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Doshu and Daito-ryu School Speak Their Minds! (2)

Aiki News #79 (January 1989)

The following text is the second 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.

P6: “War with Russia broke out in February of 1904. Morihei was stationed in Manchuria, but the year and a half he spent there is shrouded in mystery. Despite vague references to a distinguished service record, it seems that Morihei never saw action in the conflict, reportedly because of Yoroku’s secret plea to his superiors not to send the family’s only son to the battlefront.”

DOSHU: My father didn’t participate in the actual battle but it had nothing to do with Yoroku. At that time only sons were valued highly and it was the custom to try not to send them into actual battle. I think that is the reason. Although it is said that his activities were recorded, I doubt that they really knew how he moved around in detail. What I heard from my father is that he took part in a mopping-up operation. The old records in Tanabe City in Wakayama Prefecture say that my father received the Eighth Order of Merit for going to the front.

P35: “… Morihei could even dodge bullets fired at point-blank range. Once a group of Omoto-kyo-affiliated military officers formed a firing squad at Morihei’s direction and aimed their pistols squarely at his heart. The instant that they pulled the triggers, Morihei gave out a tremendous shout and knocked them all flat on their backs.”

DOSHU: I have nothing to say about such comments. Nobody will believe this sort of thing. (Laughter) Nowadays anything having to do with the occult is welcome and people are interested in how to execute little tricks to make an opponent fall. This is what I said on one occasion in response to a comment that Morihei Ueshiba could dodge bullets fired from a gun. I said that it was not that he could avoid bullets but that it was possible to imagine him entering towards the opponent the moment he pulled the trigger. In any event, there are many people now who enjoy doing occult-like things. I said the following at the end of my speech: “If you do have interest in things like that, you should be actually practicing them rather than just being interested. You should practice to your limit. Then, after many years of practice, you can understand, for the first time, what we call kotodama (a Shinto-based belief that sounds have an intrinsic value capable of affecting physical reality), which makes it possble for one to execute incredible techniques. This understanding will lead to a manifestation of the spirit of Aikido. You should never think that you can do such things from the beginning. Today people try to acquire things of value without making an effort. I mean they try to get tasty food without lifting their heads off their pillows. In this sense, I think Japan is lax spiritually.

P38: “Jigoro Kano, the founder of Kodokan Judo, paid a visit to the Mejiro dojo in October 1930. Kano, a cosmopolitan, English-speaking intellectual, was in most respects the diametrical opposite of the old-fashioned mystic Morihei, but he too was dazzled by Morihei’s techniques. ‘This is the ideal budo — true Judo’, Kano exclaimed after witnessing Morihei’s performance. Kano humbly asked Morihei to accept two of his senior students as trainees; Morihei agreed and Kano had them report to him regularly the results of their study with the master. There is another story that Kano and Morihei met again and after Morihei toyed with four or five of Kano’s best students he asked the Judo patriarch rather sharply, ‘Just what kind of budo are you teaching at the Kodokan?’ Somewhat sheepishly, Kano replied, ‘Our system is more a form of physical education than pure budo.’”

DOSHU: This is a much-talked-about story. However, since I was in the fourth year of elementary school then, I do not know any details. It is true that Kano Sensei was really impressed with my father’s techniques. I understand that Kano Sensei did say, “This is real budo, the true Judo.” I also understand that his student named Mr. Hideyuki Nagaoka then asked a question in return, “Does that mean that what we are practicing is not true Judo then?” I have heard that in answering this question Kano Sensei replied, “That’s not the case. Kodokan Judo is the Judo of 90 degree angles and Aikido is the Judo of 180 degree angles.” Although many people have talked about things which occurred later I am not familiar with the details.

P44: “Initially, Morihei — essentially a self-taught master — used his Daito Ryu licenses to give himself a measure of legitimacy in document-obsessed Japan. After Sokaku’s last visit to the Kobukan, Morihei removed his Daito Ryu licenses from the training hall and had nothing more to do with the old-time warrior….”

DAITOKAN: This comment refers to events occuring in 1931, doesn’t it? Ueshiba Sensei gave Daito-ryu licenses in 1932 to Mr. Minoru Mochizuki and as far as we know he continued giving out Daito-ryu certificates up through 1937.

P47: “… Morihei’s prestige was so great that certain government officials secretly commissioned him to try to negotiate a peace settlement with the Chinese leaders; following Pearl Harbor, Japan was incapable of waging war on two fronts for very long. Nothing came of Morihei’s efforts, however, and he suddenly retired from public life in 1942.”

DOSHU: My father never negotiated a peace settlement. Some generals and others who used to come to the dojo did ask my father to propose a settlement to the commander if he was to go over there [China]. My father and Mr. Hata (Shunroku Hata, commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force to China) were old friends, you see. So it was true that my father met Mr. Hata because he was asked to do so. However, my father told me later that when he met him, he was told that although Mr. Hata appreciated his taking the trouble to go over there, he would like my father to leave everything to him and so he came back. I think that this is what actually happened. Since it expressed in sentences like this in print, the story sounds a little funny. Trifling things like this are blown way out of proportion.

P67: “In his youth Morihei learned of the Aioi ryu (probably an offshoot of the Sekiguchi Ryu) from the stories told about his grandfather, a famous exponent of the art. This and related systems stressed the importance of freely applying the “hard” and the “soft”~ according to each particular situation.”

DOSHU: I don’t know much about Aioi-ryu, but my father did say, “Our family has a school named Aioi-Ryu and I learned it from my father, Yoroku,” and I have also heard about the art. However, my father never told me what techniques Aioi-ryu includes or anything like that. Sekiguchi-ryu is a school of jujutsu handed down in Wakayama Prefecture. Although my father associated with people of Sekiguchi-ryu, this was in his later years.

P69: “Since Nakai was additionally proficient in sword, spear, and jo techniques, it is likely that Morihei trained in those arts during his four and a half years of apprenticeship. Morihei received a Goto Ryu Yagyu Jujutsu teaching license from Nakai in 1908 at age twenty-five. Even though Morihei studied a number of different systems, this is the only full teaching license he obtained.”

DOSHU: In the old army system, soldiers could not leave the base easily. They could only take a day off on Sundays. My father entered Nakai’s dojo in Sakai, Osaka first and soon after that he was stationed in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese war. While a soldier after his return from Manchuria, he continued to train at the Nakai dojo once a week. After he left the army and returned to Tanabe, he went to the dojo in Sakai for a change of pace about once a week. Thus, he practiced only a short period all together. Since Mr. Nakai did not yet have authority to give licenses or scrolls, my father received the license from Masanosuke Tsuboi (a senior instructor of Yagyu-ryu Jujutsu Gotoha) through Mr. Nakai. Therefore, the name of Masanosuke Tsuboi is written on the scroll left in our house. Although I wrote that Morihei Ueshiba received a license from Masakatsu Nakai, people in general didn’t believe this. They understood that my father studied only under Sokaku Takeda Sensei of Daito-ryu. Although I forgot the exact date, I was informed of the existence of Mr. Nakai through old documents about him which a certain old martial master found. We were all surprised to know that Mr. Nakai really existed. Then I did research on the dojo of Nakai in Sakai, Osaka and found documents there as I expected. I even found out where the dojo was. This was the reason Mr. Nakai also became a focus of attention.

P69-70 .”.. Sokaku, who initially called his system the Yamato Ryu, decided to change it to Daito Ryu and had formal documents drawn up tracing the lineage back to Yoshimitsu. Daito was the name of Yoshimitsu’s mansion and further referred to the Daito (Great East) Prosperity Sphere then being promoted by Japanese imperialists. Sokaku thereafter styled himself thirty-fifth ~Grandmaster of the Daito Ryu.”

DAITOKAN: We have visited the Daito before. We thought that there would be only a temple but in fact it was actually a military affairs office. This was called the Daito mansion. One of the daughters from the family married an emperor. Therefore, it would seem that this military affairs institution had a strict set of formalities. As for the name of the art, Sokaku Sensei used to call it Yamato. The Chinese character for this Yamato was the same as that for Daito but he had people read it as Yamato until the beginning of the Taisho period (1912-1925). However, Mr. Kotaro Yoshida (an intellect who was the head of a newspaper company in Kitami, Hokkaido and also a student of Sokaku) told Sokaku Sensei that the Chinese characters for the art were no longer read as Yamato then and suggested that they should be read as Daito. In those days, that is, in the Meiji period, they did talk about Daito Bunkaken (Greater East Co-Prosperity Sphere), but this had nothing to do with the name of the art. The origin of the name came from the Daito mansion of Yoshimitsu. Moreover, Sokaku Sensei never used the title of thirty-fifth Grandmaster. Why would he have to call himself a “master”? He did use names such as “chief of general affairs” or “headquarters chief.”

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