The only son of Yoroku and Yuki Ueshiba’s five children Morihei Ueshiba was born on December 14, 1883 in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan. Because Ueshiba’s family was well off, his father was a wealthy land owner and traded in lumber and fishing, Ueshiba was brought up in a privileged setting. Ueshiba was however a rather weak and sickly child. For these reason his father encouraged Ueshiba to take up sumo and swimming to toughen him. He also often told Ueshiba stories about his great-grandfather Kichiemon who was a very strong Samurai.
During his teenage years and throughout his twenties Ueshiba’s trained in many different styles of martial arts including: Tenjin Shin’yo-ryu Jujutsu, Kito-ryu, Yagyu-ryu, Aioi-ryu, Shinkage-ryu, Hozoin-ryu sojitsu and Kendo.
Ueshiba was a short man, standing only 1.55 meters (about 5’1″) which is said to be Ueshiba’s only complaint. In 1903 when Ueshiba tried to enlist in the military he was rejected because he did not meet the minimum height requirement of 1.56 meters (about 5’1.5″). Upon his rejection Ueshiba returned home and went into the mountains and hung from trees in order to gain the extra height needed to join the military. In December of 1903 Ueshiba returned to apply to join the military and was accepted into the Thirty-seventh Battalion o Osaka’s Fourth Division; commonly known as the “Kishu Battalion.” Ueshiba spent less than four years in the military, but in his time there he reached the rank of sergeant.
It was not until 1912 when Ueshiba and his wife moved to Hokkaido did Ueshiba begin to seriously train in martial arts. It was here that Ueshiba met Takeda Sokaku who taught him Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu. It was this style of martial arts that Ueshiba claims to have opened his eyes to budo.
In 1930 Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, having heard of Ueshiba came to visit him at his Mejirodai Dojo. From this visit Kano remarked “This is the ideal martial art that I had in mind. This is true Judo.” Furthermore Kano sent two of his own disciples to train with Ueshiba in order to best improve Aikido and Judo.
Ueshiba became involved with a controversial religion Omoto, which many believed helped shape Aikido. For many years Ueshiba studied Omoto, trained and taught Aikido, and farmed.
Over his lifetime Ueshiba received many awards for his role in martial arts, and the Japanese culture. Most notably the Shiju-hosho (Medal with Purple Ribbon), the Zuiho-sho and the rank of Sei-goi-kun-santo.
In 1969 Ueshiba was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Choosing to spend his remaining time by his dojo rather than undergoing surgery Ueshiba passed away a month after being released from the hospital. At five AM on April 26, 1969 Ueshiba passed away in his sleep at the age of eight-six.
Ueshiba is now often referred to by his rank of O’Sensei, meaning Elder Teacher.
While the father of three boys, Ueshiba’s first two sons, Takemori and Kuniharu, died at a young age. His third son, Kisshomaru took over Morihei Ueshiba’s role of dosho (keeper of the way) of Aikido until his death in 1999. The role of dosho then was given to Kisshomaru’s son Moriteru.