Morihiro Saito Sensei and Iwama
In July, 1946, Morihiro Saito, a young man of eighteen, who was raised in the local area, sought out O’Sensei at his farm and dojo in Iwama, and was accepted for training.
For the next 23 years, until the Founder’s passing, Saito was fully involved in training and caring for the dojo, and caring for O’Sensei, assisting in the farming to raise food and in his personal needs. Saito’s wife, in turn, took care of O’Sensei’s wife.
Saito’s work schedule with Japan National Railway permitted him generous amounts of free time during the day. Many days he was the only student present, and so he trained extensively with his teacher, one on one.
He later taught many of the classes under the watchful eye of O’Sensei, who eventually (for his further service in some business) provided him the land for his house, right next door to the dojo.
Before O’Sensei passed on, he left Saito in charge of the Iwama Dojo and its grounds, and the adjacent Aiki Jinja, the traditional shrine, which had been established by O’Sensei and dedicated to the spiritual Aikido, where O’Sensei had chanted, meditated, and prayed regularly over the years.
During the 1970’s, Aikido students from other countries began to visit and stay at the Iwama dojo, to train with Morihiro Saito Sensei. Classes in bokken (wood sword) or jo (wood staff) were held in the mornings, and classes in taijutsu (empty hand techniques) were held in the evenings, preserving the constancy, the technical details, and the training methods of the Founder. Hundreds of students trained in Iwama over the years, and Saito Sensei’s travels to teach abroad eventually reached thousands.