History & Culture
Shinra Saburo
Yoshimitsu Minamoto
Aikido calligraphy by
O'Sensei
O'Sensei performs O-rei before
beginning Aikido Keiko
  O'Sensei had studied various martial
arts throughout his life.  The forms of
Aikido are a modified version of those
previous studies.  It is quite clear by form
and historical record that the primary art
from which Aikido's technical repertoire
originated was Daito ryu Aikijujutsu.  
O'Sensei had studied under the soke of
Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu; Takeda, Sokaku.
This martial art originated in the late
11th century with Minamoto, Shinra
Saburo no Yoshimitsu, a descendant (6th
grandson) of the Emperor Seiwa.  The
principles of the technique were learned
by Yoshimitsu while observing a spider
trapping prey in its web.  In addition,
Yoshimitsu had done autopsies on
several corpses obtained from Japans
bloody battlefields.  Combining the
principle of aiki with his knowledge of
human anatomy a new martial art was
born.  Over a number of generations the
art evolved and grew to meet the rigorous
demands of armed combat.  Elements of
jujutsu were combined in the armored
environment of the samurai sword while
always utilizing the closely held secret of
aiki.  The art was formidable and elite,
but it was not enough in the hands of the
few.  Ultimately the Minamoto clan failed,
but the art survived.  The art migrated
from the Minamoto clan to the Aizu clan
and finally to the Takeda clan. Along the
way it found usefulness with the
Emperor's elite palace guards
(Oshikiuchi).
  O'Sensei discovered Takeda, Sokaku and
Daito ryu while serving as a town leader in
the frontier of Japan's north island
Hokkaido.  Some members of society were
subsidized by the Japanese government to
open up Hokkaido for Japan.  O'Sensei was
one of these.  At the time many criminals
had been directed towards Hokkaido as a
labor pool.  To regulate those criminals the
government recruited the Daito Ryu with
their unique methods.  It is apparent from
record that O'Sensei learned a great deal
from Takeda Sokaku, and was awarded
teaching credentials.  Shortly thereafter,
O'Sensei encountered a charismatic
religious leader by the name of Deguchi
Onisaburo.  The name of this religion was
the Omoto kyo.  This religion was primarily
Shinto in nature, but incorporated elements
of various world religions resulting in a
more universal message.  It was the
unification and transformation of this
ideology and the Daito Ryu techniques that
was catalyzed by the genius of O'Sensei,
leading to the formation of Aikido.