The Principal Disciples of Morihei Ueshiba: An Update to a Classic

As a holiday gift to the aikido community, Aikido Journal has created a new version of our Principal Disciples of Morihei Ueshiba chart, originally developed by AJ founder Stanley Pranin. We hope you’ll enjoy and share this important overview of the lineage of aikido. Here’s a bit of background on the effort to update and modernize the chart…


 

The Original Chart

Original Aikido Journal Chart

First created by Stanley Pranin and published by Aikido Journal, the original chart was designed to provide a visual representation of the primary direct students of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido. It was created in 2001 and last updated in 2011 by Stanley Pranin. We recently gave away the original high-resolution chart as one of the items in a digital gift box for Aikido Journal TV subscribers.

 

The New and Improved Chart

When we decided to update the chart, we wanted it to look better, to be a more useful informational resource, and we wanted to update its accuracy and completeness. After consulting with a few historical experts, we realized that there were a number of key individuals not included in the original chart. In the last published version, Stanley Pranin noted that the selection of individuals was personally curated (and not exhaustive) and that the chart should be construed as an ongoing project. After looking at the details, we came to the conclusion that it would be a major undertaking to revise or update the individuals included in the chart and instead focused on creating a more streamlined and elegant design for the existing information.

To this end, we enlisted the aid of Mario Sapienza, an aikidoka and graphic design professional, to re-imagine and redesign the chart from the ground up. The result is a beautiful, high-resolution poster that can be printed in large format, or viewed as a digital document. To both reduce chart clutter and provide more value and depth, we removed the tagline below each person’s name, such as “Osaka prewar student,” and instead included hyperlinks for each individual.

Clicking on any person in the chart will lead you to all the information available on the individual on the Aikido Journal website. As we continue to restore and republish the more than 2,000 articles and stories in our archive, those links will lead you to an increasingly deep database of information, making this version of the chart a more valuable resource over time.

Click to download PDF

The Design Philosophy

I remember when Stanly Pranin published this graphic for the first time. I downloaded it immediately and printed it in A4 size to nail it to the cork-board I had in the advertising agency where I worked. It was great to see the faces of all the principal students of Ueshiba on a single page, and at the same time I found it very useful to understand the chronology of the Founder’s history.

Today I have taken the challenge of rethinking this great contribution from a professional perspective through data visualization. The new chart is designed to allow us to interpret the information in a simple and visual way. Its main objective is to communicate in a clear, precise, and efficient way through graphics, diagrams, and infographics.

Conceptually, I decided to take the visual language of molecules to show the disciples of each decade, all of them connected to the Founder. These molecules are a foundational part of the growing, living entity called aikido.

Pictures of the sensei are coded in either black and white or color to reflect those who have died and those who are still living.

I would like to thank Josh Gold for giving me the opportunity to contribute my professional knowledge to help strengthen and nurture our aikido community.

– Mario Sapienza, designer and aikidoka

The Team

This project would not have been possible without Mario Sapienza, the lead designer. It was also made possible by Aikido Journal’s patrons and Aikido Journal TV’s subscribers who fund our operations and special projects. We’d also like to extend a special thanks to Seido for their continued support and collaboration efforts. And last but not least, none of this would be possible without the tireless efforts of the late Stanley Pranin, the founder of Aikido Journal, who not only labored to put together the original chart, but performed all the historical research that serves as the informational foundation the chart is built upon.


Download the Chart

Please enjoy this updated chart. We encourage you to share it as widely as possible and hope it will serve you well.

DOWNLOAD CHART

Josh Gold

I am Executive Editor of Aikido Journal and co-founder of Ikazuchi Dojo. I began my aikido journey in 1991 under Haruo Matsuoka and am honored to have been his direct disciple for the last 27 years.

12 comments

  • Muchas gracias por compartir.
    Echo en falta a Kitaura Yasunari Shihan quien fue alumno de O’sensei y de Ueshiba Kisshomaru.
    El maestro Kitaura reside en España y lleva 50 años dando a conocer el Aikido en este pais y en otros muchos paises de Europa.
    Por ello hubo una celebración este año a la que acudieron 600 aikidokas de 20 paises y donde estuvo presente Doshu Ueshiba Moriteru.

  • Hello
    It would be nice to have a charter of students who studied at IWAMA. I saw a copy but the picture is really small. We know that O’Sensei moved to Iwama in the 1940s and a few. He spent a third of his time there and another tier at the Tokoy dojo and the other tier to travel to different parts of Japan.

    Bonjour
    Cela serait bien d’avoir une charte des étudiant qui ont étudié à IWAMA. J’en ai vue un exemplaire mais l’image est vraiment petite. On sait que O’Sensei a déménager à Iwama vers les années 1940 et quelques. Il y passait le tiers de son temps et un autre tier au dojo de Tokoy et l’autre tier à voyager à différent endroit du Japon.

  • This new chart is an interesting and attractive variation of Stan Pranin’s original chart depicting the chronology of O-Sensei’s most influential disciples. I applaud Josh and Mario for their effort and creativity.

    A valuable adjunct to this chronology would be a visual dipiction of the relative time each teacher spent with O-Sensei receiving technical instruction, no easy task but an important one. This is not to denigrate or diminish anyone who had contact with O-Sensei – all have valuable knowledge to share. But students have a right to know the whole story, which chronology alone does not provide.

    Based on Stan’s articles and my years training around Japan, I believe those receiving in depth technical instruction from O-Sensei – and passing it on to significant numbers of students were limited to: Tomiki, Shirata, Mochizuki, Shioda, K. Ueshiba, Saito, Isoyama and Hikisuchi. Of these, Tomiki and Mochizuki admittedly developed their own systems quite different from what O-Sensei taught. The second Doshu K. Ueshiba dramatically modified O-Sensei’s budo to comply highly restrictive rules placed on him by the American military post war occupation in Tokyo.

    That left five teachers to pass on the core of O-Sensei’s technical curriculum and style of practice :

    Shioda eventually managed to re-establish a Tokyo dojo with O-Sensei’s old style training, while Shirata, Saito, Isoyama and Hikisuchi had the advantage of remote locations, allowing them to freely teach O-Sensei’s techniques and intensly martial training style.

    This is not to say these teachers do “better” aikido than others, but as Stan’s extensive documentation revealed – their instruction and students are undeniably closest to O-Sensei’s technical curriculum and training style. Students of present day aikido have a right to know this. This list is admittedly incomplete, my knowledge pales in comparison to Stan’s, but I believe it is close.

    Aikido organizations like to shape and subvert history to suit their organizational needs.
    A chart as described could help clear the smoke, and correct a lot of revisionist history. Stan was never one to shy away from controversy, or bow to political correctness. We should follow his lead. Remember the Pranin motto – “facts is facts.”
    Gassho.

    • Tom:

      Great to hear from you. Excellent point here. Yes, it would be most valuable to document the elapsed time and frequency of training with the founder for each of the principal disciples. As you mentioned, this would be resource intensive to produce but would certainly be a valuable asset to the community. We will keep this on our list of potential future projects. Wishing you the best in the new year and I hope to finally meet you in person in the not too distant future.

  • Your efforts are inspirational to those of us who are new to Aikido. These charts and the comments below are informative and easily understood, and encapsulate a great deal of into an efficient graphic. Of course, the depth of O’Sensei’s teachings will never be fully captured in pictures or printed words. Which is why I am very grateful for those of you who continue the traditions of O’Sensei’s Aikido.

    Arigato Gozaimashita

    • Good question. Just replied below to a similar comment, but I’ll also include it here so you’re notified of the response. It’s nice to meet you online here.

      “Thanks so much fo the feedback. Not sure exactly why he was not included. For this version of the chart, all of the individuals included were selected by Stan Pranin. We know there are a number of other direct disciples of the founder who were not included but it was outside of the scope of this project to do a rigorous analysis of everyone and make additional selection choices. We hope to do this in the future when we have additional resources for such a project. “

  • Excellent chart! Fantastic work! Also, thank you Mr. Collings for your assertive, factual insight. I do have a question, though. Is Gaku Homma Shihan, a major student of The Founder from Iwama, being considered a student of Morihiro Saito Shihan? Or is he perhaps an oversight? I’m not being critical. I’ve never trained under him but I read his book many years ago and I’ve met a couple of uchideshi from his program in Colorado (and considered attending myself many years ago). Again, I’m not criticizing. I can understand it is probably difficult making such choices….

    • Thanks so much fo the feedback. Not sure exactly why he was not included. For this version of the chart, all of the individuals included were selected by Stan Pranin. We know there are a number of other direct disciples of the founder who were not included but it was outside of the scope of this project to do a rigorous analysis of everyone and make additional selection choices. We hope to do this in the future when we have additional resources for such a project.