Aikido, Wiki & history.


Master of Arts
Mar 5, 2009
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Seattle, WA

“I just looked at the Wikipedia entry on “Aikido” and here is what I found…” by Stanley Pranin

I was just wondering recently what the article on aikido in Wikipedia looked like these days. Many years ago when Wikipedia was just starting, I made a few contributions to their aikido entry, but stopped participating due to lack of time. These days, I try to check it occasionally to see if I think this wonderful resource does justice to the subject.In looking at the entry today, I find that the introductory paragraphs are well done and do a good job of capturing the essence of the art in four short paragraphs.
Further down, in the discussion of the etymology of “aikido,” “Way of combining forces” is given as a literal translation of ai-ki-do. I would take issue with this and suggest “Way of energy-matching,” or something similar, if I would like to be literal. “Force” is not a good choice to translate “ki.”
Similarly, the discussion of the term “aiki” is very superficial and really attempts to describe how the word is used in an aikido context, rather than in martial arts in general as is stated in the article. The subject of aiki is very complex and the term has had different meanings in different martial traditions.
Continuing, the meaning of “Osensei” is explained using my definition of the term from the “Encyclopedia of Aikido” as a reference. You will find a lot of information on all aspects of the art if you consult this work.
In the “Initial development” subsection, the entry describes the martial influences on Morihei Ueshiba in the creation of his art. Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu is mentioned as the “core martial art” from which aikido derives. This is correct and is at odds with the view espoused by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Morihei’s son, in his many books where he portrays Daito-ryu as one of several technical influences on modern aikido. This is also the position of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo. Further, a long-standing and recurring error in Kisshomaru’s books that mentions Morihei’s study of Kito-ryu jujutsu, rather than Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujutsu, has been corrected. Good job, Wikipedia!

Next, Wikipedia states “aikido derives much of its technical structure from the art of swordsmanship.” I think that this subtly suggests that the study of the sword (ken) and other weapons has an important place in aikido training, which was certainly Morihei’s view. The Aikikai Hombu Dojo states that weapons are instead auxiliary to taijutsu training, the latter forming the core of aikido techniques. I think Aikido Journal’s research and publications have heavily influenced the discussion of this very important topic.
The section where Morihei’s training and association with Sokaku Takeda in described mentions an end date of 1937 using John Stevens’ “Aikido: The Way of Harmony” as the source. This date was taken from one of my articles and I’ll bet no one can state why this year is given. I didn’t mention the document on which I based this, but will in due course. Kisshomaru would never acknowledge such a late date.
Wikipedia states that it is unclear when Ueshiba began using the name “aikido.” This is incorrect. My Encyclopedia entry is used as a reference and clearly states that the year is 1942. Interested readers can start with my interview of Minoru Hirai for background information.
The paragraph on “Religious influences” is very superficial and needs a lot of work. It is one of the most important subjects relating to Morihei’s martial odyssey. The sentence “the connection with [Onisaburo] Deguchi gave Ueshiba entry to elite political and military circles as a martial artist” is an observation I have made for many years, and I believe Aikido Journal is the original source of this view although a difference reference is given.
The “independent organizations” section is a mess and needs to be entirely rewritten! It is clear to me that the editors whose submissions were used here did not have a good grasp of the subject. You will find accurate information on Aikido Journal if you would like to explore a particular topic in depth. I should probably do an article on this at some stage.

I found the “Training” section to be pretty well rounded. One observation I have is that the term “Shodokan Aikido” is used here and in a couple of places in the article. This term is seldom used or understood in the aikido world. “Tomiki Aikido” is most frequently employed and universally understood.
The section on “Criticisms” is very interesting to me as a historian. I could tell immediately when I read it that Professor Fumiaki Shishida was one of the sources used. The use of “Shodokan Aikido” is a dead giveaway. Prof. Shishida is a full professor at Waseda University, one of Japan’s most prestigious universities. He has written many of the texts on aikido appearing in various martial arts encyclopedias and reference works, both in Japanese and English. His research is top notch and I respect him very much, but he has a tendency to give almost equal weight to “Shodokan Aikido” (Tomiki Aikido) compared to the mainline style of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in his writings. This is misleading in the sense that the Tomiki style is one of the smaller groups existing in the aikido world and probably accounts for less than five percent of all practitioners. Keep this in mind because you will run in to this tendency from time to time.
The following paragraph references an editorial I wrote many years ago:
“Another criticism is that after the end of Ueshiba’s seclusion in Iwama from 1942 to the mid 1950s, he increasingly emphasized the spiritual and philosophical aspects of aikido. As a result, strikes to vital points by nage, entering (irimi) and initiation of techniques by nage, the distinction between omote (front side) and ura (back side) techniques, and the practice of weapons, were all deemphasized or eliminated from practice. Lack of training in these areas is thought to lead to an overall loss of effectiveness by some aikido practitioners.[45]”
The editor confused my main point which was critical of what I regard as deficiences in modern aikido practice attributing this to Morihei’s seclusion in Iwama after the war. Not so. Morihei’s aikido had and continued to have all of these “missing parts.” It was those who came after him, especially Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Koichi Tohei who deemphasized these areas. It’s all backwards here!
I have no quibbles with the remaining sections on “ki” and “uniforms.”
I counted some 18 references to articles that I have written over the years, and several other attributions to material appearing in Aiki News / Aikido Journal. It is clear that our studies and publications have had a major impact on all areas of aikido research. If you want to understood more clearly what I mean, try to locate an early description of aikido from the 1960s or 70s and you will see how they are vastly different.
Obviously, Wikipedia is a work in progress. I really consider it one of the most important references in the world and I consult it daily. I should probably spend the time to contribute what I think are needed improvements on aikido-related entries. I hope to get around to it someday!


MT Mentor
Dec 17, 2008
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I subscribe to Stanley Pranin's aikido journal newsletter, not that I read everything as it is a huge volume of information on a daily basis. I find his material very interesting and would agree with what he says in your post above.

For anyone interested: