Is Aikido a Martial Art?

Is Aikido a Martial Art?

Sensei Henry Ellis

This article originally appeared in 3 parts on the Cyberkwoon website. It is here published in its entirety.

At first sight of the above title I am sure that a lot of Aikidoist’s will be angry, they will assume that this is yet another attack on the credibility of Aikido by other martial artist’s. On this occasion they are totally wrong, I have been a student of Aikido since 1956, In those early days I first started Judo in 1955 at the Kenshiro Abbe School of Budo, I studied Karate with Harada Sensei and Kendo with Tomio O’Tani Sensei, so with my background I feel that I have something to offer to this debate.

First Impressions

abbe8_tnThe Aikido that I first saw being demonstrated by Abbe Sensei in 1956 was without doubt a positive martial art. I was immediately impressed by its positive techniques and power, and in those days my fellow martial artists and I were in no doubt that we were witnessing a devastating new form of self-defence as demonstrated by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei. Abbe Sensei had begun his martial arts career at the age of five and became a legend in his own lifetime. At eighteen he was the youngest ever all Japan Judo champion and also the youngest ever 5th Dan at the world renowned Kodokan. He later became the oldest ever all Japan Judo champion at the age of thirty three.

When Abbe Sensei arrived in the UK in 1955 he was 8th Dan Judo, 6th Dan Karate, 6th Dan Kendo, 6th Dan Kyudo, 6th Dan Aikido, the question must be asked; would this Budo master have studied Aikido if he did not believe it to be a martial art?

It is my opinion that Abbe Sensei would not have studied Aikido as it is today.

Please break my finger

As a direct student of Abbe Sensei I asked one day whilst we were traveling to a seminar

“Sensei, how did you first become a student of O’Sensei and Aikido”?
He smiled as he reminisced for a few moments; then told me the following story:

He said that he was a young man at the time and the Judo champion of all Japan and traveling on a crowded train across Japan to yet another Judo competition. Sitting opposite him in the same carriage was an old man who was trying to make some conversation with him, Abbe had his eyes closed as he tried to sleep. The old man said to him ” I know who you are” Abbe Sensei replied rather modestly ” everyone knows who I am, I am Kenshiro Abbe champion of all Japan” he politely asked the old man who he was, the old man replied “I am Morihei Ueshiba founder of Aikido” Abbe Sensei nodded politely and suggested that they now try to get some sleep, the old man suddenly stuck his hand forward and offered the smallest digit to this powerfully built young man, Abbe was stunned as the old man said ” please break my finger” Abbe thought I will break his neck if he doesn’t go to sleep, he was now becoming irritated by this old man, he immediately grasped the old mans finger in an attempt to shut him up, he freely admitted that in his frustration it was his intention to break the offending digit. To his total amazement he was suddenly slammed onto the carriage floor. As he lay prostrate and unable to move he knew he had to study with this master. He asked O’Sensei if he could study with him, O’Sensei agreed and Abbe stayed with O’Sensei for ten years.

O’Sensei had spent many years studying various martial arts, I believe that the art of Daito-ryu and Ju-jitsu had more influence on the development of Aikido than anything else he had studied, and we know he went to Mongolia to fight and this would be the perfect opportunity to test his many skills in a real situation, so we can be in no doubt that this incredible man was a true warrior and modern Samurai.