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Much of the Founder's wisdom and technique never carried over into postwar aikido, but you will find these aspects emphasized in Budo...

Anyone attending a seminar conducted by Morihiro Saito Sensei during his active years will have noted him frequently referring to a small illustrated manual. In fact, Saito Sensei would often open this booklet to the page illustrative of his teaching point and walk from student to student showing the technique in question. He would repeat over and over, “O-Sensei! O-Sensei!", as if to validate his technical explanation with the stamp of approval of the ultimate authority—Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of aikido. What is this little-known technical compendium that Saito Sensei consulted constantly and held in such high regard? Why is this unique training manual so important to you as a practitioner of aikido?

Morihei Ueshiba’s 1938 “Budo” is one of the most important historical documents on the evolution of aikido technique and is very relevant to you in your practice of aikido today. When this book was published, it already contained descriptions and photos of a number of core aikido techniques as they were practiced by O-Sensei in Iwama in the years following World War II.

Morihiro Saito demonstrates techniques from O-Sensei's 1938 "Budo" Manual

The postwar Iwama years have been described by Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba as the time frame of the birth of modern aikido. The seeds of the flowering of O-Sensei's "Takemusu Aiki" after the war are clearly visible in Budo. For example, Morihei demonstrates and explains basic techniques such as ikkyo through yonkyo, iriminage, shihonage, ushiro techniques as well as sword and knife disarming arts in this manual.

What's more is that Morihei explains various strategic principles in Budo such as nage seizing the initiative, proper body positioning, centering, constant awareness -- all essential principles that underscore aikido's martial essence. Much of the Founder's wisdom and technique never carried over into postwar aikido, but you will find these aspects emphasized in Budo.

These are some of the compelling reasons for you to study Morihei Ueshiba's Budo thoroughly, consider its deep content, and reflect on how you can incorporate these martial concepts in your personal practice. O-Sensei's vision of aikido was that of a life-giving art fully grounded in martial principles that may serve as a reliable tool in daily life.

Contents of Budo

The book is entitled simply Budo and was privately published in 1938 during the Kobukan Dojo era by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. In the postwar period, Budo was virtually unknown outside of the inner circles of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo until its “re-discovery” was announced in November 1981 in the magazine Aiki News. During an interview I conducted shortly before the article appeared, Zenzaburo Akazawa, a prewar disciple of Morihei Ueshiba, produced a copy of the rare technical manual. Akazawa stated that only a few hundred copies of Budo were distributed and that it served as a training aid and fund-raising device during the difficult years of the prewar era.

Budo measures 18 x 26.7 cm and contains 50 pages divided into two parts. The first section consists of a one-page composition titled "Dobun" (Essay of the Way), followed by 26 doka (songs or poems), a two-page table of contents, and an eight-page essay titled “The Essence of Techniques.” The second part presents 50 techniques demonstrated by Morihei Ueshiba in 119, 5.3 cm square photographs. The technical material covered includes preparatory exercises, basic techniques, knife (tantodori) and sword-taking techniques (tachidori), sword vs. sword forms (ken tai ken), mock-bayonet (juken) techniques, and finishing exercises (shumatsu dosa). Budo is the only work on aikido -— Ueshiba’s art was actually called aiki budo at this stage -- in which the Founder personally appears demonstrating techniques. Ueshiba’s training partners in the book are his son Kisshomaru, Gozo Shioda—who would later create Yoshinkan Aikido—and a third man named Okubo about whom little is known.

Surprising to some will be the large number of techniques included in Budo that are performed with weapons. Fully one-third of the book features techniques executed using the knife, sword, spear and mock-bayonet. There are a number of identifiable influences that bear on the inclusion of these weapon techniques. One is the fact that Ueshiba was at the very time of the compilation of Budo experimenting with the sword techniques of the Kashima Shinto-ryu school. 

From a technical standpoint, Budo offers numerous insights into the prewar martial art of Morihei Ueshiba. It provides a capsule view of those techniques that Ueshiba considered the basics and the way they were executed in the mid-1930s. The technical descriptions offered are succinct and highly instructive. As Budo was published in 1938, the techniques covered represent a transition phase between the Daito-ryu aikijujutsu Ueshiba learned from Sokaku Takeda and modern aikido. Several basic techniques covered in the manual -- for example, ikkyo, iriminage, and shihonage -- already bear a close similarity to those taught by the Founder in the postwar period in Iwama. It was during these years -- roughly 1945-1955 -- that Ueshiba reached a level of mastery such that he could spontaneously execute techniques in any situation. This he called "Takemusu Aiki," the Aiki that spawns infinite techniques.

What you'll get...

The "Budo" 1938 Technical Manual Set includes a collection of authoritative materials designed to thoroughly familiarize you with the contents of this historic publication:

  • 18 video and PDF modules of Morihiro Saito's explanation and demonstration of all 50 techniques of Budo
  • A 175-page PDF book containing hundreds of photos titled: Budo - A commentary on the 1938 Training Manual of Morihei Ueshiba by Morihiro Saito, 9th dan
  • An historical introduction by Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin describing the circumstances of the publication of Budo and detailed description of its technical content

Morihei Ueshiba's Budo Training Manual Set is priced at $34.

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