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Interview with Tokimune Takeda (2)

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #72 (September 1986)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Douglas Walker. Tokimune Takeda Sensei was born in Shimo Yubetsu, Hokkaido in 1916. He received strict instruction in arts such as kenjutsu and Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu from his father, Sokaku Takeda. After the war he became a police officer and distinguished himself as a detective. Upon retirement, he became the director of the Yamada Suisan Company.

In 1954, he established the Daitokan Dojo and dedicated himself to teaching Daito-ryu Aiki Budo. He retired from business in 1976 and since then has taught all over Japan. There are now some sixty affiliated dojos and clubs in various parts of the country.

AIKI NEWS: Did Sokaku Takeda Sensei go to Ayabe on Ueshiba Sensei’s invitation?

TAKEDA SENSEI: Actually there were many people from the navy training in Mr. Ueshiba’s dojo. All of the navy members had experience in Sumo wrestling and were very strong. They were nicknamed “Oni Chujo” (devil vice-admirals). Since Ueshiba would have had difficulty in handling such individuals he asked Sokaku Takeda Sensei to come. They were really huge. Mr. Ueshiba was smaller than me, you know. I would imagine he couldn’t pin them because he wasn’t using precise techniques. After all it is difficult using only Aiki…

I have been watching Aikido techniques at the Nihon Budokan (large sports arena in Tokyo) but I found that those demonstrating did soft techniques. They won’t work in a real fighting situation. Their partners are only taking falls for them. It is as if they are practicing taking falls. Even if you throw your opponent you can’t practice properly unless he takes a fall for you. On the other hand, if your partner takes a beautiful fall, it makes your techniques look good. In our practice we don’t have our partners take falls. We practice throwing. There is no need for them to take falls.

Would you please tell us a little more about the relationship between Sokaku Takeda Sensei and Admiral Isamu Takeshita?

I can’t really say since I never met Admiral Takeshita directly. But I have read “The Story of the Bravery of Sokaku Takeda” written by him. Mr. Ueshiba himself talked about Isamu Takeshita having written such and such a book. I didn’t think this writer was an admiral since only his name, Isamu Takeshita, was written in the book. When Mr. Ueshiba was running the Kobukan Dojo I visited him and heard about the book from him. Then I realized I had read it before.

Did Sokaku Takeda Sensei and Jigoro Kano Sensei ever meet each other?

Yes, Many times. Mr. Kano and Sokaku Takeda were friends. They met each other often in Tokyo. Mr. Kano created Judo from the Kito-ryu and Tenjin Shin yo-ryu Jujutsu schools. He created his system as a method of physical education. Sokaku Takeda also practiced traditional martial arts. There was a man called Shiro Saigo. He was an adopted son Tanomo Saigo, the teacher of Sokaku Takeda. He also played a leading role in making the Kodokan well-known. This Shiro Saigo was the inspiration fro the hero of the novel “Sanshiro Sugata”. Shiro Saigo was born out of wedlock to Tanomo Saigo and his lover. Therefore, although Shiro was Tanomo’s real son, he later adopted him to make it so officially.

In a number of books dealing with Aikido it is said that Ueshiba Sensei built a house for Sokaku Takeda Sensei. Is this true?

No, he did not build a house for Sokaku. It is, however, true that Sokaku lived temporarily in Ueshiba’s house. There is a story behind this story. In 1916, an incident occurred which left Ueshiba much indebted to Sokaku Takeda. As a token of gratitude, he asked Sokaku Takeda to live in his house when he left Hokkaido since it would otherwise become empty. Later on, my father built another house of his own and lived there. This was when I was around seven years old.

In the Aikido world the historical role of Daito-ryu is not emphasized much. However, since we have read documents you have published, Sensei, and also due to our own research, we have come to realize that Daito-ryu had great influence on Aikido. This fact won’t change in the future or even 100 years from now. Therefore, I think more Aikido people will naturally become interested in Daito-ryu. In light of this, I feel an obligation to delve into the history of Daito-ryu, Sokaku Takeda Sensei and his disciples, including, of course, yourself and making this information available to readers. I would like to continue asking some questions about Sokaku Takeda. I believe he traveled a great deal. During that time his wife was left behind. I am sure that this was very difficult for her…

Yes, it was. My father never let us know where he was. He used to say, “When a man goes out, he always has seven enemies. So don’t expect me to come back.”

Did Sokaku Takeda Sensei drink or smoke?

No, he couldn’t drink or smoke. He ate anything but was very thin. He was a light eater.

Did Sokaku Takeda Sensei have any brothers and sisters?

He had one elder brother and one younger brother. He also had a sister.

We understand that Sokaku Takeda taught a foreigner named Charles Parry who taught English in Japan during the Meiji period.

At that time Sokaku Takeda was teaching at the Second Army Division in Sendai. Mr. Parry came to teach English at the Sendai Second High School. A foreigner who came to Japan with Mr. Parry also studied with Sokaku Takeda. My father knew words like “Shoulder”. He also could say “pin” for “osae”. So he knew a little bit of English. (Laughter). Sokaku Takeda could read other people’s thoughts. That is true Aiki. Aiki is not a matter of twisting someone’s hand. There was one incident which really surprised me. Once when my father went to Osaka he told me he put some people in order through Aiki. I didn’t know what he meant by that and asked one of people in the dojo. He told me how surprised he was when Sokaku identified the ranks of those he met for the first time and had them sit according to their positions from the highest to the lowest. The man thought that this was something no ordinary person could do and started studying with Sokaku in earnest. Since he was able to do such things even the police would study with him.

He was truly exceptional because he taught police including many masters of Judo and Kendo. The police were the strongest in Judo, Kendo and everything else. They were concerned with these sorts of things as part of their job. Sokaku was amazing because he had police sign their names and affix their personal seals. He himself had no rank.

I remember one incident involving a Mr. Shuzo Shibuya in Urawa, Saitama Prefecture while Sokaku Takeda taught there. One day, Mr. Shibuya asked Sokaku to go with him to a restaurant. However my father asked me to go in his place since he had a cold and wanted to stay in bed. I went there without any idea of what was going to happen. There I met a police instructor. He asked me when Sokaku Takeda Sensei received his hanshi (Kendo master rating) certificate. When I replied he didn’t have one the man then asked when he was awarded the kyoshi rating. I said that he didn’t have a kyoshi certificate either. Then he asked about a renshi rank. Again I answered in the negative. When he finally asked whether or not he had a dan rank and heard me answer in the negative he became angry. “Where do you think this is? In Urawa there is a kendo master, Takano Hanshi!”

Martial arts were flourishing in Urawa. A man without a hanshi or kyoshi rating was teaching there. What’s more, Sokaku Takeda didn’t even have a kyu rank. (Laughter).

Mr. Shibuya looked so threatening that I found myself becoming smaller. If you think of it, it was natural for him to become so angry. He was teaching the sword in the area where Takano Sensei lived and was instructing the police. Then he asked me what sort of things we practiced in Daito-ryu and proceeded to choke me. I immediately strangled him with one hand. That finished things. (Laughter) He apologized on his knees. Afterwards, he changed his attitude completely and said he would talk to the chief of police the next day.

Sokaku taught the Urawa police when he was nearly 80 years old. The budo experts were taken aback too. Sokaku pulled out one of the policemen and pinned his right hand with his left hand and said, “Hai!” The man could no longer move. Sokaku made the man bow to the people present and said,” Okay, now greet these gentlemen!” Sokaku made all of these Judo and Kendo experts bow down with one hand. Finally he said to the people, “Now, do you understand?” (Laughter)

It seems that the man he first pulled out was a 6th dan instructor of Judo at the police school. Sokaku used to say the following: “When you go out to teach, you should pull out the strongest man. When you apply your techniques to the strongest person everyone is convinced and will want to study with you.” But how can you know who is the strongest one out of 200 people? (Laughter) he just looked around and pulled out the right individuals one after the other. That’s Aiki, you know.

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