Aikido is a Japanese martial art that most practitioners translate as “the way of unifying life energy” or “the way of harmonious spirit”. If you’re an aikido practitioner, whether you’re still learning basic aikido techniques or you’ve moved on to the more advanced ones, you’re no doubt familiar with the goal of this martial art. That is, to redirect an attack, protecting both yourself and the attacker from harm. This principle and the lack of offensive techniques are what makes aikido unique among martial arts.
Like other martial arts, though, this discipline has its share of masters, and students are encouraged to study them and what they brought to aikido. Here’s a quick look at some of these top masters of aikido.
Often referred to Osensei (great teacher), Ueshiba was a martial artist and the founder of aikido, which is the origin of his other title of Kaiso (the founder). He studied a number of martial arts when he was younger, served in the army during the Russo-Japanese war, and later set up what would become the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo.
The martial art that would eventually become aikido was a result of Ueshiba’s own studies and spiritual experiences that affected his understanding of martial arts. According to him, the real Way of the Warrior, or budo, is to prevent injuries and destruction, instead focusing on peace, acceptance, and love.
A practitioner who studied under the founder Morihei, Morihiro later started teaching aikido himself, with his practice of martial arts spanning 56 years, ending when he died in 2002.
His style of aikido placed particular emphasis on the basics as well as the relationship between the armed and unarmed aspects of the discipline. He also advocated training to withstand and cope with attacks of other martial arts (e.g. kicks employed by karate practitioners). This emphasis notwithstanding, he was committed to preserving his teacher’s lessons and carrying on the legacy.
Kisshomaru became an international leader of the aikido world after his father Morihei’s death, becoming known as the second doshu – hereditary head or master. He was appointed the head of the Kobukan Dojo (later the Aikikai Hombu), but encountered difficulties in the period just after World War II since barely anyone attended classes.
Despite having to work as an ordinary sarariman (office worker) by day and teaching martial arts only occasionally, Kisshomaru persevered. Eventually, he became a founding member of the Kokusai Budoin (International Martial Arts Federation) and was appointed head of the Aikido Division, tasked with teaching aikido worldwide.
The grandson of Morihei and third (and current) doshu of aikido, Moriteru has not just taught students around the world, but has also written several books on the discipline. In his childhood, no one in his family forced him to train in aikido, leaving him to train when he felt like it. The time came when he was in high school, the driving force behind the decision being a desire to become a successor to his father and help preserve Morihei’s legacy.
One of the most famous aikido teachers in Europe, Tissier was responsible for the discipline being practiced in France. He is one of the few Westerners honoured with the title of Shihan (“Master”).
Born in Lansing, Michigan, Seagal moved to Japan in his late teenage years and eventually became the first non-Japanese sensei (teacher) to run a dojo. He trained under a number of notable aikidoka, including second doshu Kisshomaru, later returning to America in 1983 and setting up a dojo in Burbank, California. His training also led to his work as a martial arts coordinator and actor in West Hollywood, and like Tissier, he is a 7th dan aikido practitioner.
This list above isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive one, but it should be clear that regardless of where you’re from, you can master aikido if you want to. So if you like the sound of a gentle martial art, want to learn how to defend yourself effectively, or just want to improve your lifestyle by becoming fitter, visit this page for more information.