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Interview with Yukiyoshi Sagawa

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #74 (April 1987)

Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei was born in Yubetsu, Hokkaido in 1902. He began formal study of Daito-ryu under Sokaku Takeda at age 11. He received an instructor’s license from Takeda in 1932. After that he traveled with his teacher to various locations as his assistant. One of the most prominent deshi of Sokaku Takeda, he is 85 years old this year. Sagawa Sensei’s unbelievable technique is the product of his long training experience. Presently his teaching at a dojo attached to his home in Kodaira City, a suburb of Tokyo. On February 20, 1987, the AIKI NEWS staff observed a class conducted by Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei of Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu for about two and a half hours. The following is an interview conducted after the class.

Aiki News: Sensei, where did you begin your study of Daito-ryu?

Sagawa Sensei: I started in Yubetsu, Hokkaido. My father (Nenokichi Sagawa) built a dojo in order to receive instruction from Sokaku Takeda Sensei. At that time my father was a town councilman and school official and also ran a shop.

Were Daito-ryu seminars held in the dojo your father built?

Yes. Since I was a child then I don’t know the details, but it seems that seminars were held in the dojo.

Did the training last seven or eight hours a day as when Sokaku Sensei would teach in other locations?

I believe they lasted more than three hours. People who were interested came to the dojo to study the art. However, gradually these people came less and less, and my father ended up as the only student and received private instruction from Sokaku Sensei. Then he would go to different places for seminars. He taught such people as village leaders and politicians.

Did your father know Taiso Horikawa, the father of Kodo Horikawa Sensei?

Yes, Mr. Taiso Horikawa was living in the same village (Yubetsu) and ran an inn while my father was operating a store which sold all sorts of different items. They knew each other through this connection.

Did your father and Mr. Horikawa sometimes train together?

Although they practiced together, my father received an instructor’s license in March 1914. It seems Mr. Taiso Horikawa received the same license later.

Did your father also have any contact with Kotaro Yoshida or Morihei Ueshiba?

Both started training after my father. Mr. Yoshida was living in Engaru at that time and had close contact with my father. Since Mr. Ueshiba came to make various purchases at my father’s store, they knew each other before Ueshiba became a student of Sensei.

We understand that your father was at the Hisada Inn when Morihei Ueshiba first me Sokaku Takeda Sensei. Would you please tell us about that story?

I was about 14 then and I heard the story many times. He happened to be teaching some students of Sokaku at the Hisada Inn when Mr. Ueshiba enrolled as a student with an introduction from Mr. Kotaro Yoshida.

In the earlier stage Sokaku Sensei’s art was called “Daito-ryu Jujutsu” and it later became known as “Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu”. Would you talk about the name change please?

The term “Aiki” is a very old one. It was used from the Meiji period. This is a memo book my father used for writing down notes on techniques he learned from Takeda Sensei. Here you see the phrase “execute Aiki (written in katakana),” in several places. This entry was made on May 14, 1913. My father was 50 years old and Takeda Sensei was in his 55th year at that time. So the term “Aiki” was also in use before the period you refer to. Takeda Sensei would make a distinction between “Aiki Jujutsu” and “Jujutsu” when he was teaching.

Would you please tell us more about Takeda Sensei?

I first met him when I was ten years old. Takeda Sensei liked making soba or udon noodles himself. When he made them he would really make large quantities, more than we could possibly eat, but he would still say, “Eat more! Eat more!” (Laughter). Takeda Sensei also took baths with me and my sister. He would rub our backs very hard in the tub, and it was really painful for us. Children’s skin is soft you know! (Laughter)

Did Takeda sensei have hard muscles?

No, his muscles were soft. His arms were usually soft. But he had really large forearms. Takeda Sensei was a very intelligent man and had an excellent memory and powers of concentration.

Let me tell you one story about him. I also studied Onoha Itto-ryu from Ryokichi Sasaki Sensei. In this connection Sasaki Sensei and Takeda Sensei came to know each other. One day there was a sword tournament as part of the fall festival. It was a country festival and many swordsmen gathered from all over Hokkaido. Sasaki Sensei participated in the contest and was the winner. Takeda Sensei told Sasaki Sensei that he should not use the “hikigote” technique since it was not very effective. Sasaki Sensei replied saying that he had never been struck when he used the technique and had had no problems. Hearing this Takeda Sensei told him to put on a “kote” wrist protector and they stood facing each other. The moment Sasaki Sensei assumed a “seigan” stance Takeda Sensei’s repeated right and left handed strikes touched the inside of his lower forearm, and there was no way for Sasaki Sensei to protect himself by withdrawing or parrying. Finally, Sasaki Sensei became pale and admitted he had been beaten. When he took off the protector he had a quarter-size round mark on the inside of his forearm.

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