Morihei Ueshiba was born on 14th of December 1883 in Wakayama, in a family with 5 children. From his father he inherited the samurai determination and the interest for politics and from his mother the passion for religion, poetry and arts. In his childhood he was weak and got sick easily, so he spent more time inside the house studying legends about saints and Buddhist esoteric rituals. Morihei was encouraged to practice sumo and swimming by his father. In time he grew stronger and realized he needed the practice, especially after his father was assaulted by a group of people hired by his political opponents. He began studying jujutsu and the sword and noticed he had a natural inclination towards martial arts.
He decided to enroll in the Japanese army, but was rejected because he didn’t have the minimum required height. Very upset, he went into the woods, where he tied himself to the trees hanging, desperate to increase his height. In 1903 he succeeded to enlist as infantry. As a result of his actions during that time, he was recommended by his superiors for the National Military Academy, but he declined the offer and retired from the army.
After his return home, he continued the physical preparation at the jujutsu dojo built by his father, where the well-known instructor Takaki Kiyoichi was teaching. In 1912 he moved to Hokkaido, where he knew Sokaku Takeda. He came back to Shirataki where he built his own dojo and invited Takeda to live there.
Very affected by his father’s death, Morihei began studying the Omoto religion with Deguchi Onisaburo. A promoter of the non-violent resistance and universal disarmament, Onisaburo tought him everything about Budo. He used to tell Morihei that his goal on this earth was to teach about the true meaning of the Budo art.
At 40, Morihei had several spiritual experiences that changed his entire vision about life. He understood that the true meaning of the Budo art was to protect and support life. From this moment on, more and more people began to look for Morihei Ueshiba’s teachings.
In 1927 , Deguchi Onisaburo encouraged Morihei to separate from the Omoto religion and go his own way. Morihei moved to Tokyo ,where he built another dojo.
In 1932, Morihei Ueshiba led the Budo Society, that he had founded himself. Morihei’s fame grew continuously over the following ten years, but in 1942 he returned home, tired of the city life. He built an open-air dojo in Iwama and set up the base of the Aikijutsu art, that later became Aiki-Budo and, after ten years of perfecting techniques and religious philosophy, Aikido. The three Japanese ideograms that form this name represent: AI = harmony, KI = universal energy, DO = way. Therefore, Aikido can be translated into “The Way of Universal Harmony”.
Aikido increased its popularity in Tokyo, under the guidance of Morihei’s son, Kisshimaru Ueshiba. Morihei became known under the name of O Sensei or The Great Teacher, without giving up his dedication to the improvement and enrichment of “The Way”. In the art created by the Master, the emphasis is on the importance of realizing the harmony between the vital energy (Ki) and nature.
On the 26th of April 1969, at age 86, Morihei returned to the source, after a short suffering caused by a serious stomach disease. He was buried in his family temple, in Tanabe.