Japanese martial art Aikido’s legacy is alive in Palo Alto

Aikido -- a Japanese martial art -- is known as "a way to reconcile the world" and is being practiced here on the Peninsula.

Aikido — a Japanese martial art — is known as “a way to reconcile the world.” Founded in the late-1920s and 1930s, Aikido blends ancient samurai martial art principles with philosophy grounded in peace.

Aikido’s founder “Osensei” (“Great Master”) Morihei Ueshiba envisioned Aikido as an expression of his personal philosophy of universal peace and reconciliation. Today, Aikido continues to teach a harmonious spirit where there is no winner or loser, but rather a peaceful reconciliation of aggression.

Those who train in martial arts may train for fitness, for self-defense or for personal growth. Those who train Aikido also train for the spiritual and philosophical balance of a non-competitive, cooperative discipline. Aikido is unusual among other martial arts for this emphasis on protecting the opponent, which carries through to one’s daily life.

Although a relatively recent martial art, few of the direct students of the Founder Osensei, who passed away in April 1969, are still alive today. Foreigners who learned from the founder himself are even more rare.

Robert Frager, president of the Western Aikido Association located in Palo Alto, was a direct student of Osensei, living and studying in Tokyo in the 1960s. Frager is one of the few Caucasian, non-Japanese students at the original Aikido dojo. A “7th Degree black belt” (7th dan) — the highest rank of any living Westerner — Frager is also a professor of psychology and the founder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (now called Sofia University) in Palo Alto.

Frager Sensei (“master”) instructs the lessons learned from Osensei, reviving the latter’s fundamental principles of “when pushed, turn; when pulled, enter.” By giving the opponent what they are seeking, Aikido students accept the attack rather than fight it. This doctrine can be applied outside of the dojo, where Aikido students can self-assuredly handle criticism and resolve conflicts not only within personal relationships, but also in the workplace. On a larger scale, Osensei envisioned a world where nations co-exist in peace, where governments cooperate and differences are harmoniously reconciled.

Editor’s Note: Robert Cornman who appears in the video is the father of reporter Naomi Cornman.

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