Stories about O Sensei

Date: Thu, 25 May 1995 09:29:53 -1000
From: Wayne Muromoto <>
Subject: Re: O Sensei

I'd suggest for those looking for anecdotes about Ueshiba, to look at past issues of Aikido Journal. They've probably got a ton of them (unabased and unasked-for plug for AJ :- ] ) as they do a lot of interviews with Ueshiba's direct disciples. There's also a couple in my own current issue #4 of Furyu that Takashi Nonaka of the Ki Society related to me. I'd say the stories heard directly from his disciples are the ones most believable, as the further you get from the source, the bigger the fish.

One anecdote:
The previous head of my jujutsu school, Hayashi sensei, was sitting in a public bath soaking himself when this old geezer stepped into the tub. Hayashi sensei had just finished a budo demonstration that also featured Ueshiba of Aikido but it took him a few seconds to realize that the old guy was the same Ueshiba. To him, he looked like any other ordinary old man, or "tada no ojiisan."

It wasn't meant as a slight, but a simple observation, I think, and one that offers respect but a sort of human-ness to Ueshiba. In spite of it all, he's human, after all, which in a way lends further greatness to him as a flawed human being than as a near-perfect god. If he was human like all of us but reached such greatness in Aikido, we too can aspire to it. But then we're getting involved in beliefs and dogma bordering on religion, huh?

Date: Fri, 16 Jun 1995 10:44:56 +1100
From: Paul Fox-Hughes <>
Subject: Re: grey areas

Geoff Saulnier wrote (a while ago):

>Penultimate question: how do you attack someone who has no perceptible >openings (to your level of skill in perceiving these)? I guess you don't...

Reminds me of an article in the latest Aikido Journal. Shioda Sensei once told this story to the AJ correspondent - and I hope I've remembered it more or less correctly. A friend of Shioda, a martial artist, wanted to meet O Sensei, and was introduced. The friend bowed formally, but O Sensei sat perfectly still. This situation persisted for a couple of seconds, then the friend exclaimed something like "I cannot defeat this man", then bowed very deeply again. This time O Sensei bowed in response. The friend got up and walked away, and Shioda ran after him to find out what had been going on. The friend said that he'd intended to attack O Sensei as he bowed, to test his mettle as a martial artist, but that O Sensei had left him no opening by refusing to bow. When Shioda spoke to O Sensei about the incident, O Sensei said something like "The first time, he didn't bow properly, so I didn't bow, but the second was a sincere bow, so I responded."

Date: Fri, 20 Sep 1996 16:54:13 -0400
From: Christopher Watson <>
Subject: Re: Classic Hombu instruction (WAS Aikikai and others)

In reference to who taught what to whom at the Hombu:

I was but a lad when O Sensei died, and have never been to Hombu. However, it is my understanding, through speaking with Suenaka Sensei, who studied extensively with both O Sensei and Tohei Sensei, that O Sensei's instruction, as has been noted in previous posts, was indeed esoteric. He was more likely to explain the mechanics/dynamics of a technique by saying something like "Unite with the Aiki O'Kami" rather than "Make sure you stay relaxed and move shizentai." Thus, students with specific questions about execution of this technique or that were left to either ask a senior, or just get what they could from observation. Similarly, the seniors were left to rely largely on observation.

This situation brings to mind the parable of the four blind men feeling an elephant for the first time. You've heard it -- one feels the trunk and says it's like a snake, another feels a leg and says it's like a tree, and so on. Everyone comes away with a part of the truth, but not the whole truth, flavored by individual perception, experience and agenda. Hence, the varying styles of Aikido present today.

Parenthetically, it is because of this that Tohei Sensei's contribution to Aikido, regardless of your personal opinion of him (the now infamous AJ article), cannot be underestimated or discounted. As shihan-bucho under O Sensei, he in large part codified and distilled the Founder's teachings into a form the less-enlightened could comprehend.

I'm reminded of a story Suenaka Sensei loves to tell. Once, at Hombu, O Sensei explained a particular technique by saying one needed to "See the Universe," or words to that effect. He then called Suenaka onto the mat to take ukemi, and promptly rattled his brains with a hard throw. "You see?", O Sensei asked the class.

"I see, O Sensei," Suenaka replied. "I see the Universe -- I see stars!"