The art was officially registered as Aikido in 1942 by the Dai Nippon Butokukai (Japanese national martial arts federation), even though Ueshiba would have prefered the name Aiki-Budo.
Minoru Hirai, a representative of Ueshiba's Kobukan Dojo to the Butokukai, recalls that the Butokukai was planning for "the establishment of a new section including arts for actual fighting based on jujutsu techniques" (Pranin 1994b). It was suggested that “aikido” be used as term to designate an all-inclusive budo.
The idea "was to intentionally select a name that would not be opposed by kendo or other martial arts, but rather an inoffensive, comprehensive term to group together all of the yawara [i.e. jujutsu] schools" (ibid.) "In other words, the term “aikido” was a cover-all term that could include other things as well" (ibid.).
Thus, the term "aikido" was not specific to Ueshiba's style, although over the years it became associated most directly with the Ueshiba brand. Other jujutsu schools also used the name aikido (e.g. Takuma Hisa's Kansai Aikido Club [1959-1968], where Hisa was teaching Daitoryu aiki-jujutsu).
Ueshiba himself retired to Iwama in 1942. There he continued teaching, much based on his pre-war Aiki-Budo manual Budo (1938), which "contais techniques that Morihiro Saito claimed were identical to the techniques taught by Morihei Ueshiba in Iwama, where he lived from 1942 until near the time of his death" (Li 2017).
The Kobukai was renamed as Aikikai in 1948. Ueshiba had removed the most dangerous techniques of Daitoryu in order to gain aikido more popularity, but also due to his religious beliefs of the Omoto sect. Ueshiba's announced goal was to bring piece, love and harmony to the world through Aikido, which he declared the "Art of Piece" (e.g. Ueshiba/Stevens 1992). This may seem somewhat paradoxical regarding the art being de facto practiced with martial techniques.
"Ueshiba’s main impact on aikido during the postwar period was in a spiritual and symbolic sense, rather than technical. The major technical influences after the war and those primarily responsible for the dissemination of the art were Koichi Tohei, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and other second-generation senior instructors, and to a lesser extent, Gozo Shioda and Kenji Tomiki, of Yoshinkan Aikido and Tomiki Aikido, respectively." (Pranin 1994a.)
"The postwar approaches of Tohei and Kisshomaru placed little emphasis on the martiality of technique and focused more on the art’s philosophy and its use as a vehicle of personal and health development. This had a great deal to do with the tenor of the times, Japan then being a defeated nation occupied by foreign troops." (Pranin/Gold 2015.)
Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) on the technical basis of Daitoryu aiki-jujutsu, which he started studying under Sokaku Takeda (1859-1943), who is said to be the reviver of Daitoryu. The teacher-student relationship lasted from 1915 until c. 1931, and Ueshiba e.g. followed his teacher as an assistant while living in Hokkaido. Takeda granted Ueshiba with Kyoju Dairi teaching certification and Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu transmission scroll in 1922. (> Morihei Ueshiba's short biography in Aikido Journal.)
At the early age Koichi Tohei (1920-2011) studied judo, zen meditation and misogi. After a personal demonstration from Morihei Ueshiba in 1940 he started practicing aikido in order to combine bodily training with training the mind, which he felt was lacking in judo. While practicing aikido with Ueshiba, Tohei was also training Shinshin Toitsu Do ("way of mind and body unification") with Tempu Nakamura. From there he adopted e.g. the key concept "the mind moves the body".
Tohei was much responsible of spreading aikido outside Japan since 1953. He was also the only student of Morihei Ueshiba to be officially awarded 10th dan. Tohei remained as the chief instructor of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo until his departure in 1974. By this time, he had founded the organisation Ki no Kenkyukai, which now became the headquarters of Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido ("Aikido with Mind and Body Coordinated"), also known as Ki-Aikido.
Rainer Varis (b. 1955) started practicing aikido and iaido in 1971 with Toshikazu Ichimura, who back then was the teacher responsible for aikido in Sweden, Denmark and Finland. In 1974 Varis was the first aikido black belt in Finland, and served as the Finnish head teacher of Finland Aikikai until leaving the organisation in 1977. After that he went to Koichi Tohei's seminars in Brussels and started studying ki-aikido with Degueldre and Yoshigasaki. Varis founded the Finnish Ki-Aikido Society in 1979 and the Finnish Ki Federation in 1993.
Kenjiro Yoshigasaki (1951-2021) started to practice yoga at the age of 10 and Aikido in 1968 as a direct student of Tohei. He came to Europe in 1977 as a regional chief instructor of the Ki no Kenkyukai. In 2001 Yoshigasaki founded his own organisation, Ki no Kenkyukai Internationale (KnKi).
Esa Lilja (b. 1973) started to practice judo with Timo and Matti Hautoniemi in Jushinkan Ähtäri, Finland in 1985, soon followed with karate, ryukyu kobujutsu and aikido. In the 1990s he moved to Helsinki and started studying ki-aikido with Rainer Varis, taiji, again with Timo Hautoniemi, and kendo. In 2003 he founded Ki-Aikido Shizentai Dojo in Helsinki, and also started studying Amatsu style Daitoryu aiki-jujutsu. Lilja moved to Stavanger, Norway, in 2019 and founded Ki-Aikido Karasukai in 2021.
Ki-Aikido Karasukai is connected to the Varis style of ki-aikido and the Finnish Ki Federation, and works closely together with the Ki No Kenkyukai Musubi.
Yoshigasaki's thoughts about teachers
(video by Alain de Halleux, late 1990s).
The KnK Musubi network was found after Yoshigasaki's passing. It currently lists 190 dojos in 25 different countries. The contact person is Michael Holm from Denmark, who regularly visits nordic countries to do seminars.
During the 1930s, Ueshiba gradually separated himself from Sokaku Takeda. (About the circumstances, see, e.g. Erard 2020 and 2016.) In 1931 he established the Kobukan Dojo in Tokyo, and the associated Kobukai (皇武会, "divine martial society").
Ueshiba began calling his art Aiki-Budo, sometimes more specifically Tenshin-ryu Aiki-budo (Erard 2019) ("Tenshin" 天眞 translates to "heavenly truth").
Before the World War II, Ueshiba had such students as Kenji Tomiki (Tomiki-Aikido), Gozo Shioda (Yoshinkan Aikido) and Koichi Tohei (Ki-Aikido).
Ueshiba incorporated in his Aiki-Budo more circular and softer techniques, which were much adopted from Judo. He had researched Kito-ryu jujutsu and judo techniques in the 1920s and 1930s in order to develop counter-techniques against judo attacks (Shishida 2008). Influences from judo might explain the large circular movements, and also frequently throwing the opponent away instead of pinning them to the ground.
Although Ueshiba's Aiki-budo (later renamed as Aikido) was technically much based on Takeda's jujutsu, philosophically the two men were very different. Ueshiba was "influenced philosophically and religiously by the Omoto religion, especially the thinking of reverend Onisaburo Deguchi" (Gold 2011b). "It was the religious vision of the Omoto sect that was to form the basis for the ethical framework of aikido" (Gold 2012). Ueshiba was an active believer and supporter especially in the 1920s, but ever since maintained frequent, open ties.
Ueshiba taught Daitoryu actively throughout the 1920s and 1930s. In 1933 he published a technical manual, Aiki-jujutsu Densho, which he republished as Aikido Maki-no-ichi in 1954 (Li 2017). This "demonstrates that the technical explanations, both written and graphical, and the descriptions of principles that Morihei Ueshiba taught were the same in 1954 as they were in 1933, when the art was called 'Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu'” (Li 2016a).
Perhaps the most notably for the documented history of aikido techniques, Ueshiba was teaching at the Asahi newspaper dojo in 1934-1936, followed by Takeda in 1936-1939. During this time 547 techniques were secretly photographed. A few years later their student Takuma Hisa (1895-1980) organized the material into nine volumes called the Soden (1942-1944).
The first six volumes contain techniques taught by Ueshiba and five of them appear under the name Aikido (Erard 2018). Hisa also published Kannagara no Budo: Aiki Budo Hiden (1940) which was almost an exact copy of Ueshiba's 1933 and 1954 manuals in both technkical explanation and illustrared techniques (Li 2016b, 2017).
(> Daitoryu Aiki-jujutsu is discussed more here, including Ueshiba's Aiki-Budo demonstration in the 1935 promotional film Budo.)
Ueshiba in Ayabe (1922) in front of a placard reading "Daitoryu Aiki-jujutsu" (Li 2017).
Erard, Guillaume (2012) "Hisa Takuma: The technical successor of Takeda Sokaku." Guillaume Erard.
Erard, Guillaume (2016) "Interview with Takeda Sokaku: Ima Bokuden." Guillaume Erard.
Erard, Guillaume (2018) "Soden: The Secret Technical Manual of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu." Aikido Journal.
Erard, Guillaume (2020) "'Looking into Tenshin-ryu Aikibudo' - O sensei demonstrating battlefield techniques." Guillaume Erard.
Erard, Guillaume (2020) "It ain't necessarily so: Ueshiba Morihei's 'escape from Osaka'." Guillaume Erard.
Gold, Josh (2011a) "History of Aikido in Japan." Aikido Journal.
Gold, Josh (2011b) "Morihei Ueshiba." Aikido Journal.
Gold, Josh (2012) "Morihei Ueshiba and Onisaburo Deguchi." Aikido Journal.
Li, Christopher (2016a) "Aikijujutsu Densho – AKA Budo Renshu, by Moritaka Ueshiba". Aikido Sangenkai.
Li, Christopher (2016b) "Takuma Hisa - Kannagara no Budo: Aiki Budo Hiden 1940". Aikido Sangenkai.
Li, Christopher (2017) "Ueshiba-ha Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu." Aikido Sangenkai.
Pranin, Stanley (1994a) "Challenging the status quo." Aikido Journal, 2011. Originally published in Aiki News #98, 1994.
Pranin, Stanley (1994b) Interview with Minoru Hirai." Aikido Journal #100, 1994.
Pranin, Stanley (1995) "Interview with Koichi Tohei." Aikido Journal, 2015, ed. by Josh Gold.
Pranin, Stanley (2015) "The origins of modern aikido: The shomenuchi dilemma." Aikido Journal, ed. by Josh Gold.
Ueshiba, Morihei (1992) The Art of Peace. Compiled and translated by John Stevens. Shambhala.
Ueshiba in c. 1935.
Morihei Ueshiba in 1961 documentary film Aikido.
Tohei at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo (1962).
Tohei in New Jersey (1965).
Koichi Tohei, Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Tadashi Abe (1952).
Comparison of Ueshiba's pre-WWII and post-WWII technique by Marius V shows that his technique did not change much after the WWII.