Iwama Style Aikido

Video produced by Barry Tuchfeld Sensei of the Aikido Sarasota dojo

Aikido is the martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) in Japan last century. A superior martial arts exponent, known to his students as O’Sensei (meaning great teacher), he described the practice of Aikido as “the way of harmony with the universal energy“. As explained by O’Sensei, the purpose of Aikido is to promote life and understanding, not to defeat others. In his words:

“Aikido is not a technique to fight and defeat the enemy. It is the way to reconcile the world and make human beings one family.”

Iwama DojoThe development of Aikido spanned over a quarter of a century and reached a zenith in 1942, when Master Ueshiba, retired to Iwama, then a small country town, to engage in a simpler life revolving around farming and the study of budo (martial ways).

It was in Iwama that O’Sensei expanded his practice to include the use of the ken and jo and principles of swordsmanship. From that time on he called this art, Aikido. This integrated Aikido encompassed techniques to deal with multiple attackers, through a spirit of integration and harmony of movement. The historical facts of the development of Aikido are now well known thanks to researchers like Stanley A. Pranin, the publisher of Aikido Journal. There are also many wonderful resources available on the internet that provide an interesting summary of its key aspects.

 Iwama Style

Iwama Style takes its name from the small town about 100 kilometres north-east of Tokyo. It is here that O’Sensei constructed a dojo (training hall) and the Aiki Jinja, an Oomoto-kyo shrine next to the dojo. It is said that during this period, from 1942 to his death in 1969 that O’Sensei, completed his development of Aikido.

Iwama Style sign in the Iwama dojo in 1980The Oomoto-kyo shrine to Aikido in Iwama.Iwama training was focused on mastering the basic forms (kihon) and being able to execute techniques powerfully from solid attacks before moving on to the more advanced flowing (ki-no-nagare) movements.

Also important was practice of the weapon curriculum of bokken (wooden sword) and jo (wooden staff) which O’Sensei introduced. O’Sensei called the techniques that he taught at the Iwama dojo, “takemusu aiki”.

Memory of Saito Sensei at the Iwama shrine and dojo

During this period, O’Sensei’s longest serving student of 23 years was Morihiro  Saito, who on Master Ueshiba’s death assumed the position of headmaster of the Iwama Dojo and caretaker of the Aiki Jinja.

On the passing of Saito Sensei the control and management of the dojo has returned to the Ueshiba family.

The dojo buildings have now been totally renovated and all memory of Saito Sensei who devoted himself to the care of the Dojo and Jinja for over 30 years, has been removed.