras and “asana” simply means “to sit”. So in that way both Yoga and Aikido practitioners today may not be doing the real thing.

  9. RogerOrcutt says:

    Ive been Practicing Kototama for some time now and know1 of the secrets of Osensei. SU is how Aikido was born.

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