Rare photographs of O Sensei practicing in Western clothes

Ueshiba Morihei holding a bayonetI have recently become aware of an ensemble of pictures that were published in Shin Budo magazine along with some technical directions. What is truly remarkable about this set is that it presents a rare occurrence of Ueshiba Sensei and his uke wearing Western clothes. Therefore, in the aim of both presenting rare images, and for the valuable insight that this document gives us on the practice of O Sensei during this key transitory period, I have decided to translate these instructions and present them here.

Shin Budo magazine, as its name suggests, was a publication devoted the the new forms of Budo. It enjoyed a brief period of activity during the years of the Pacific War. In its short life, journal has been fortunate enough to have as contributors some of the most well respected Budo practitioners of that time. Amongst these exceptional individuals was Takuma Hisa Sensei, the instructor who gave his name to the Takumakai, one of the largest Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu study groups in Japan. Takuma Hisa, who had been a student of both Ueshiba Morihei Sensei and Takeda Sokaku Sensei wrote a rather interesting article for the magazine introducing both his teachers, as well as the discipline that he coined as Daito-ryu Aiki-budo. The full English translation of that article is available on Aikido Journal.

What interests us today is the fact that it is this introduction to the practice of Ueshiba Morihei that probably prompted the editors of Shin Budo to follow up with a technical article describing the practice of Ueshiba, both empty-handed and using weapons.

This article and its numerous photographs offer several points of interest. The fact that the protagonists are wearing Western clothes allows to observe the footwork more precisely than if they had been wearing hakama, in particular in terms of Ueshiba Sensei's posture during the various kamae.

Another revealing fact of the significance of this article is that it is after reading this particular article that an 11 years-old Arikawa Sadateru became facinated by the character of Ueshiba Morihei, to the point of becoming his student a few years later, and subsequently one of the most prestigious instructors of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

Facing an opponent armed with a sword

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

When the opponent strikes, immeditately grab the handle of the sword with your right hand and strike a sensitive spot (kyusho) on his face.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

(Variation) In the instant of the strike, jump on his left left and secure his neck...

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

...which allows to safely control the opponent.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

Facing an opponent armed with a bayonet

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

When facing an opponent with a bayonet while one is holding a sword...

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

...raise the sword in a high guard (jodan) above your head and as  the opponent gets closer, cut while twisting your body.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

It is a shame that photographs cannot capture this admirable body movement.

The art of bayonet (Juken-jutsu)

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

The art named as Ueshiba-ryu includes an original form of Juken-jutsu.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

The skill of Ueshiba Sensei in the art of the spear (Sojutsu) is illustrated by the very prompt way in which he manages to redirect the tip of his weapon towards the throat of his partner.

Facing an empty-handed opponent (Taijutsu)

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

[Translator's note: The comment that goes with this picture was missing but it seems that the partner is either striking directly, or attempting a lapel grab]

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

Jump towards the left, strike the opponent's right hand with your right hand and his neck with your left hand.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

In the next case, turn towards the left and control by grabbing the opponent's right hand joint.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

With your right hand towards the face of the partner, grab his right hand's palm with your left hand. Engage your right leg to instantly unbalance the opponent.

Variation technique

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

In the same situation as described above, pivot towards the right and grab his left hand. The opponent is then subjected to an unbearable pain.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

In what follows, the precise way to grab and the manner in which to control during the technique is somewhat difficult to explain.

Morihei Ueshiba demonstrating Aikibudo in techniques

Another interesting point is the resolutely "modern" aspect of this this early, pre-Aikido art. I find that the techniques as they are demonstrated here are indeed very close to the forms that I was lucky enough to learn from several teachers. I had already had that same impression when i saw for the first time the 1935 film "Budo". Of course, I do not have the pretension to suggest that my practice is identical to that of the founder, but I find it reassuring to see a clear technical filiation in the transmission of this discipline.

It is also quite interesting to pay attention to the sentence "the precise way to grab and the manner in which to control during tho technique is somewhat difficult to explain", as it suggests that some "hidden", or "secret" elements are present but are not to be unveiled to the general public.

Article originally published in French on Budoshugyosha

About the author
Eric Grousilliat
Author: Eric GrousilliatWebsite: http://budoshugyosha.over-blog.com/
Biography
Eric Grousilliat is a long time student of the late Tamura Nobuyoshi Sensei who emigrated to Japan in order to deepen his knowledge of Budo. After a period studying at the Tendo ryu with Shimizu Sensei, he decided to focus his study on the Iwama style, practicing regularly at a dojo in Tokyo affiliated to Saito Hitohira Sensei's group. Eric also regularly complements his Aikido practice with the study of Akuzawa Sensei's Aunkai, as well as Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutu whithin the Takumakai.

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