Morihiro Saito Sensei was born on March 31, 1928 in a small village near the Iwama dojo.
He began his Aikido training when he was eighteen years old. He had practiced Kendo as well as Shito-ryu Karate and Judo. Saito Sensei was accepted by O-Sensei Ueshiba as a student, and this was the beginning of a very long and close relationship. Due to his 24-hour on and 24-hour off working shift with the Japanese National Railroad, Saito Sensei had a lot of time for training at the Ueshiba dojo. Early morning classes were devoted to prayer at the Aiki Shrine followed by weapons practice. This was the period when the founder was deeply engrossed in the study of Aiki-Ken and Aiki-Jo and their relationship to empty-handed techniques.
Not only was Saito Sensei a diligent student, but he also helped the founder in his daily life and took part in caring for the rice fields and other farming tasks. The founder was clearly impressed with the dedication shown by Saito Sensei. O-Sensei gave Saito Sensei a plot of land on his property and this is where Saito Sensei then built his house and lived with his wife and children side by side with the founder.
By the late 1950s, Saito Sensei had become one of the top instructors in the Aikikai system. He taught at the Iwama dojo when the founder was out travelling. Saito Sensei also instructed on a weekly basis at the Hombu Dojo in the 1960s, teaching Aiki-Ken and Aiki-Jo for the last fifteen minutes of each Sunday morning class.
After the founder’s passing on April 26, 1969, Saito Sensei became chief instructor of the Iwama Dojo as well as guardian of the Aiki Shrine close to the dojo.
Saito Sensei made his first trip abroad in 1974 to teach seminars in California. His lucid teaching methods made him very popular among Aikido practitioners the world over. He travelled extensively throughout the world teaching from 1974 until 2000. In particular, there are large groups of Saito Sensei’s students in the U.S.A, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Germany, Australia and Great Britain.
Saito Sensei continued the tradition of apprenticeship that he himself had experienced by running the “uchi-deshi” or live-in student system in the Iwama Dojo. In this way, people were able to live and breathe Aikido in the same dojo that the founder of the art had built and trained in. This gave students from all over the world not only an exceptional opportunity to train the techniques of Aikido in the actual dojo of the founder, but also to get a taste of the culture to which these techniques and adherent principles belong. With Japanese and foreign Aikido practitioners training, working and living together, this was truly a wonderful example of sharing the rich cultural heritage of Budo, in its traditional form, with the people of the world.