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O'sensei the founder of Aikido

Saito Morihiro Shihan

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 Morihei Ueshiba and Morihiro Saito
The process of technical diversification began in aikido even before the passing of its founder, Morihei Ueshiba. Among the tendencies prevalent in aikido today are the

soft approach emphasizing circular or ki no nagare techniques of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, the so-called hard-style school of Yoshinkan Aikido headed by Gozo Shioda Sensei, the emphasis on the concept of "ki" of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido as espoused by Koichi Tohei Sensei, the eclectic system of Minoru Mochizuki Sensei of Yoseikan Aikido, and the sports aikido system which includes competition devised by Kenji Tomiki Shihan. To these must be added the unified technical curriculum formulated by 9th dan Aikikai Shihan Morihiro Saito. Saito Sensei's approach stressing the interrelationship between taijutsu and bukiwaza (aiki ken and jo) has become a de facto standard for many aikido practitioners the world over. This has been due largely to the success of his many books on aikido techniques and extensive foreign travels.
O'Sensi Morihei Ueshiba abd young Morihiro Saito in Iwama

Morihiro Saito Sensei was born on March 31, 1928 in a small village near the Iwama dojo.
Morihiro Saito was a skinny, unimpressive lad of 18 when he first met Morihei Ueshiba in sleepy Iwama-mura in July 1946. It was shortly after the end of World War II and practice of the martial arts was prohibited by the GHQ. The founder had been "officially" retired in Iwama for several years although in reality he was engaged in intensive training and meditation in these secluded surroundings. Indeed, it was during the Iwama years during and after World War II that Morihei
Ueshiba was in the process of perfecting modern aikido.

Among the handful of uchi deshi of those poverty-stricken years were Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Koichi Tohei and Tadashi Abe. The young Saito was given little encouragement initially and had to endure the intensive, often painful training silently. Saito Sensei recalls the early days when suwariwaza practice (practicing techniques on your knees) on the dojo's hardwood floor would continue endlessly leaving his knees bloodied and festering. To make matters worse, as a newcomer in the dojo he was on the receiving end of countless, vigorous techniques from the likes of sempai Koichi Tohei and Tadashi Abe.
Training at the founder's side

Gradually however, his tenacity paid off and in a few short years Saito Sensei became one of the mainstays of the founder's country dojo. Moreover, he had the advantage of being employed by the Japan National Railways on a 24-hour on, 24-hour off basis which left him with ample free time to spend at his teacher's side. In addition to the hours he spent in the dojo, Saito Sensei would assist the founder in all aspects of his daily life including the performing of numerous chores and farm work. Although the work was demanding and Ueshiba a strict mentor, his reward was the unique opportunity of serving as the founder's training partner particularly in the practice of the aiki ken and jo over a period of some 15 years. Morihei Ueshiba would usually train with weapons during the morning hours when regular students were unable to be present. Thus, it was partly due to his innate martial talent and perseverance, and partly due to his flexible work schedule that Morihiro Saito became the inheritor of Morihei Ueshiba's technical legacy.

 

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By the late 1950s, Saito Sensei had become a powerhouse and one of the top shihan in the Aikikai system teaching regularly at the Iwama Dojo in Ueshiba's absence. Moreover, he began instructing on a weekly basis at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo starting in 1961 and was the only teacher besides the founder himself to be permitted to teach Aiki bukiwaza there. His classes were very popular and many Tokyo students would gather on Sunday mornings to practice taijutsu and the aiki ken and jo. When the founder passed away in April 1969, Saito Sensei became dojo-cho of the Iwama Dojo and also was entrusted with the caretaking of the Aiki Shrine (Aiki Jinja) Morihei Ueshiba had built nearby.

Morihiro Saito Shihan with Dr. Corallini Shihan in Iwama

Publication of technical manuals and foreign travels
It was the publication beginning in 1973 of the first of what was to become a five-volume collection of Japanese-English technical books which established Saito Sensei's reputation as the foremost technician among aikido shihan. These volumes contain hundreds of aiki techniques including taijutsu, aiki ken and jo and kaeshiwaza (counter techniques). These technical manuals introduced a classification system and nomenclature for aikido techniques which achieved wide acceptance. In addition, instructional films were offered to supplement the books and were enthusiastically received.
Morihiro Saito Shihan in the "sacro dojo"

Morihiro Saito Shihan with Pat Hendrix sensei (seminar in west coast U.S.A.
Saito Sensei made his first trip abroad in 1974 to teach seminars in California. His lucid teaching methods made him very
popular among Aikido practitioners the world over. He traveled extensively throughout the world teaching from 1974 until 2000. In particular, there are large groups of Saito Sensei's students in the U.S.A, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Australia and Great Britain.
Morihiro Saito Shihan with son Hitohiro
Saito Sensei continued the tradition of apprenticeship that he himself had experienced by running the "uchi-deshi" or live-in student system in the Iwama Dojo. In this way, people were able to live and breathe Aikido in the same dojo that the founder of the art had built and trained in. This gave students from all over the world not only an exceptional opportunity to train the techniques of Aikido in the actual dojo of the founder, but also to get a taste of the culture to which these techniques and
adherent principles belong. With Japanese and foreign Aikido practitioners training, working and living together, this was truly a wonderful example of sharing the rich cultural heritage of Budo, in its traditional form, with the people of the world.

In 1992 Morihiro Saito Sensei appointed two Shihan – Paolo Corallini and Ulf Evenås  -  to be his chief representatives and in May 2001 he appointed them 7th Dan.
These are the only 7th  Dans given in Iwama Ryu Aikido.

On his deathbed, Morihiro Saito Sensei requested Paolo Corallini and Ulf Evenås to continue the Aikido he taught them, to be close to the Aikikai Foundation and devoted to the Ueshiba family, and to spread the family feeling of Aikido. This they gladly undertook to do..

Morihiro Saito shihan died on 13/05/2002 after a difficult battle with cancer.
His heritage continues to live with his teachings which we preserve religiously.

איגוד טקמוסו איקידו ישראל

 

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