Called O’Sensei (“great teacher”), the founder of modern Aikido, was born on December 14, 1883 in the Wakayama Prefecture of Japan.
Several incidents in his life served to shape his vision and beliefs, and influenced his design of a martial art that is, in many ways, unlike any other practiced today.
As a small child, he saw his father attacked and assaulted by political opponents, and because of this injustice, devoted himself to becoming physically powerful. He studied under masters in several traditional forms of the martial arts. He became an expert in the styles of jujitsu (unarmed combat), kenjitsu (sword fighting), and sojitsu (spear fighting). O’Sensei would later incorporate elements of these styles into modern Aikido.
Despite his physical prowess, he found himself dispirited. He turned to studying various religions and philosophies in the hope of finding a deeper meaning and significance to life. In his search, he discovered and became a devotee of the religion called Omotokyo – a blend of neo-shintoism and socio-political idealism – where the unification of all humanity is one goal. He reached the conclusion that it was important to train people’s minds and spirits as well as their bodies.
O’Sensei credited an incident with a naval officer as the beginning of his enlightenment. The officer, who was a fencing instructor, challenged him to a match. During the match, an unarmed O’Sensei repeatedly evaded the officer’s strikes with a wooden sword, eventually defeating him when the officer dropped from exhaustion. In his retelling of the incident, O’Sensei stated he was aware that could “see” the officer’s moves before he made them. He also realized that he had defeated an armed attacker without ever harming or even laying a hand on him.
Originally called aikibudo by its founder, this art that expressed O’Sensei’s philosophy of harmony, protection and love, had a large number of followers by the early 1920’s. In 1927 O’Sensei built a dojo in Tokyo. A few years later he founded the Budo Enhancement Society and became its chief instructor.
In the early 1940’s his creation was being called Aikido, but it was still only practiced by carefully chosen individuals in Japan. After WWII, Aikido was introduced to the world, and gradually spread, reaching the United States in the late 1950’s.
O’Sensei was a man of peace who followed his spiritual and philosophical vision. He taught that the martial arts should be used as a means to live in harmony with oneself, the earth, and its inhabitants. Throughout his life he continued to refine his system to the less violent and gently flowing techniques practiced today. O’Sensei died at the age of 86 on April 26, 1969.
Kissomaru Ueshiba, O’Sensei’s son, took over the task of spreading the vision of Aikido – The Art of Peace – after his father’s death. His grandson, Moriteru Ueshiba continues this tradition today.
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,
In 1957 Abbe Sensei received a letter from Morihei Ueshiba stating that all instructors outside of Japan now had permission to teach aikido to anyone who wished to learn.
He was the first master in the UK to be allowed to teach aikido outside Japan as before that time the teaching of aikido was kept solely for the Japanese.
He began teaching Aikido at the Abbe School of Budo, otherwise known as ‘The Hut’ dojo. One of the first students to learn Aikido from Abbe Sensei in the late 1950’s was Haydn W Foster.
H W Foster 7th dan Technical Director Institute of Aikido Worldwide (8th May 1927-2011).
Sensei Foster was introduced to Aikido whilst taking his son to a judo class at the Hut dojo late in 1956. Whilst watching Abbe Sensei and his first two students, Ken and David Williams practising, something about the grace and power of the movement struck a chord within him, and he soon joined this small core of ‘original” Abbe students that were to be the source of much UK Aikido for years to come.
Sensei Haydn Foster is the Principal Coach of the Institute of Aikido which is in turn a founder member of the British Aikido Board (BAB).
Sensei Foster began his aikido training some time towards the end of 1956 / beginning of 1957 at the Hut Dojo, near Heathrow. He was awarded 1st Dan by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei in 1960, and 2nd Dan by Mutsuharu Nakazono Sensei in 1962, one of the oldest Hombu grading certificates in the UK. He was awarded 3rd Dan by Masamichi Noro Sensei in 1969.
In 1973, following the demise of the Renown Aikido Society (1966-1969), Foster Sensei was approached by the ex- members and asked to reconstruct the society as the Institute of Aikido. Now 7th Dan (IA) Mr. Foster continues to teach at the Hut, directs the annual institute of Aikido Summer School and makes regular teaching tours of New Zealand, especially the Auckland area where there are three well established Institute of Aikido clubs.
On 26th August 2009 at The Hut dojo, our Technical Director Mr. H. Foster (7th Dan IA) was recognised for his commitment and achievements in Aikido with the award of 6th Dan in the International BiranKai by TK Chiba Shihan. Sadly Sensei Foster passed away in February of this year, aged 83. He will be greatly missed by us all.
Sensei Francis trained under H.W. Foster sensei since beginning his Aikido career as a young child, and for a several years was also a student of Ron Russell sensei, a man instrumental in the spread of Aikido around New Zealand.
Training at The Hut dojo instilled a commitment to the principles of Riai – “Blending of Truths”, and subsequently he is a strong advocate for the regular practice of Aiki-jo and Aiki-ken.
In 2005 he moved to Auckland with his wife and daughter, and in 2007 opened the Institute of Aikido dojo in Okura. In 2009 a private dojo was completed at his property in Silverdale (training by invitation only). There are plans for a dojo in Browns Bay in the new year.
Mainly focusing upon teaching beginners and bringing newcomers into the art, and to help newcomers clarify the myriad of techniques and technical terms used, “Aikido – A Beginner’s Guide” was published in July 2003 and the accompanying DVD “Aikido – The First Steps” was release in 2005.