Rare Photographs of O Sensei Practicing in Western Clothes
I 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, the journal has been fortunate enough to have as contributors some of the most well respected Budo practitioners of that time. Among 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 fascinated 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
When the opponent strikes, immediately grab the handle of the sword with your right hand and strike a sensitive spot (kyusho) on his face.
(Variation) In the instant of the strike, jump on his left left and secure his neck…
…which allows to safely control the opponent.
Facing an opponent armed with a bayonet
When facing an opponent with a bayonet while one is holding a sword…
…raise the sword in a high guard (jodan) above your head and as the opponent gets closer, cut while twisting your body.
It is a shame that photographs cannot capture this admirable body movement.
The art of bayonet (Juken-jutsu)
The art named as Ueshiba-ryu includes an original form of Juken-jutsu.
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)
[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]
Jump towards the left, strike the opponent’s right hand with your right hand and his neck with your left hand.
In the next case, turn towards the left and control by grabbing the opponent’s right hand joint.
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.
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.
In what follows, the precise way to grab and the manner in which to control during the technique is somewhat difficult to explain.
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
Many thanks to Baptiste Tavernier (Kendo World) for providing scans of the original magazine