Aiki-Jujutsu and its Social Background
The next two and a half centuries (Tokugawa period) were relatively peaceful for Japan. Though they continued to practice, the Samurai as a class, saw little combat, and refined the various martial arts of Kenjutsu, Iai jutsu, Bajutsu, and forms of Jujutsu. Ju is a Chinese word meaning pliable, harmonious, adaptable or yielding, Jutsu means technique. As a collective term applied to all fighting forms, Jujutsu came into existence long after the forms it describes originated. Jujutsu’s golden age extended from the late 17th century to the mid 19th century.
As the martial arts and all Japanese culture became strongly influenced by Buddhist concepts, the fighting arts were transformed from combat techniques (Bugei) into ways (Budo), inculcating self-discipline, self-perfection and philosophy. The dimensions of the martial arts expanded beyond the simple objective of killing an enemy to include many aspects of everyday living. Particularly after the decline of the Samurai class, the martial techniques became martial ways and great emphasis was placed upon the study of Budo as a means of generating the moral strength necessary to build a strong and vital society.
At the time, Aikido was known by many names, and remained an exclusively Samurai practice handed down within the Takeda family until Japan emerged from isolation in the Meiji period. The Meiji Revolution (1868) brought not only the return of Imperial supremacy, but also a westernised cultural, political and economic way of life to Japan.
The Bushi, as a class, virtually disappeared under a new constitution that proclaimed all classes equal, but the essence of Bushido, cultivated for many centuries, continued to play an important part in the daily lives of the Japanese. Budo, being less combative and more concerned with spiritual discipline by which one elevates oneself mentally and physically, was more attractive to the common people of every social strata. Accordingly, Kenjutsu became Kendo, Iai jutsu became Iaido, Jojutsu became Jodo and Jujutsu became Judo.
O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba: The Founder of Modern Aikido
As a young man, Morihei Ueshiba (born 14th December 1883) had an unusual interest in the martial arts, philosophy and religion. The environment of his youth, one of religious discipline and tradition, had an enormous effect on the course of his later life.
In the year 1898, Ueshiba left his home village outside Osaka and travelled to Tokyo, seeking instruction in the martial arts. He actively investigated dozens of arts, but was eventually drawn to specialize in three: the sword style known as Yagyu Shin-Kageryu, the staff style known as Hozoin-ryu and Tenjin Shinyo Jujutsu.
The Russo-Japanese War (1904) provided Ueshiba with a real situation to develop himself mentally and physically, in accord with the principles he had learned during his martial arts training. Ueshiba the soldier, spent most of the war years in the harsh climate of Northern Manchuria and by the end of the war, his health had deteriorated considerably. With characteristic vigour, he regained his vitality by the way of long hours spent in outdoor labour. Soon, Ueshiba was engaged by the government to lead a group of immigrants to Hokkaido (the Northern Island of Japan).
Another adventurous young man also made the move to Hokkaido, his name was Sokaku Takeda, head of the Takeda family. Ueshiba and Takeda met in 1905 and Ueshiba began his study of Daito Ryu Aiki-Jujutsu under Takeda Sensei. In addition, he continued to practice the other arts he had learned in Tokyo, particularly Kenjutsu and Jojutsu.