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Doshu and Daito-ryu School Speak Their Minds! (1)

Aiki News #78 (September 1988)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Kevin Low of the USA.

SETTING THE FACTS STRAIGHT: RESPONSES TO CONTROVERSIAL PASSAGES OF JOHN STEVEN’S “MORIHEI” BIOGRAPHY BY DOSHU KISSHOMARU UESHIBA AND THE DAITO-RYU SCHOOL

The following text is the first part of a series presenting the viewpoints of Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba and the Hokkaido-based Daitokan School of Daito-ryu Aiki Budo regarding key historical points in the lives of Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda and the development of Aikido. Both sides offer facts and perspectives which differ significantly from those advanced in Abundant Peace by Mr. John Stevens, the first English-language biography of the Founder of Aikido and have requested that their views be published. The page numbers cited correspond to those of the original English text.

P12-14: “In Fukushima Prefecture, a bandit was terrorizing the populace, but despite their best efforts, the police failed to apprehend him. One morning the outlaw was discovered dead in the field with his neck nearly wrenched off his shoulders. Everyone wondered who had dared to slay this vicious criminal. Officially, no one was named, but several policemen knew quite well that Sokaku, who was conducting a training session in the area at the time, deliberately walked alone along the darkest roads each night.”

DAITOKAN: We do not know much about this incident. It is true that at the time there were many powerful gamblers. However, the police were quite weak. Sokaku Takeda was employed by the police in order to control the gamblers and the police introduced him to various places as a bodyguard. At that time gamblers would go to the house of a judge and threaten his wife and children with knives. He would be told to let prisoners go free and the judge would be forced to comply letting off criminals with a non-guilty verdict. Sokaku became involved in that kind of situation. This explains why in later years judges came to study under Sokaku and would affix their seals in his enrollment book. We don’t know where this story came from. It merely implies that Sokaku was the one responsible for the incident, doesn’t it? However, it is true that Sokaku killed several people in Fukushima Prefecture. This incident resulted in a court trial. This is the famous Fukushima Incident which took place about 1879 (See AIKI NEWS 69).

There was a man named Tsugumichi Saigo who was a brother of Takamori Saigo. He took an active part in establishing the 2nd Army Division in Sendai (in Miyagi Prefecture). In this connection, he let imprisoned gamblers work on road construction between Tokyo and Sendai. Sokaku Takeda was still a young man at the time. When Sokaku passed the road in Fukushima where the gamblers were working they came to attack him for his money. They thought little of him because he was small. A basket carrier suddenly grabbed Sokaku’s chest. But he was not the type who would put up with such a thing. He hit the man with a sword cane which was sheathed in its case which he was carrying as a police weapon. Then the case broke in two and the man was cut. That’s what triggered the fighting. There were a lot of people involved not just one or two. Sokaku fought them for about one or two hours and finally they covered him with a straw basket. When he fell down they stabbed him in the back with a fire hook to finish him off. Later he showed me the big scar on his back. An uncle of Sokaku was working on a construction job and was a crew chief. Sokaku was saved because this uncle happened along. At the trial they decided to confiscate Sokaku’s sword but the verdict was that he acted in self-defense.

P14: “After witnessing an impressive demonstration and being deftly handled by the skinny Sokaku, Morihei applied for admission to the “Daito Ryu”, … and was accepted. Morihei forgot about everything else, staying at the inn for a month, training day and night with Sokaku; following thirty days of practice, Morihei was presented with a first-level teaching license…. Morihei then returned to Shirataki…. Then he built a dojo and house for Sokaku on his property, invited the master to teach there and received private instruction each morning for two hours. Sokaku also taught a group lesson later in the day….”

DAITOKAN: We have no evidence that Morihei Sensei practiced for one month. Nor was there a dojo. There was a large house Morihei built where they practiced. We have no evidence that he built a house and dojo for Sokaku. There was only a cabin-like structure. We do not know if they practiced two hours privately every morning.

Doshu: I do not know very much about this but I heard exactly the same thing from my father. However, I doubt that he confined himself in the inn for one month since he had a job and a wife and child. I don’t know if he received a license then but it is true that he received a kind of scroll from Takeda Sensei. I have two or three scrolls here in the house. I’ll show you.

This is the scroll. It is dated February 1916. This is another scroll dated March 1916. The place name is Futamata, Shirataki, Mombetsugun in Hokkaido. These are from the time when Morihei was working and studying under Sokaku Sensei. He received two scrolls in 1916. Although it is said that Morihei received the “kyoju dairi” (teaching certification) from Sokaku Sensei when the latter went to Ayabe in 1922, there is no scroll. It is only recorded in the enrollment book [of Takeda Sensei]. Here is a more recent scroll. It is a “Shinkage-ryu Heiho” [ Shinkage School Tactics] scroll that Takeda Sensei gave to my father. It is dated September 1922. My father did not pay much attention to receiving such things.

I don’t know whether or not they practiced for two hours every morning but it is my understanding that my father either rebuilt his house or built a house nearby where he and a number of young people received instruction from Sokaku Sensei for a short time. Since Shirataki at that time was a very primitive place I think we are talking about just a hut.

P15: “Morihei suddenly left Hokkaido for good at the end of 1919. The “official” reason for Morihei’s flight from Shirataki is his father’s critical illness back in Tanabe. This explanation has been questioned, however…. First of all, prior to receiving news of his father’s critical condition, Morihei had already sent his family (which now included two infant sons born in Hokkaido) back to Tanabe….”

DOSHU: This is wrong! It was true that his father, Yoroku, was sick and also that my father happened to go to the Omoto Religion Center [ in Ayabe] impulsively merely because the Omoto was there on his way home. He was the sort of person who, once he had made up his mind about something, would be determined to do it even faced with a situation such as the death of a parent. Having heard on the train [ on the way back to Tanabe] that a certain Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei could cure any illness, he immediately decided to go to the Omoto Religion Center to ask Deguchi Sensei to pray for his father. Given my father’s character this is quite possible and there is nothing strange about it. My father was very impressed by Deguchi Sensei but after [ his visit to the Omoto] he went home to his father. This is what really happened. It’s better not to make such strange guesses about what happened. It is also written that two sons were born in Hokkaido but actually only on was born there. Also, it is stated that my father sent his family back to Tanabe before receiving news of his father’s illness. He sent Matsuko, the eldest daughter, back to Tanabe because of her schooling. Since there was no one to accompany her, they asked a person who was returning to Tanabe to take care of her. My mother was very worried about Matsuko. Also, she did not like the cold weather [ of Hokkaido] and wished to return to Tanabe where it was warmer. That’s the reason my mother also returned. She also knew that Yoroku was not well then and this gave her all the more reason to return home. There’s no way my father would let his family go home willingly! My mother took Takemori with her. Takemori was suffering from infant tuberculosis.

P15: “It is my view that Morihei was both spiritually restless, still searching for life’s purpose, and disenchanted with Sokaku’s teaching methods, anxious to experiment on his own, free of the ceaseless demands of that exacting and exasperating mentor.”

DAITOKAN: There are many documents left concerning Sokaku Takeda’s teaching police and judges all over the country. This is proof that Sokaku was considered to be of high character. Morihei Sensei also called his art “Daito-Ryu” from 1915 to at least 1937.

P15: “…. (Sokaku was)….ill-tempered, vain, and arrogant, he was inordinately proud of the many men he had cut down (yet terrified of their departed spirits, which he said haunted him at night)….”

DAITOKAN: Sokaku never talked about ghosts. He would be upset at us for saying such things and might come to us as a ghost himself. (Laughter)

P15: “…. he constantly heaped scorn on other teachers and traditions. For example, he once referred to the dignified Jigoro Kano as a “fish peddler”….”

DAITOKAN: We have never heard the story of Sokaku saying such a thing about Jigoro Kano Sensei. However, he did not agree with what Jigoro Kano was doing and did say that it was not “bujutsu” (martial arts) but rather that it was like “physical education”. Sokaku and Kano had the sort of relationship when they were young where they would go drinking in Tokyo and so Sokaku would never say such a thing.

P15: “… he carried an unsheathed dagger on his person whenever he stepped out, and his walking stick concealed a razor-sharp blade that he applied to any dog that dared bark at him….”

DAITOKAN: Sokaku used to wrap up an unsheathed dagger in a towel to carry with him. This is an episode about Sokaku in his later years when he had started to become senile. One day Tokimune Sensei tried to wake Sokaku up and suddenly his father stabbed him in his upper arm. It was dark then and he may have acted reflexively.

What he carried with him was not a bladed stick but rather a hexagonal iron stick. We know about the story of him killing a dog. It occurred when Sokaku visited the Grand Shrines of Ise from Ayabe in 1922. Morihei Sensei, Tokimune Sensei and his wife Sue were also present. There was a gangster with a dog. This dog suddenly came to attack Sokaku while barking. It was a huge Japanese dog. When the dog opened its mouth Sokaku thrust him with the stick. The dog didn’t die immediately but the next day. Although the party went to an inn, the owner had already heard about this incident and asked them to leave. The owner was afraid the gangster might follow them to the inn and attack them. This is why they had to leave.

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