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Mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Revisited

by Ted Howell

Published Online

The art of Daito-ryu has recently become a topic of discussion among certain circles of budo practitioners. Along with the endless debates generally found in such circles, discussions of late have placed much importance on history, legitimacy, and succession. In a world plagued by war, some would question as to why people even study martial traditions that appear to be archaic and take a lifetime to master. The new trend seems to take on a philosophy akin to the aspirin age and I’m sure many are asking why is it we don’t study modern fighting systems more appropriate for the times we live in. Thankfully, there are still martial artists that treasure these traditions and wish to preserve the integrity of their great histories.

With the advent of the Internet age, readily accessible information is without a doubt presenting an opportunity for even the average practitioner to become much more knowledgeable. With this new era of information, one should think it reasonable to hold people accountable for what is said and or printed. In this vein, I believe that researching history and the pursuit of truth to be paramount.

In a world inundated with illegitimate and self-proclaimed masters, it is sad that even legitimate teachers are forced to defend their claims due to those who attempt to gain recognition through slander and lies. Fortunately, such people are often called out, so to speak, and dismissed by the public after careful research has been conducted. However, it is unfortunate that there are still many who are swayed by those unable to stand on their own merits and slander others in a vain attempt to gain recognition.

My purpose for writing this essay is to address the confusion being created on the Internet regarding mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei. My concern is that there are certain issues being posed by those who have been led to believe falsehoods or partial truths. Some of these issues have already been discussed in public forums such as the Aikido Journal, but deserve to be revisited due to continued misunderstanding. Other issues addressed are in direct response to misconceptions and questions posed on the Internet of late. I do not claim to be a representative of Kondo Sensei per se, but have been asked by him to address certain issues of confusion.

Mainline Daito-ryu and Succession

The first issue I will address is the assertion that mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu refers to all Daito-ryu presently taught by the living students of Tokimune Takeda Sensei. Although some may make this claim, it is simply not the case. I believe it is understood that the various schools of Daito-ryu will differ slightly in training methodologies. But when discussing succession, I believe the technical and administrative dissemination of the art lays in the hands of those qualified and who can legitimately take on such a task.

The mainline Daito-ryu, in both a legal and official capacity, refers only to the organization under the direction of Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei. Because Katsuyuki Kondo was appointed Soke Dairi and awarded both the Kyoju Dairi and Menkyo Kaiden by Tokimune Takeda Sensei, he has been charged with the responsibility of preserving the mainline tradition as it was passed down from Sokaku Takeda to Tokimune Takeda. I do not make this distinction to place a value judgment on the validity of other schools or teachers, but do so only to indicate the legal representation of the Takeda family traditions under the main line of succession. At this time, Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei serves the art of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu in both its technical and administrative dissemination.

It appears that much of the confusion surrounding the issue of succession stems from the unfortunate fact that Tokimune Takeda Sensei failed to officially appoint a successor. This, along with a multitude of other factors, has created a type of springboard for the opportunist. No less than four family members have come forward and claimed to be the art’s next headmaster. In addition to this, confusion has been fostered by an organization located in Abashiri, Japan. This organization, under the direction of Shigemitsu Kato, was established by senior students of Tokimune Takeda Sensei who separated from the mainline Daito-ryu prior to the Headmaster’s death. Originally known as the Seishinkai, this organization was renamed in 1994 and is called the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai.

History of Events

To understand the issues at hand, I believe it is essential to provide a brief history of events. Although not all inclusive, the following should allow readers to build a basic understanding of the events leading up to the present-day situation of mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Since much about Daito-ryu and Tokimune Takeda Sensei has been made public through various sources, I will begin at the turning point in the art’s history.

Tokimune Takeda Sensei’s health began to deteriorate in 1989 (soon after the death of his wife) at the age of 73 years old. Due to the Headmaster’s failing health he was hospitalized after being declared mentally incompetent by the Abashiri Branch of the Kushiro Family Court (from September 6, 1991). On September 7, 1991, the Takeda family called a meeting in Abashiri. The purpose of this meeting was twofold. First, it was formally announced that Tokimune Takeda Sensei was being hospitalized and undergoing medical treatment. Secondly, the Takeda family announced that the future headmaster of Daito-ryu was to be Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama, the second daughter of Tokimune Sensei.

The announcement regarding succession made by the Takeda family was posed as an interim position until the grandsons of Tokimune Sensei could feasibly succeed him. It should be noted that Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama was designated to be the legal representative of Tokimune Takeda Sensei during his hospitalization. She did not actually assume the title of Soke in a formal sense, but acted in the capacity of Tokimune Takeda’s legal representative. During this time, Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama, with the assistance of Katsuyuki Kondo Soke Dairi, represented Tokimune Takeda and the family’s interest in the art of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

In December of 1991, shortly after the Takeda family declared Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama the interim headmaster, she instructed Shigemitsu Kato Sensei to stop all instruction of Daito-ryu at the Daitokan dojo due to the absence of Tokimune Sensei. At this point, a group of senior students under the direction of Shigemitsu Kato Sensei (5th dan) officially resigned from the Daitokan dojo en masse. Upon their resignation, these students signed official forms from the Daitokan dojo that indicated their withdrawal from the school. After soliciting students to break off from Tokimune Takeda’s organization, Shigemitsu Kato Sensei formed his own organization and later proclaimed himself the Hombucho of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

Shortly after the death of Tokimune Takeda Sensei (December 2, 1993), Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama resigned from her position as interim headmaster of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Upon her sister’s resignation, the elder daughter of Tokimune Sensei, Mrs. Kyoko Oshima, claimed the position. This appears to be an important point in the history of events, as Mrs. Oshima never acted in the capacity of legal representative for either her father or the martial traditions of the Takeda family. To make matters even more confusing, Mr. Masanobu Oshima, husband to the elder daughter, changed his name to Masanobu Takeda and then unilaterally declared himself the next headmaster of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

In September of 1994, the heads of those dojos still remaining with Tokimune Takeda’s organization met and formally appointed Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei as the group’s leader. Fearing the tradition of Daito-ryu would fall into disarray, this meeting was planned and held with the intention of restoring unity within a badly fractured organization. The decision to appoint Kondo Sensei as Headquarters Hombucho and Somucho occurred naturally as it was quite clear he had been singled out by Tokimune Sensei as Soke Dairi (Official Representative of the Headmaster) in 1988.

Position of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai

It is the position of this group that Tokimune Takeda Sensei did, in fact, appoint a successor. This point of view is supported by an assertion that Tokimune Sensei left such appointment in a written will he presented while being hospitalized. It is claimed that this will stipulates Tokimune Takeda’s wish to have his two grandsons succeed him. Furthermore, it is claimed that Tokimune Sensei wanted his two daughters (Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama and Mrs. Kyoko Oshima) to preserve the tradition of the Takeda family until one or both of the grandsons could succeed.

The Abashiri group claims that Kato Sensei relinquished his position held at the Daitokan dojo (claimed position of Kancho) to squelch the internal rivalry occurring between Tokimune Sensei’s two daughters. Additionally, these senior students deny that they officially resigned from the Daitokan dojo and claim their motivations were noble. They have stated that they adhered to the wishes of the interim Soke, Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama, and only wrote letters of disagreement in response to her decision to stop the training being conducted at the Daitokan.

The Abashiri group also states that the aforementioned meeting held in September of 1994 was conducted without the approval or authorization of the new (self-proclaimed) headmaster (renamed Masanobu Takeda). This organization claims that Kondo Sensei refused to acknowledge the new headmaster and thus separated from the mainline and formed his own ryuha, the Shinbukan-ha Daito-ryu organization. Moreover, it has been asserted that Kondo Sensei took advantage of a confusing time and registered the name “Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu” (and variations thereof) without the consent of the new headmaster and the Takeda family.

The Abashiri group claims Shigemitsu Kato Sensei legitimately holds the position of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Hombucho. The crux of their argument is the claim that Tokimune Takeda Sensei taught Shigemitsu Kato the entire Daito-ryu curriculum, thus placing him in a superior technical position. It has even been argued that the titles of soke dairi and kyoju dairi (actually a certification, not a title) were not specific to Kondo Sensei alone and actually ended after the passing of the late Headmaster.

Position of the Mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu

Let me point out that, to date, no will has been produced. Consequently, the myth surrounding this mysterious will differs even among the students of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai. I have read from one student that the will existed in written form and was displayed in court by Kyoko Oshima. It has also been asserted that this will was possibly passed on verbally. It appears that the circular reasoning of this group has even confused its own members as others submit that no legal will exists.

A will is a legal declaration or document and thus requires the consultation and service of an attorney. This so-called will is claimed to have been passed on by Tokimune Takeda, who at the time was hospitalized due to his failing health. As indicated before, Tokimune Takeda Sensei lacked the mental and legal ability to make any such decision. Furthermore, while hospitalized, the legal representative for Tokimune Takeda Sensei was his younger daughter, Nobuko Yokoyama, who to my knowledge has never seen this will. However, Tokimune Sensei did in fact express his wishes of succession verbally to Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei (and possibly to others) on at least one occasion, but the fact remains, no legal will exists.

Kondo Sensei has stated that upon being designated Soke Dairi in May of 1988, he was asked to assume the responsibility of training Tokimune Sensei’s two grandsons in order that they may succeed. Kondo Sensei prepared the following statement for Aikido Journal in July of 2000:

I invited the grandson residing in Saitama Prefecture to practice on many occasions. Saitama and Tokyo are very close to each other. I invited him to my house many times to eat and train with my family and students. His reply was,” I have already read Tokimune Takeda Sensei’s transmission scrolls so I’ll be all right”. In other words what he meant was that he could do Daito-ryu because he had read the scrolls! (The important points about Daito-ryu are not written in the scrolls. The reason is that even if the scrolls were to be lost or stolen the secrets of the school would not be revealed.) Given the fact that there are hundreds and thousands of students training assiduously, these words brought unstoppable tears to my eyes. I was shocked and could find no further words to say. Even though Tokimune Takeda Sensei had attempted to train him for many years, I understood it was to no avail.

The mother of the grandson living in Abashiri did not want him to get involved in Daito-ryu. Under these circumstances, I had to resign myself to the fact that I could not carry out one of my duties as Soke Dairi and keep my promise to Tokimune Sensei to train a successor.

Kondo Sensei has strongly stated that for the next headmaster of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu to be legitimate, he must be taught under the direction of someone who, at the very least, holds a kyoju dairi certification. I understand this to mean that although many in the Takeda family may have an arguable right to be a figurehead in Daito-ryu, the art would not prosper from such a decision. On a final note regarding the issue of the next Soke, the words of Tokimune Takeda Sensei are resoundingly clear (from letter dated November 10, 1987 Aikido Journal, Sokaku Takeda and Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu:

Regardless of who becomes the new headmaster, anyone unskilled enough to be defeated by his own students would truly be a disgrace for Daito-ryu and such a person cannot be recognized. Consequently, I believe it is necessary to nurture the martial skills of the new headmaster.

The resignation letters signed by the senior students have been made public. These senior students resigned by way of signing official Daitokan dojo forms labeled “Notification of Withdrawal / Resignation.” On these forms, there is a checklist indicating the reason for such a decision. Shigemitsu Kato, Gunpachi Arisawa, Matsuo Sano, and others checked the box “other” indicating they resigned for unspecified reasons. The resignation from the Daitokan cannot be denied. It appears this group continues to attempt to salvage its image by claiming they never resigned from the mainline Daito-ryu organization of Tokimune Takeda Sensei, but no reasonable rebuttal has been offered.

Members of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai continue to confuse public understanding and seem to direct focus from truth. The legitimacy of this group appears to be in their association with the self-proclaimed headmaster, Masanobu Takeda (previously named Masanobu Oshima). Again I wish to point out that this group officially resigned from the Daitokan during Tokimune Sensei’s hospitalization, approximately two years prior to the Headmaster’s death. Additionally, the association with Masanobu Takeda began after the seniors resigned from the Daitokan. The question one must ask is, if the senior students are in fact representing mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, why was it necessary for them to form a separate organization?

It has been asserted by the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai that Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei founded his own organization called the Shinbukan-ha Daito-ryu upon being appointed Hombucho and Somucho in September of 1994. It should be noted, the Shinbukan dojo was actually founded in October of 1982 and that the organization under Kondo Sensei’s direction is comprised of those students who remained loyal to Tokimune Takeda and mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

The issue of registering the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu trademark has also become a subject of attack. Kondo Sensei prepared the following statement regarding this issue a few years ago:

Tokimune thoroughly examined the possibility of applying for trademark registration. However, it was thought that as a result of the application Tokimune Sensei’s illness and Daito-ryu’s private information would be revealed to the Kobudo world. For these reasons, the family convinced Tokimune Sensei not to be the one to make the application. Following this, Tokimune Sensei’s guardian and next Soke, Yokoyama Nobuko, began making preparations to apply for the trademark rights. Yokoyama Nobuko then held a meeting with her elder sister, who was at the time called Oshima Kyoko, regarding this matter. The meeting, at which the matter was thoroughly investigated, spanned three days. The result was that should there be an infringement on the trademark right, the family would reserve the right to bring forward a lawsuit against the offender.

However, for procedural and financial reasons, and the psychological burden, the Takeda family decided to not apply for the trademark rights. At this point in the process I, as Soke Dairi, intervened and continued the application process for the trademark rights at the Patent Office. I was very concerned about the future of Daito-ryu. Given past events, I felt it was both important and necessary to secure the rights. After much consultation, I eventually secured the trademark rights.

The rights legally awarded to Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei include the trademarks of the names “Daito-ryu,” “Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu,” and “Daito-ryu Aikibudo.” Additionally, Kondo Sensei was awarded the rights to plan, hold events and classes under the trademarked names as well as all rights for magazines, newspapers, and videos. The application for trademark rights was in direct response to certain challenges made within the Takeda family regarding the position of Soke. Tokimune Sensei’s younger brother, Munemitsu Takeda of Rubeshibe as well as Minemitsu Takeda, the great-grandson of Sokaku Takeda (Sokaku Takeda’s first marriage) of Fukushima Prefecture both vied for the position of Soke and created uncertainty for the future of Daito-ryu. Fearing the future decline of the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu tradition, Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei acted in a responsible manner, as his position of Soke Dairi would require.

It should also be noted that in July of 1994, Masanobu Takeda registered an appeal with the patent office for the purpose of being able to refer to himself as “Soke.” The appeal process continued until October of 1998 at which time, Masanobu Takeda was denied the right to refer to himself as the Soke of Daito-ryu. It is interesting that members of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai claim Kyoko Oshima presented the will of Tokimune Takeda Sensei in court. If this was the case and such a document was determined to be authentic, then the present situation would be much different, as the court would have denied Katsuyuki Kondo the rights he has been awarded.

Members of the Abashiri group continue to point out that Kondo Sensei’s position as Soke Dairi ended at the time of the late Headmaster’s death. This has never been disputed, but clearly shows whom Tokimune Takeda Sensei trusted as his direct and official representative (both in Japan and overseas) while he was still alive. Kondo Sensei does not claim, nor has he ever claimed, to be the Headmaster of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. He adamantly states that the art’s hierarchy traditionally does not include the title of headmaster. The titles used by Kondo Sensei are Hombucho and Somucho and are the same titles that were used by Sokaku Takeda Sensei. The title of Soke or Headmaster is separate from the aforementioned titles as it was used by Tokimune Sensei after he created a composite art (Daito-ryu Aikibudo) by combining Daito-ryu, Ono-ha Itto-ryu, aiki kenpo, and Nihon Kendo kata. Historically speaking, the adoption of the title Soke and the system of Daito-ryu Aikibudo occurred post-World War II. No one in the Takeda family before him used such a title.

Kondo Sensei prepared the following statement regarding the above for Aikido Journal in October of 2000:

Originally Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and Daito-ryu Jujutsu did not have a Soke. Takeda Sokaku Sensei absolutely never called himself Soke. Generally speaking, Takeda Tokimune Sensei didn’t call himself Soke. They both referred to themselves as Hombucho and Somucho (Headquarters Director and Director of General Affairs, respectively). Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and Daito-ryu Jujutsu are the formal titles for Daito-ryu. They have no Soke and therefore have no rank, instructors or dojos attached to them. However, Tokimune Sensei did call himself Soke when referring to Daito-ryu Aikibudo. The position of Soke was Tokimune Sensei’s alone.

The positions of Hombucho and Somucho were assigned based on the possession of seven scrolls (for transmission of the inner secrets of the art). Both Sokaku and Tokimune Sensei gave out the titles according to the scrolls. They referred to these scrolls as Hiden Mokuroku, Aiki-no-jutsu, Hiden Ogi, Aiki Nito-ryu Hiden, Goshin yo-no koto, Kaishaku Soden-no-koto, and Menkyo Kaiden-no-koto. Among Tokimune Sensei’s students, I am the only person to have received even the first scroll, the Hiden Mokuroku.

Tokimune Sensei felt the then current state of affairs (of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and Daito-ryu Jujutsu) was inappropriate for the times and decided to create Daito-ryu Aikibudo complete with dan ranks, Shibucho (branch heads), Soke-Dairi (headmaster representative), and a Soke (headmaster). Tokimune became the first Soke. However, the style was always publicly referred to as Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu or Daito-ryu Jujutsu.

Tokimune Takeda Sensei inherited the art of Daito-ryu upon the passing of his father, Sokaku Takeda, in 1943. In 46 years of active leadership, he awarded only two kyoju dairi certifications (awarded to Shimpachi Suzuki and Katsuyuki Kondo). Contrary to the argument of the Abashiri group, this certification is not temporary. The claim that Tokimune Sensei awarded both soke dairi and kyoju dairi to many students is totally unsupported by documentation. Tokimune Sensei may have given other senior students certain responsibilities, but this does not place them in the same category by inference. To date, no documentation supporting such an assertion has been produced.

Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei: History and Background

Katsuyuki Kondo was born in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo, Japan in 1945. He began training in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu under Tsunejiro Hosono (student of Sokaku Takeda) in 1957 at the age of 12. On the advice of Hosono Sensei, Katsuyuki Kondo went on to study under Kotaro Yoshida (awarded Kyoju Dairi by Sokaku Takeda) in 1963. Katsuyuki Kondo first received instruction from Tokimune Takeda Sensei in 1961 and began to make periodic visits to Hokkaido from 1966 for the purpose of studying directly under the Headmaster. Throughout Kondo Sensei’s earlier years, he was fortunate to have the opportunity to train with such Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu luminaries as Takuma Hisa Sensei, Kodo Horikawa Sensei, Kakuyoshi Yamamoto Sensei, and other notable students of Sokaku Takeda Sensei.

In 1964 Kondo Sensei founded a Daito-ryu club while studying at the Chiba Engineering University. In 1969 Tokimune Takeda Sensei authorized Katsuyuki Kondo to open a Daito-ryu Aikibudo branch dojo in Katsushika Ward, Tokyo (opened in 1970). In 1974 Tokimune Takeda Sensei awarded Katsuyuki Kondo the Kyoju Dairi certification (official teaching license) and later appointed him to the position of Daito-ryu Aikibudo Tokyo so Shibucho (General Director of all Tokyo branch dojos). In May 1988, while Tokimune Sensei was still in good health, Katsuyuki Kondo was awarded the Menkyo Kaiden, indicating full transmission of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Kondo Sensei has pointed out that upon awarding the Menkyo Kaiden, Tokimune Takeda Sensei signed and stamped the certificate under the title of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Somucho (not Soke). In doing this, Tokimune Sensei clearly indicated the Menkyo Kaiden was awarded in the traditional art of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu and not the modern art Daito-ryu Aikibudo.

It should also be noted that when Tokimune Sensei awarded Katsuyuki Kondo the Menkyo Kaiden, he appointed him Soke Dairi and Overseas Director of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. All of that being said, Katsuyuki Kondo is the only student of Tokimune Takeda Sensei to have received the Menkyo Kaiden, the rank of 7th dan, and the hiden mokuroku. Presently, Katsuyuki Kondo is the only living recipient of the Kyoju Dairi certification and is the only student of Tokimune Takeda Sensei that can legitimately teach Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Furthermore, Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei is the only person with legal rights to use the name Daito-ryu and is recognized by both the Nihon Kobudo Kyokai (Japan Kobudo Association) and the Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai (Society for the Promotion of Japanese Kobudo) as the art’s official representative.

Shigemitsu Kato Sensei: History and Background

Public information regarding the history and background of Shigemitsu Kato is somewhat sketchy. I have pieced together a basic understanding of Kato Sensei’s background and credentials through various sources to include Kondo Sensei and students of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai. Attempts to gain further information have been fruitless thus far, but I hope this to change in the future. Some of the dates listed are separated by brackets and are a good illustration of the various contradictory claims made by members of the Abashiri group.

It is stated that Shigemitsu Kato was a direct student of Tokimune Takeda Sensei for over 33 (40) years and taught Daito-ryu at the Daitokan under the direction of the late Headmaster. Additionally, it is said that for 11 (9 to 11) years, he lived at the Daitokan dojo as an uchideshi. From 1979 (1988) to 1992, Kato Sensei held the position of Hombucho at the Daitokan and was appointed Kancho in 1985 (1980).

Kato Sensei was awarded the rank of 5th dan and the certifications “Shibucho” and hon mokuroku. He also claims instruction and certification in Onoha Itto-ryu Kenjutsu. These credentials, although impressive, should not be construed to be more than what they are. Shigemitsu Kato was not awarded a kyoju dairi certification and was technically only permitted to teach Daito-ryu under the supervision of Tokimune Takeda Sensei.

The mokuroku possessed by Kato Sensei is called a hon mokuroku and is not a traditional scroll originally found in the Daito-ryu curriculum. The hon mokuroku is a catalogue of techniques comprised of the ikkajo, nikajo, and sankajo (first 90 techniques) and was apparently awarded to many students. It should be pointed out here that the qualifications for both certifications held by Kato Sensei are satisfied at the level of sandan.

I find it quite interesting that the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai website states, “As in all koryu (classical Japanese schools) a student is legitimated {sic] to teach once he receives a teaching license that is issued by the Soke.” This statement found in the Question & Answer section of the website implies that the organization is legitimized by holding proper certifications. The question that must be asked is, who awarded Kato Sensei a teaching license? As Tokimune Takeda Sensei never awarded teaching credentials to Shigemitsu Kato, one is left to assume said certification was awarded by the self-proclaimed headmaster, Masanobu Takeda. And at this point, the question one must ask becomes, under what authority does Masanobu Takeda award any license in Daito-ryu?

One of the loudest claims made by Shigemitsu Kato is that he teaches the entire Daito-ryu curriculum as was taught at the Daitokan dojo. This is very interesting as Tokimune Sensei only awarded him a 5th dan. If he were taught the entire Daito-ryu curriculum, would he have not received at least a kyoju dairi certification? What about the curriculum in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu taught after the level of 5th dan? After the first 118 techniques of the hiden mokuroku (curriculum to 5th dan), there are 53 aiki no jutsu techniques, 36 hiden ogi techniques, the aiki nito-ryu hiden techniques, 84 techniques of the goshinyo no te, 477 techniques of the kaishaku soden, 88 techniques of the menkyo kaiden, and finally the oral teachings and secrets.

Traditionally, the kyoju dairi certification is awarded after one has progressed to the level of goshinyo no te. It would appear that Kato Sensei is filling the deficiencies in his knowledge of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu with the claim of teaching Onoha Itto-ryu as if this would qualify him to legitimately be the Hombucho of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

Menkyo Kaiden

The Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai has made it their official claim that Kondo Sensei possesses a fraudulent Menkyo Kaiden. Let me assure you this is definitely not the case. Although circumstances surrounding the Menkyo Kaiden have been construed to be less than politically correct, confusion perpetuated by this group is supported with only partial truth and inference.

Again we are faced with a question of honesty, integrity, and truth. First, I point out Stanely Pranin was present when Tokimune Sensei spoke to Katsuyuki Kondo in regards to awarding him with the Menkyo Kaiden. In addition to being a martial artist himself, Stanley Pranin is a journalist and historian whose life’s work has been about seeking truth. He is a man who is above board and has an impeccable reputation. On many occasions the members of this organization have implied that Kondo Sensei has gained legitimacy through association with Stanley Pranin. But, I pose the opposite. Stanely Pranin has a relationship with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei and supports him because he is legitimate. Secondly, the Menkyo Kaiden has withstood all scrutiny and its authenticity has been proven in a court of law.

The group lead by Shigemitsu Kato appears to base their position on two misunderstandings. The first claim is that Kondo Sensei falsified a menkyo kaiden only after Stanley Pranin took photographs of the Daito-ryu scrolls while at Tokimune Takeda’s residence in 1988. The reasonable question one should ask is, why was it that the Headmaster allowed Stanely Pranin to take detailed photographs of the secret and jealously guarded scrolls in the first place?

The second claim is that the Menkyo Kaiden is not recorded in the eimeiroku and therefore must be fraudulent. Kondo Sensei addressed these issues earlier and prepared the following statement:

I went to the home of the Soke Tokimune Takeda in Abashiri together with Aiki News Editor-in-chief Stanley Pranin on January 30, 1988. At that time, the Soke told me that he was going to award me the menkyo kaiden. I received permission to photograph all of the [Daito-ryu] transmission scrolls. We photographed everything using Stanley Pranin’s camera. On May 15, 1988 as directed I had the menkyo kaiden scrolls prepared and went to the Soke’s home. At Tokimune Sensei’s house, the Soke and his wife affixed the Daito-ryu seals to the transmission scrolls. This activity was fatiguing for Tokimune Sensei’s wife and immediately after it was finished she fell ill and was hospitalized.

Naturally, the Soke accompanied his wife to the hospital and there was no time to record an entry for the menkyo kaiden in his student book (eimeiroku). Also, around the time, Mr. Munemitsu Takeda of Aizu contacted Tokimune Sensei through a third party demanding that he turn over the headmastership to the former since he was a descendent of Sokaku Sensei’s first son. Tokimune Sensei told me not to make public my menkyo kaiden for a while.

If there is any question regarding the authenticity of the Menkyo Kaiden, how does one come to an educated conclusion? One suggestion I propose is to look at the integrity of the man who makes the assertion. I believe people must ask themselves about the character and honesty of whom they deal. The question one must ask is, which is more sensible? Stanley Pranin and Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei, in collusion, forged a menkyo kaiden certificate (and accompanying scrolls) in an attempt to fool the world, or the Menkyo Kaiden is authentic and the truth is found in Kondo Sensei’s open and frank explanation?

Kondo Sensei has been extremely honest and forthcoming in his response to the confusion surrounding his Menkyo Kaiden. Anyone who has spent any time with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei can testify to his character. He is a man of integrity and has no reason to add a fraudulent menkyo kaiden to a long list of legitimate accomplishments. Even if one were to remove the Menkyo Kaiden from the argument, Kondo Sensei is the only student of Tokimune Takeda to presently hold even the Kyoju Dairi certification. Tokimune Takeda Sensei obviously trusted Katsuyuki Kondo to represent him and the art of Daito-ryu under a worldwide microscope. To question Katsuyuki Kondo’s integrity is to question Tokimune Takeda’s ability to make sound judgments.

Tokimune Takeda, Katsuyuki Kondo, and Onoha Itto-ryu

The Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai asserts that their organization teaches the entire Daito-ryu curriculum as taught by Tokimune Sensei, including Onoha Itto-ryu Kenjutsu. It is argued that Onoha Itto-ryu has always been taught within the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu curriculum because it can be traced back to the art of the Aizu clan.

One of the claims made to support the legitimacy of the Abashiri dojo and its affiliates has been that Kondo Sensei, although a senior student, was not taught Onoha Itto-ryu Kenjutsu by Tokimune Sensei. The reasoning then follows that Tokimune Takeda Sensei could not have possibly awarded a Menkyo Kaiden to Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei if he does not possess the knowledge of Onoha Itto-ryu. This claim appears to stem from their observation that Kondo Sensei does not publicly demonstrate Onoha Itto-ryu kata.

The fact is Kondo Sensei learned the principles of Onoha Itto-ryu from Tokimune Takeda Sensei, as the principles of the sword are important to the understanding of Daito-ryu. In addition to this, Katsuyuki Kondo and the late Soke of Onoha Itto-ryu, Sasamori Sensei, were friends. But Kondo Sensei holds firmly to the position that Onoha Itto-ryu is not technically part of the historical Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu curriculum. There are no Onoha kata in the techniques of any of the mokuroku levels. Historically, Daito-ryu and Onoha Itto-ryu were passed down separately within the Aizu clan. The decision to add the teachings of Onoha was made unilaterally by Tokimune Sensei after World War II.

The question one must ask is, did Sokaku Takeda teach Onoha Itto-ryu as part of the historical curriculum of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu? If this was the case, when and to whom was it taught?

Katsuyuki Kondo and Aikido

The members of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai have implied on several occasions that Kondo Sensei practiced and even taught aikido. This group continues to make assertions without grounds or substantive proof. It has been asserted that Kondo Sensei was registered at the Aikikai Hombu dojo as an aikido student in 1957 and later as an aikido teacher from 1964 to 1969. It is claimed that documental evidence exists, but same has yet to be produced.

It is asserted that information found in the eimeiroku suggests Kondo Sensei began his study of Daito-ryu in 1969 (presumably after training in aikido). But Kondo Sensei’s credentials are well documented and he records his training in Daito-ryu under Hosono Tsunejiro Sensei at the age of 12 in 1957. Furthermore, Stanley Pranin has in his possession, a photograph (taken at the 11th Daito-ryu demonstration in Abashiri) showing Tokimune Takeda Sensei flanked by Katsuyuki Kondo in 1966. To point out the significance here, it is known that Tokimune Takeda Sensei only allowed senior students to be seated next to him while taking photographs.

It should also be noted that Tokimune Takeda Sensei awarded Katsuyuki Kondo the Kyoju Dairi certification in 1974 (well-documented and not disputed). If Kondo Sensei began his study of Daito-ryu in 1969, that would mean he was awarded a teaching certificate after only 6 years of training! This in and of itself may not sound all that strange, as there are other budo that may award teaching credentials in such a short time of study. But the fact is Tokimune Sensei only awarded two kyoju dairi certifications in the 46 years he was the art’s leader. To put this in perspective, Shigemitsu Kato trained directly under Tokimune Sensei for over 33 (40) years at the Daitokan and still did not receive the kyoju dairi certification.

I believe some of the misunderstanding regarding Kondo Sensei’s connection with aikido can be traced to a Daito-ryu club he founded in 1964 while studying at the Chiba Engineering University. Upon graduation, Kondo Sensei requested that the Aikikai Hombu dojo provide an aikido teacher to take over as there were no other qualified teachers of Daito-ryu available. The Aikikai sent Sadateru Arikawa Sensei to supervise the club and from that time on, the club’s curriculum changed from Daito-ryu to aikido. The club is now referred to as the Chiba Kogyo University Aikido Club.

Another notable point is that Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei was on very good terms with the late Aikido Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. The two had an ongoing friendship and would frequently meet on both a social and political level. Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei has made it quite clear that he never trained in aikido, but did have the good fortune to briefly meet and practice with Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei on one occasion in 1967 (introduction made by Tokimune Sensei). Kondo Sensei’s suggestion to anyone questioning his involvement in aikido is to contact the Aikikai Hombu dojo and conduct the research.

The Internet Age and the dissemination of unfounded criticisms

It amazes me that the members of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai have offered so many unfounded criticisms. One interesting mode of reasoning that continues to perplex me is that because the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai consists of a larger student population (their claim), it is more legitimate than the organization under the direction of Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei.

The organization under the direction of Kato Sensei has claimed to have the largest student body of all Daito-ryu schools while at the same time, Kondo Sensei’s organization is said to only consist of the Shimbukan dojo. This is absolutely absurd and this assertion has been made totally without grounds. The belief that quality and quantity go hand and hand may be greatly mistaken, as this is rarely the case. I find it interesting that Kondo Sensei does not seek legitimacy through the number of students his organization possesses; however, it is his students who find legitimacy through their association with him.

It has also been claimed that Kondo Sensei is not well-known in Japan and is only accepted in the United States as a major representative of Daito-ryu. This is just ridiculous and I assume that this statement has not been made openly inside of Japan. It has become quite apparent that the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai continues in its pursuit to be acknowledged and publicly accepted as legitimate.

It is quite easy to dismiss the recognition of such organizations as the Japan Kobudo Association and the Society for the Promotion of Japanese Kobudo when said recognition has been rejected. In the same vein, it is also easy to refuse to participate in public demonstrations when you are not asked to participate in them. The propaganda I have witnessed supports the idea that Kato Sensei’s group rejects things that they cannot claim. It is this circular type reasoning, unsupported by anything substantive that continues to confuse public understanding.

Another assertion that has been made is that Kondo Sensei was learning ippondori as late as 1991. One would think a sensible person would dismiss such a claim due to the fact that Tokimune Sensei trusted Katsuyuki Kondo to represent the tradition of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu in the eyes of the world. I believe it is quite clear that Tokimune Sensei singled out Katsuyuki Kondo and had great faith in his technical and administrative abilities. When I informed Kondo Sensei of this ridiculous claim, he laughed and said it was true, he was practicing ippondori in 1991. But then he qualified the reason for such practice by stating the essence of Daito-ryu is found in ippondori. When speaking with Kondo Sensei it is quite apparent that the word mediocrity is not found in his personal vocabulary. He continues to strive towards perfection and is never satisfied with resting on his laurels. Kondo Sensei continues to train unceasingly and has made it understood that as one progresses in their training, empty-handed forms must be challenged by the introduction of weapons (such as practicing ippondori against a sword). As always, when questions arise, it is best to go to the source. I believe Kondo Sensei explains his position quite clearly in the following statement (interview printed in Aikido Journal)

In the classical martial traditions the first technique learned always contains the most profound teachings, the mysteries of the art; ippondori is just such a technique. It is a very difficult technique, and it is natural to wonder why it is the first to be taught. But ippondori expresses the real essence of Daito-ryu.

I have been criticized for doing nothing but this technique and for not knowing anything else, but the reason I concentrate on ippondori is that I believe it is of great importance - so much so that one could profitably do nothing but this technique for years. However, the way it is often done these days is nothing but an empty form, which would be completely ineffective in a real martial situation.

The attack in ippondori is a fierce sword cut that would split a person in two from head to hips, yet we see demonstrations in which this attack is caught at head height and the attacker is thrown easily. In reality there is no way that this could be done, and I feel it is an insult to serious students of swordsmanship.

In Daito-ryu one must break the attacker’s balance without interrupting the flow of the technique. While doing so, one must continue to breathe out. These are points that I would like people to pay close attention to.

An addition to the aforementioned assertion, Kondo Sensei has been criticized for not showing his technical abilities in the forum of public demonstrations. It has been hinted that Kondo Sensei only demonstrates low-level techniques in public because his knowledge and abilities are limited. Let me inform you that Kondo Sensei has adamantly stated the principles found in ikkajo are among the most important of the Daito-ryu teachings and he stresses them as such. As a teacher and Menkyo Kaiden, it is his responsibility to stress the basics of the art for the basics are the building blocks on which the art is learned. Without mastery of the basics, one’s knowledge of the art would become nothing more than superficial. So instead of taking the route of a showman who displays his abilities for public entertainment, he humbly teaches the art in a faithful manner. In an interview for Aikido Journal, Kondo Sensei stated the following:

The late Tokimune Takeda Soke would not permit public demonstrations of any techniques other than ikkajo, and although later in his life he said that nikajo and sankajo could also be shown, he was basically opposed to public exposure.

Anyone who has had the opportunity to train directly under Kondo Sensei (not including an occasional seminar) can attest to the fact that he has superior technical ability. Historically, Daito-ryu was a very closed and secretive art and public demonstration of the art’s inner teachings was forbidden. Only recently have the art’s technical teachings been on public display.

Kondo Sensei once explained to me that Tokimune Takeda Sensei told him that, out of one thousand students, to only teach one or two of them true techniques. I have asked Kondo Sensei, if the teachings of Daito-ryu were so jealously guarded, why is it that he teaches so openly? Kondo Sensei’s response was that if he were not to teach in such an open manner, he feared the art would die. This statement brings to mind an interesting question. If Tokimune Takeda Sensei taught in the manner stated, who was it that received the true secrets of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu?

The organization lead by Shigemitsu Kato Sensei claims to have received the entire curriculum of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. This brings about another interesting question. Why was it that Tokimune Sensei never awarded any of these senior students a rank above 5th dan? None of these senior students ever received a teaching license or even the lowest traditional scroll. Although certification is not always a true indicator of one’s technical ability, it definitely makes one think about to whom Tokimune Sensei passed the true teachings of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.

It should be noted that both the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai and the mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu have videos available for public purchase. I encourage anyone who does not already possess these materials to obtain or at the very least view them. Please look carefully at the angles used, the taking of kuzushi, timing, hip rotation, openings for counter, and precision of technique. Kondo Sensei has stated time and time again that Daito-ryu is built upon six principles (rei, metsuki, maai, kokyu, kuzushi, and zanshin) and I believe the differences will be quite clear. Although I will not provide my opinion publicly, I would like to make one point. It has been asserted by members of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai that Kondo Sensei has changed his techniques to aikido-like forms and that the seniors in Abashiri do not put much stock in aiki. This is very sad as Daito-ryu consists of both jujutsu and aikijujutsu. I find it quite interesting that Kondo Sensei teaches both aspects of the art while the Abashiri group tends to dismiss the importance of aiki. I believe much evidence exists that supports the highest levels of Daito-ryu include the use and understanding of aiki. Again we are faced with the question of, with whom did Tokimune Sensei share the true essence of the art? I believe there is much to be said about precision and exactness. One who has refined technical ability has a choice regarding the execution of technique and the way in which a situation is dispatched. One the other hand, one who is unrefined and crude is limited in said ability.

The materials offered by the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai can be found at the following website: Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai videotapes. The materials produced and offered by the mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu can, of course, be found at Aikido Journal Online and will be readily available at the Aiki Expo in September.

Information made public by members of the Nihon Daito Ryu Aikibudo Daito Kai has tended to sway more towards personal opinion and hearsay. Positions and assertions found within this information have been asserted without any substantive proof or factual support. On many occasions requests have been made for members of this group to provide evidence in support of their claims. This organization has continually failed the public by its refusal to produce even a shred of evidence in support of their assertions.

Although some may not agree with the positions taken or answers provided in this essay, it has been written directly from information provided by Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei, mainline Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, Hombucho. I believe an astute reader should be able to distinguish between any personal opinion offered and the direct answers provided by Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei.

Japanese Budo, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, and Aikido

I wish to comment on one final point that has weighed on my mind while writing this essay. I believe discussion as of late pitting the two arts against each other is most unfortunate. Although attempting to evoke thought and healthy discussion, it appears my initial letter posted on Aikido Journal (September of 2002) has stirred emotions within practitioners of both arts. This unfortunately was not my intention and although many have misread my letter to claim aikido is weak and Daito-ryu is strong, I never made such an assertion. The point I attempted to make in the letter was that many aikidoka seemed to have forgotten that aikido was founded in the martial traditions of the Japanese warrior. I believe Morihei Ueshiba O-Sensei was quite clear in his message of peace, but this vision came from the mind of a warrior, a warrior who clearly believed that enlightenment and the forging of one’s spirit is a direct result of diligent and serious training. I placed no value judgment on aikido as an art, but voiced my opinion on what I feel is a sad time in its history. Not to belabor the point, but it is my passion for aikido that motivates such heavy-handed criticism. I believe aikido and Daito-ryu are two arts cut from the same cloth. It is unfortunate that many have fallen into a defensive mindset instead of opening their eyes to the truth.

All budo attempt to capture the traditional spirit of Japanese culture and use martial traditions in pursuit of self-cultivation. Many aikidoka have been led to believe that Daito-ryu is barbaric, unrefined, and spiritually bankrupt. I find it unsettling that many believe that the philosophical underpinnings of Daito-ryu are without merit. It seems many are quick to dismiss Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu (and other budo) as a way of spiritual development and at the same time embrace aikido as a new religion. Please listen to the words of Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei: “I don’t think budo is about winning over other people, rather it’s about winning over yourself; rising above yourself in your current limitations so you can grow mentally and spiritually.” Kondo Sensei states that in budo we strive towards true humanity and then enlightenment. He states the issue is then how we use what we have gained to benefit the world and without having such a goal, budo lacks meaning.

In Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters, Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei states:

In the martial arts, we use physical techniques for spiritual training. However, if one is content solely with training the spirit, there are other ways to train. In the martial arts, being strong is an absolute condition. I think that it is important to be strong and at the same time to develop one’s spirituality. Kondo Sensei further states, I don’t think there is an opportunity to use martial techniques in the real world. In Japan, we have the best police force in the world. Therefore, the only part of our training we can use in the real world is the spiritual side. In other words, in society, at home, and in our school and on our jobs are the places where we realize the value of martial training. It is in society where we can engage in real martial training. The dojo is the backstage and life is the main stage for realizing the true value of the martial arts. One’s training in the martial arts is worthless unless you can realize their true value. That is the reason I have adopted the motto, Budo and life are one and the same.

I believe all budo have merit and that limiting yourself to a single truth is detrimental to spiritual growth. It has saddened me to see such dissension among practitioners of both arts. Superficially we claim to be seeking enlightenment while at the same time allowing our lower selves to roam free unchained. If we have such difficulty controlling ourselves, how is it that we arrogantly believe we can influence others? It has been said that the motto of aikido is “Masakatsu Agatsu Katsuhayabi” or” true victory is self-victory.” How is it we believe we can change the world if we cannot even change ourselves?