Morihei UeshibaIn 1942, acclaimed martial artist Morihei Ueshiba gave the name aikido to his art. After years of studying traditional martial arts in tandem with an intense spiritual search, he had developed a reputation for invincibility and was in high demand as a teacher.

Ueshiba had a unique vision for martial arts as a means of bringing harmony to the individual and society. Not a method of war, but a path to peace. Needless to say, this was an unconventional idea and students were drawn to him as much by his power and prowess as to his philosophy.

That same year Ueshiba left his official positions in Tokyo and secluded himself in the rural village of Iwama where he devoted himself to working the land, training and spiritual practice.

In 1946 a local youth called Morihiro Saito began training with Ueshiba. With Japan busy rebuilding itself, there were few other students for several years and Saito both trained and worked the land with the  Ueshiba. In fact, much of the practice, especially with weapons, was done in the open fields.

By the 1950s Ueshiba was travelling more, aikido began to spread throughout Japan and abroad, and Saito was one of Ueshiba’s senior instructors/students. Ueshiba was very spontaneous in his demonstration of aikido and his explanations were often esoteric. Saito was a diligent and pragmatic teacher who did much to systematise the presentation of his teacher’s art, especially the relationship between sword, staff and empty handed techniques.

When Ueshiba died in 1969 he was succeeded by his son Kisshomaru Ueshiba as the second Aikido Doshu, head of the Aikikai. Saito became chief instructor of the Iwama Dojo and care-taker of the Aiki Shrine, a mecca for all aikido practitioners. From the early 1970s to his death in 2002 Saito became one of the most widely travelled and best known teachers of aikido and students from all round the world have studied in Iwama.

Today the Iwama dojo is known as the Ibaraki Branch Dojo of the Aikikai which is currently headed by Morihei Ueshiba's grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba, the third Aikido Doshu. The Ibaraki Branch Dojo and the Aiki Shrine continue to draw students and visitors from across the globe.