Personally, I don't think there is any evidence of direct influence. Aikido practice includes neither the baguazhang circle walking or single changing palms which are fundamental exercises.
“The Elusive Chinese Influence on Aikido,” by Stanley Pranin
“Proponents of the theory of Aikido’s Chinese origin must provide proof.”
I received an email this morning asking my opinion of the remarks of a gentleman who states that he trained with Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba in the late 1960s. He makes the claim that Morihei’s aikido was directly influenced by “bagua zhang,” a Chinese internal art. Here is a quote from his article:“The entering, turning and leading of one’s opponent, as well as the hundreds of subtle energy projections of aikido are fundamental bagua techniques that existed long before Ueshiba’s birth. Because of this, I believe that Ueshiba learned bagua while he was in Manchuria, China.”
This author’s thesis is based on his personal observation of Morihei’s art at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo during the late 1960s, the author’s analysis of “old films” of Morihei and the perceived similiarities in Ueshiba’s technique to various Chinese martial arts, and the fact that O-Sensei spent time in Manchuria during his lifetime.
I have heard this and similar theories about an “obvious” and unacknowledged Chinese connection that influenced the development of aikido repeatedly for the last 30 years or so. You will notice that that above-mentioned author provides no specifics to support his claim. In my experience, this is always the case when such a theory is advanced. Let’s take a closer look at this subject using our knowledge of Morihei’s life to consider the feasibility of such a theory.
Morihei Ueshiba did indeed spent time in Manchuria on three occasions during his life: as an infantryman during the Russo-Japanese in the 1904-1905 period; as a bodyguard to Onisaburo Deguchi on an ill-fated expedition through Manchuria and possibly Mongolia over a half-year period in 1924; as a visiting martial arts instructor during short stays in Japanese-controlled Manchukuo in 1939, 1940, and 1942.
...Is it possible that Morihei may have witnessed some Chinese martial arts during his time in Manchuria? Certainly, it is possible. Could he have grasped some of the “inner secrets” of Chinese martial arts merely through observation? I will admit that being possible as well. But that is not what proponents of this Chinese theory are asserting. Their hypothesis is that Morihei had extensive training in Manchuria under Chinese masters and that the subtle ki manifestations of the founder’s aikido originate from Chinese sources. In a nutshell, their argument is this: “The subtle aspects of aikido resemble Chinese internal martial arts. Chinese martial arts predate Japanese martial arts. Morihei Ueshiba spent time in China. Therefore, aikido was heavily influenced by Chinese sources.” Where is the proof?
A further thought. Most of these theorists seem to discount the level and sophistication of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu that Morihei learned from Japanese jujutsu master Sokaku Takeda during a 15-year period starting in 1915. Sokaku taught primarily jujutsu but possessed much higher inner skills that he showed only to a few of his most talented students, Morihei being one of them. Another point worthy of mention is that Morihei was heavily involved in the Omoto religious sect co-founded by Onisaburo Deguchi. He learned many meditation and breathing techniques that he practiced assiduously and that he credited with having been responsible for much of his progress as a martial artist.