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Sokaku Takeda in Osaka

by Tokimune Takeda

Aiki News #69 (November 1985)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Brian Workman of the USA. Aiki News would like to express its gratitude to Tokimune Takeda Sensei for granting permission to reprint this summary of an article which appeared in No. 39 of the newsletter published by the Daitokan Dojo.

Here I would like to record the relationship between Sokaku Takeda and the city of Osaka. This relationship also has a deep connection with both Morihei Ueshiba and Takuma Hisa who were the most outstanding disciples of Sokaku Takeda. First, I would like to describe how it was that Sokaku came to teach Daito-ryu in Osaka.

In 1929, Admiral Isamu Takeshita, who studied Daito-ryu with Sokaku Takeda, published an article in the magazine entitled “The Story of the Bravery of Sokaku Takeda.” In this article, he described how Sokaku became a budo instructor serving in the capacity of a bodyguard for Marquis Tsugumichi Saigo, an army general, and how he performed acts of bravery in various places. This article came to the attention of the Tokyo Asahi Newspaper Company which sent a journalist to Hokkaido in 1930 to interview Sokaku who was travelling around the northern island teaching.

In 1930 Sokaku was teaching a number of prominent persons in the area of the town of Abashiri. In July of the same year, Sokaku, then 72 years old, went to Koshimizu village in Kitami no kuni accompanied by Taiso Horikawa where he taught Daito-ryu to various leading citizens. It was at this time that Yoichi Ozaka, a reporter of the Tokyo Asahi Newspaper Company followed Sokaku Takeda and went to the Daito-ryu master who was staying at an inn in Koshimizu for the purpose of interviewing the subject of the above-mentioned article written by Admiral Takeshita. He hoped to gather information on Daito-ryu techniques, famous disciples and materials concerning the art.

Sokaku prohibited Daito-ryu from being transmitted to the general public and taught it secretly as a police tactics method and self-defense techniques for prominent people. Consequently, Sokaku would turn away reporters commenting that the art was “not a show.” But this time Sokaku took into account the fact that the Tokyo Asahi newspaperman had come from a great distance to follow him around in order to see him, and the Daito-ryu master willingly agreed to be interviewed. Mr. Ozaka was very impressed by the list of names of top martial artists and noted personages recorded as students of Daito-ryu. As soon as he returned to his office he wrote an article entitled “Ima Bokuden” (reference to Bokuden Tsukahara (1489-1571), founder of Bokuden-ryu tactics and known as a great swordsman) about Sokaku that included a photo. This article became known to martial artists all over Japan and Sokaku’s fame spread far and wide.

In February of 1936, Sokaku went to Sendai with the author (Tokimune) accompanying him through the introduction of an Army officer, Mr. Umezu (at that time a member of the city council). He taught Daito-ryu to some 20 prominent persons including those connected with the military and police. During the time Sokaku was instructing leading members of the Sendai Police Department, an incident took place on February 26 where the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, Navy Admiral Viscount Minoru Saito was assassinated. Minoru Saito was a member of the Mizusawa Clan of Iwate Prefecture and became a Vice-Minister of the Navy with the support of Tsugumichi Saigo in 1898. In 1906, he became Minister of the Navy and in 1918 he rose to the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Education. He was elected Prime Minister in 1935 and was assassinated on February 26, 1936. During the Meiji period, when supported by Minoru Saito, Sokaku, together with his student Kiichi Umezu, attended the Prime Minister’s funeral held in Saito’s parents’ home in Mizusawa.

In April, Sokaku was engaged in teaching a Mr. Takahashi, Department Chief of the Saitama Police Office and also head of the Police Officers’ Training School, a local police superintendent and nine other officers. Moreover, he held seminars on Daito-ryu at the Urawa Police Department and the Police Officers’ Training School in Saitama. I personally witnessed some of the students who were holding the article entitled “Ima Bokuden” (see AN #68) cut out from the newspaper as if it were really valuable.

In May of 1936, Sokaku taught Daito-ryu to the Chief of the Omiya Police Department in Saitama Prefecture and some 17 others. While in Tokyo he instructed the head of the Tokyo Asahi Newspaper together with 16 other persons.

The interest generated by the “Bokuden” article reached even Osaka and in June Sokaku received an invitation from the Osaka Asahi Newspaper. While he was staying upstairs in the house of his student, a Mr. Nagatani, some ten judo and sword experts and Mr. Takuma Hisa, chief of the business section of the Asahi Newspaper came to visit him having heard that the subject of the article in question had come to Osaka. [This version of the first meeting of Sokaku Takeda and Takuma Hisa is at variance with the version told by Hisa repeatedly after the way. For information on this version, please see my article Remembering Takuma Hisa. –Ed.]

When these men came to visit Sokaku they found a small, thin old man bent with age with no teeth and clad in long drawers. They were shocked by his appearance and doubted that he was really the famous martial artist. They exchanged disappointed glances because of the trouble they had taken to visit this little old man.

Noting their dismay, Sokaku changed into his street clothes. He then arranged the floor cushions for the visitors in order starting from the seat of honor to the lowest position. Next, he pointed to each person one after the other beginning with the highest ranking member of the newspaper company and had them take their appropriate seats. After this, Sokaku exchanged name cards with each person again according to their rank.

All of the Asahi people were very surprised that Sokaku could tell their rank at the first meeting. Their disappointment was replaced by concern that he might have read their minds when they had made light of him. I was told that the men were afraid to the point they felt like running away from Sokaku.

When I arrived in Osaka in August, my father commented on the incident in the following words: “Since they made light of me because I’m a small man, I put them in order according to rank using aiki.” I asked the Asahi employees about this and found out what had happened. It was then that I understood what he meant by “putting them in order using aiki”.

After instructing at Mr. Nagatani’s residence, my father and I taught enthusiastic members of the Osaka Asahi Newspaper office at the annex dojo of the company. Sokaku’s way of training was very severe and the students were afraid of him. For that reason, Mr. Takuma Hisa (8th dan in Sumo and 5th dan in judo) mainly took falls for Sokaku.

Before my father went to Osaka, Morihei Ueshiba traveled there with his best students and taught Mr. Hisa and other members Daito-ryu techniques. During that three-year period the art was called “Dai Nihon Asahi-ryu”, this being before Ueshiba called it “aikido.” On December 8, 1935 the second Omoto Incident occurred. (The military government violently suppressed the sect destroying many buildings and arresting leaders of the movement during this incident.) Many persons associated with the Omoto religion were arrested on the pretext of violation of the Public Order Act also for lese majeste. Hundreds of objects bearing the Omoto seal were confiscated by the police.

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