Atlanta, Georgia

The History and Future of Aikido

Berney Fulcher 2nd Dan Essay



The founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in 1883.  He studied several martial arts in his younger years, including spear, sword and several styles of jujitsu.  Daito-ryu jujitsu and Ueshiba's belief in the Omoto-kyo religion are credited with being the main influences in the creation of aikido.

Ueshiba (known to aikido practitioners as Osensei, or 'great teacher') studied daito-ryu under Takeda Sokaku starting in 1915.  This association officially continued into the 1930's.  In 1919 OSensei met and became profoundly influence by Onisaburu Deguchi, who was the spritual leader of Omoto-kyo.  One of the primary tenets of Omoto-kyo is the attainment of utopia during ones life. These two influences together led to Osensei's creation of the new martial art in the 1920s incorporating both martial arts and compassion for the attacker, wherein an attack could be received and harmlessly redirected thus allowing both the attacked and the attacker to remain unharmed.  In 1946 this new art was formally named aikido. 

The popularity of Omoto-kyo in 1920s Japan helped OSensei attract a base of gifted students to his new art.  Many of these students would later branch off and form new aikido organizations.

Major Organizations


The largest organization has always been the Aikikai.  Initially run by OSensei, leadership was offered to Koichi Tohei after Ueshiba's death in 1969.  Tohei turned it down in favor of Ueshiba's son, Kisshomaru.  Since then leadership has remained with the Ueshiba family and is currently run by his grandson,  Moriteru Ueshiba.

Yoseikan (1931)

Yoseikan aikido was formed by Minoru Mochizuki just a few years after he began study with OSensei.  The system involves all-around martial arts training with integrated judo and karate techniques.

Yoshinkan (1955)

Yoshinkan aikido was founded by Gozo Shioda.  Founded during the earlier years of aikido it is considered to be a harder style.  The training is very structured with emphasis on a core set of techniques.

Shodokan (JAA, or Tomiki aikido. 1967)

Shodokan was founded by Kenji Tomiki.  Tomiki was the only school founder to introduce an element of competition to aikido.  While controversial, he felt that this was the easiest path to making aikido widely available and as popular as judo and other competitive martial sport systems.

Ki no Kenkyukai (Ki Society, 1974)

Ki Society was founded by Koichi Tohei after disagreement at Aikikai over teaching direction.  Tohei felt that Ki development should be the major focus in aikido training.

International Spread of Aikido

Aikido began spreading internationally in the 1950s.  The first foreign dojo was in France when in 1951 Minoru Mochizuki went there to teach aikido techniques to Judo students.

The United States was introduced to aikido by a tour conducted by Tomiki in 1953.  Later in that year Tohei was sent to Hawaii to live for a year and set up several dojos.  In the late 1960s several younger instructors such as Yoshimitsu Yamada (current head of the east coast USAF organization) came to the United States.

Aikido In Atlanta

I've been lucky enough to be exposed to several styles of aikido in my short tenure in the art.  I started with a set of instructors trained in Aikikai, and then had exposure to Yoshinkan through the Doshinkan in Philadelphia.  I have always traveled a bit for work, and noticed that several of the dojos in the Atlanta area that I trained with had some similarity to their styles, even though they had no official affiliation with one another.

I have trained at the Shin Budo Kai, the Wadokai, and at Kyushinkan dojos.  As it turns out they all traced their lineage back to Koichi Tohei.  Shin Budo Kai through Imaizumi sensei, Wadokai through Suenaka sensei, and Kyushinkan through Toyoda sensei.

While it's hard for me to completely categorize everything that makes the styles similar (and they definitely have their differences) some things that pop out include use of the aiki-taiso for warmup, the way Ikkyo takedowns are performed and things like kokyunage head throws that I rarely or never saw in my Pennsylvannia dojo.

Future of Aikido

My sense of the future of aikido is one of continually evolving organizations that share a common thread of philosophy and technique.  In both dojos where I practiced extensively, there was a continuous desire to reach out to the other dojos in the area.  Kyushinkan dojo certainly continues that tradition of friendship seminars and it's one that I think ties in well with aikido's philosophy of peace and harmony.

As a traditional martial art aikido training follows a shu-ha-ri method of training.  Shu, learning by rote; ha, learning deviations and the deeper meaning of the technique; and ri, breaking free of the technique.

Much of my training to this point has been shu, especially when transferring between organizations and learning new kihon.  I regard my personal training goals at this point as continuing to refine shu, and moving myself towards ha.  Along with regular practice, teaching is certainly one the elements helping me along this transition in training.

I plan to continue my present teaching duties, helping to transmit the kihon of the dojo and organization to my kohai.  I find that teaching both solidifies my current knowledge and shows me the gaps in my knowledge;  and as an additional benefit there is the reward of seeing my kohai progress in understanding and skill and feeling like I have some part in that.