Present day aikido has its origins in daito aikijutsu which is said to have been founded by Prince Teijun, the sixth son of the Emperor Seiwa (850-880 AD). Through the prince’s son, Tsunemoto, it was passed on to succeeding generations of the Minamoto family. By the time the art reached Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, the younger brother of Yoshiie Minamoto, it would appear that the foundations of the present aikido had already been laid. Yoshimitsu was apparently a man of exceptional skill and learning. Yoshimitsu’s second son Yoshikiyo lived in Takeda in the province of Kai where he eventually became known by this name. Subsequently, the techniques were passed on to successive generations as a secret art of the Takeda House and made known only to members and retainers of the family. In 1574, Takeda Kunitsugu moved to Aizu; the techniques continued to be passed on to his descendants only, and came to be known as the aizu han otome waza.
Thereafter, the art remained an exclusively samurai practice and was handed down within the family until Japan emerged from isolation into the Meiji period in 1868.
Sokaku Takeda, then head of the family, began to teach the art outside the Takeda household, travelling widely throughout the recently unified Japan and finally settling in Hokkaido. His son Tokimune Takeda opened the daitokan dojo in Abashiri, Hokkaido and continued to further the development of daito ryu aikijujitsu.
The most outstanding of Sokaku Takeda’s pupils was Morihei Ueshiba. Born on December 14, 1882, Ueshiba started his daito ryu training in 1915 after being impressed by a martial arts demonstration given by Sokaku Takeda. Ueshiba dedicated himself to this art and also studied various other ancient martial arts, eventually incorporating techniques of his own to found modern aikido.
Eventually, Ueshiba opened up his own dojo (training hall), the Kobukan, in 1931. It was at this time that he started teaching to several outstanding pupils who would later go on to found their own styles of aikido. They included Gozo Shioda, the founder of Yoshinkan Aikido, Kenji Tomiki, the founder of the sport-style Tomiki Aikido, and Mochizuki Minoru, who later formed Yoseikan Budo.
In 1942, Ueshiba moved to Iwama, a rural area in Ibaraki prefecture a few hours outside of Tokyo. There, he set up a dojo and built the Aiki shrine. It was in Iwama that O Sensei, or “great master,” as he later came to be known, chose to spend his remaining years. He left his son Kisshomaru in charge of Aikikai Honbu, the main dojo in Tokyo that he founded in 1945.
On April 26th, 1969, O Sensei passed away at the age of 86. His legacy continues on today in the various forms of aikido being practiced throughout the world.