Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba (know as “O Sensei” or “Great Teacher”) around 1930. He formulated this new art after intense study of several other martial arts most notably Daito Ryu Jujutsu, under Sokaku Takeda.
His first teacher was Takisaburo Tozawa of the Kito school of Jujutsu. In 1903 Ueshiba Sensei entered the army and fought in the Russo-Japanese war. He was well known for his fortitude and fighting spirit. He was only 5 feet 2 inches but weighed 180lb. In 1908, at the age of 25 he received a certificate from the Yagyu sword school after studying with master Masakatsu Nakai. In 1916, at the age of 33, he received a certificate from Sokaku Takeda the head of the Daito Ryu school of Jujutsu. Daito Ryu is possibly the school to which Ueshiba’s new art bears the closest relation in it’s unarmed technique. In 1922 he studied Shinkage Ryu Jujutsu and from 1924-5 Sojutsu (spear).
Ueshiba was active in local politics helping to resolve fishing and boundary disputes. In 1910 he led a group of settlers to Hokkaido, the then sparsely populated Northern-most island of Japan. He was later elected to the village council. He was a devoutly religious man having studied Shingon and Zen Buddhism from an early age. He met Onisaburo Deguchi in 1918 and became a follower and close companion of his. In 1924 Ueshiba Sensei travelled to Mongolia with Deguchi with the aim of establishing a community based on the values of his Omoto Kyo religion. The party was captured by Chinese soldiers and narrowly escaped execution. In 1925, following a duel with a naval officer who was an expert swordsman, Ueshiba had a mystical experience. He described it thus: “…. a golden spirit sprang up from the ground, veiled my body, and changed my body into a golden one…. At that moment I was enlightened: the source of Budo is god’s love - the spirit of loving protection for all things.” This incident marked a watershed in the evolution of Ueshiba’s art from a predominantly martial technique to a method with a philosophical foundation.
In 1931, the Kobukan, a permanent dojo (training hall) was built, on the site of the present headquarters in Shinjuku, Tokyo. 1948 saw the founding of the Aikikai, the organisation controlling the practice and teaching of Aikido. During the early 50’s several senior teachers were sent abroad, Mochizuke to France, Tohei to the USA and Yamaguchi to Burma. Since then, under the directorship of Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the founder’s son, Aikido has continued to spread and is practised in many countries throughout the world. The present Headmaster of The Aikikai is Moriteru Ueshiba, the grandson of Morihei Ueshiba. Several of Ueshiba’s prominent students, such as Gozo Shioda, Koichi Tohei and Tomiki went on to found organisations of their own.