Posted by: balladofyoko | July 1, 2004


There’s a search for “Morihei Ueshiba teleportation” that comes up on my referrer logs periodically. Was O-Sensei, the founder of aikido, actually capable of such a thing? If so, where did he teleport himself to? And can I learn how to do this in my studies? ha.


  1. One of my high school teachers actually tried to levitate during Shakespeare class. He also wanted us to dare him to leap over a chair/desk combo. He was at least 55 years old. He looked like Poop Deck Pappy from the Popeye cartoons.

  2. I’ve encountered a lot of people who are into mythologizing Ueshiba, spreading tall tales, the way many people do with Bruce Lee, and the way that people have done with Jesus and Buddha for centuries. I’m disgusted by it. It seems that such people are trying to set up gods for themselves, so that they can bask in some kind of vicarious glory as they repeat the ever-more-inflated stories, and so that they can play “my god can beat your god,” like six-year-olds fighting over whether Superman could beat Mighty Mouse. Bah. It’s idolatry in its most primitive and immature form.

    It’s an evil and destructive trend, because it can chase more mature people away from the teachings of the “idols.” If MY first dozen experiences of aikido involved hearing idiots babble about how its founder could teleport and catch flying bullets, I’d probably assume aikido was a cult for the gullible, and never end up trying it.

    But even worse than that, it trivializes the truly great (but less special-effects oriented) real-life accomplishments of the idolized people. And worse yet, it absolves the idolators of having to live up to their heroes’ good examples. If Jesus and Buddha were divine beings, not subject to mortal law, then we don’t have to expect the same level of goodness, compassion, and dedication from ourselves. If Ueshiba had supernatural powers, then we can never be like him, so we’re absolved from having to work that hard at our own training.

    Ueshiba did some amazing stuff, that I’ve heard about from reliable eyewitnesses – from people who were actually taking ukemi for him while he was doing said stuff. He had this thing he did toward the end of his life where he’d wear all white, and five guys would attack him with their hands dipped in charcoal, and he’d come out with no charcoal on him. Now, to me that’s miraculous enough – and I’ve had it verified by two people who were among his attackers. But amazing as that is, it doesn’t violate any laws of physics. That’s where I draw the line – at those violations of the laws of physics.

    I’ve actually heard a really good explanation, from a guy who’d trained briefly with Ueshiba back in the early 1950s, as to how the teleportation myth got started. If you watch films of Ueshiba, he stands still a lot. Total stillness, until exactly the right moment, and then he moves with amazing speed and efficiency, and then he stands still again. What happened was that in postwar Japan, when the economy was still pretty messed up from the war, most of the available movie cameras were old second-hand ones that shot very few frames per second – the kind that make the action in those old Keystone Cops movies look so quick and jerky. So there are a bunch of early films of Ueshiba where he gets behind an attacker using a rapid irimi motion, and the whole motion happens in between frames. One frame he’s in front of the attacker, next frame he’s behind him. I’ve seen a couple of those films, and it really does LOOK like teleportation if you don’t know what’s going on.

  3. I knew I could count on you for an excellent explanation, Nick. Thanks– and I hope those Google searchers come across your words and learn something from them.


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