Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is Aikido Of Chinese Origin?

There is an ongoing debate (What? debate in the Martial Arts community??) as to if Aikido Master Ueshiba was influenced by the circular Chinese arts such as Bagua or elements within the Tai Chi Chuan forms. They certainly share the spiraling and opening/closing, Yin/Yang feel of those arts. Furthermore, Chin-na joint locking may predate the Japanese systems. This is a small part of a very well researched article by Ellis Amdur at "Aikido Journal". The entire series of articles, some with lineage that is clearly over my head- ("Inside Aikido") can be found at
Amdur writes:
However, Ueshiba did observe Chinese martial arts. Takeda Hiroshi studied Ruyi Tongbei ch'uan from He Zhenfang in the 1920's and 1930's. Takeda published the first book on Tongbei ch'uan in 1936. Tongbei is a martial system that uses a very flexible upper body and whipping techniques with the arms, as if there is an axle from one shoulder to the other. Although I do not know if this is true in Takeda’s line, some Tongbei ch’uan traditions have staff and/or spear training with fajin practice as part of their system. According to the following website,


"Interestingly, although the content in certain portions of the book are very clear, other parts are very puzzling and strange. Many believe the reason is that Master He did not really want to teach Takeda, and so he diverted the teaching on purpose. There is speculation that this happened because of the political situation between China and Japan at that time." In any event, Takeda stated in an interview in a Japanese martial arts magazine in the late 1980’s, that his home became a center, not only for practitioners of Chinese martial arts, but also for visiting Japanese martial artists, and among them was Ueshiba Morihei, who visited him in 1936. According to Okumura Shigenobu, “Yes, he went to Peking too. He saw various Chinese martial arts. There are good martial arts in China. Ueshiba sensei was impressed by them.” Let me be very clear here. I am not saying that I believe that Ueshiba studied under Takeda Hiroshi - or anybody else in Beijing. But it is possible that, in his visit to Beijing, that he observed such training either by Takeda Hiroshi or by some of his other compadres, and saw something of value that he could "steal." Remember, Ueshiba was the man of whom Sugino Yoshio stated that he could observe something once and see exactly what they were doing. In sum, what I am saying here is that the type of force-building and expression that I am loosely referring to as “fajin,” may have been something that Ueshiba did observe in China and integrate in his own way into his art — either as something new or as a augmentation or variation to what he had already learned.

1 comment:

Martial Development said...

Thank you for following up. I had the pleasure of meeting Ellis Amdur at an Aikido seminar years ago--where he opened the practice by teaching Eight Silk Brocades.

Even if Aikido was inspired by Bagua--and I remain unconvinced that it was, in any meaningful sense--I don't see a particular similarity today.