In every aikido dojo (school) one can observe the students bowing respectfully to a picture of an elderly gentleman with a wispy white beard and sparkling eyes: Master Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, known to his students as O Sensei – Great Teacher. I was fortunate enough to study directly under O Sensei before I was sent to the United States. He was not only a great martial artist, but a warm and compassionate human being. I believe it is one of our goals in studying aikido to emulate as much as possible his admirable characteristics. From an early age he applied himself to the discipline of Japan’s martial arts, known as budo. The discoveries and experiments that led him to develop aikido were based on a thoroughly expert foundation in the ways of the fighting arts. Mirroring his appetite for martial knowledge was the depth of his spiritual exploration. He searched within himself to justify the validity of pursuing a course of life based upon the defeat of others. Such victories are relative and meaningless; there will always be someone bigger and stronger, so defeat is inevitable. Each person is bound by his or her physical capabilities, but the potential for unlimited resources lies within the inner person. O Sensei understood that the real battle of life is to overcome the qualities of pettiness, ambition and selfishness that keep our full potential from blossoming. He came to believe that the martial arts were to be used to purge one’s character of these undesirable traits and ultimately gain control of our selves both physically and spiritually. Therein would lie true strength. From this perspective, O Sensei developed the arts of aikido.The goals of aikido are there for all to achieve. To become an integrated and balanced individual and explore our full human potential. It is obviously a lifetime pursuit.
Yoshimitsu Yamada, 8th Dan, Chief Instructor of The New York Aikikai
Adapted from “The New Aikido Complete” by Yoshimitsu Yamada and Steven Pimsler.