By Chet Yarbrough
The Art of Peace (Teachings of the Founder of Aikido)
By: John Stevens-translator for Morihei Ueshiba
Narrated by: Brian Nishii
John Stevens (Translator, Buddhist priest and teacher of Buddhist studies and Aikido. Stevens was born in 1947.)
“The Art of Peace” is a brief audio book that recounts the life, and for the skeptical, the myth of Morihei Ueshiba. Ueshiba is the founder of the martial arts technique of Aikido. Though Ueshiba’s life ranges from one of violence to peace, his life leads him to a spiritual and practical acceptance of what is Aikido, “a Japanese form of self-defense and martial art that uses locks, holds, throws and an opponents’ own movements to defeat aggression”.
Moritaka Ueshiba, aka Ueshiba Morihei, aka Tanabe Wakayama (Japanese martial artist and founder of the martial art of Akido.)
Ueshiba was born into a relatively wealthy Japanese family. His father was a farmer and minor politician in a city now known as Tanabe, a city located in Wakayama Prefecture. He was an only son with three siblings. Ueshiba describes himself as a weak, somewhat sickly, child who is encouraged by his father to strengthen his body by learning sumo wrestling, swimming and the discipline of repetition.
Shinto (A religion that originated in 300 BCE Japan, considered a nature religion.)
Ueshiba is largely taught by a Shinto priest, his elementary schoolteacher.
The Shinto priest introduces Ueshiba to religion. Ueshiba quits his formal education after Middle School. After life in Tanabe, “The Art of Peace” tells of Ueshiba’s life as a warrior in the war with Russia in the early 1900s. He is initially drafted but fails his induction because of his small stature. To increase his height to meet the minimum requirements, Ueshiba allegedly suspends himself from the branches of trees with weights on his legs. He is said to have added the half inch needed to qualify for the military. His success as a warrior is implied by his promotion to sergeant by the end of the war.
Ueshiba continues to train in the martial arts with teachers of judo and other martial arts that give him superior skill as a fighter.
Ueshiba develops great skill with mind and sword. “The Art of Peace” recounts an extraordinary feat to dodge bullets. He is simultaneously fired upon by several shooters to illustrate his ability to evade aggression. He manages to anticipate the first shot and move behind the fusillade before any bullets can find their mark. He does this twice, according to Steven’s translation of the book.
The essential message of “The Art of Peace” is that meeting aggression with aggression is a fool’s errand. Ueshiba argues understanding the futility of aggression teaches one to listen, learn, and act in ways that use other’s aggression against themselves.
“The Art of Peace” seems more a life of an idea than one’s ability to achieve, let alone implement.