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Sokaku Takeda Biography (6)

by Tokimune Takeda

Aiki News #79 (January 1989)

The following article was prepared with the kind assistance of Brian Workman of the USA. The article below is reprinted with the kind permission of Tokimune Takeda Sensei, Headmaster of Daito-ryu Aiki Budo and son of Sokaku Takeda Sensei.

Sokaku practices the Onoha Itto-ryu sword

The founder of the Aizu clan, Lord Masayuki Hoshina initiated training in the Onoha Itto-ryu sword within the clan. The third successor of the Aizu clan, Lord Masakata Hoshina in particular, was a master swordsman and the only person in the entire clan to receive the secret teachings of the Onoha Itto-ryu from then headmaster Tadatsune Ono. The sword school had been preserved by the Aizu lords generation after generation.

One of the retainers of the Aizu clan, the Shibuya family was highly respected and was appointed to share in the instruction of the clan lords in addition to their duties as court physicians. About the end of the Edo period, Toma Shibuya was serving as a retainer. He opened a dojo called the “Yokikan” in Aizu Bange-cho to teach martial arts to other retainers and the children of the clan while serving as a physician.

The oldest son of Hidetsugu Watanabe who lived in Aizu Bange-cho was adopted into the Shibuya family as the son-in-law of Toma Shibuya. His name was Ichiro Shibuya. He started to train in Itto-ryu as a small boy. While studying medicine in Tokyo, he also began to practice Shindo Munen-ryu under Master Shingoro Negishi. He trained hard and became noted as one of the four best students of Negishi’s dojo along with Hakudo Nakayama and two others. He became so famous as a swordsman that he gave up medicine. Thus, he started to devote his life to swordsmanship and later inherited the Yokikan founded by his stepfather Toma.

When his teacher, Master Shingoro Negishi, visited him in 1912, he changed the name of his dojo from the Yokikan to the “Risshinkan”, thus making it a genuine Shindo Munen-ryu dojo both in name and in practice.

Around the end of the Edo Period, Sokaku Takeda studied Itto-ryu under Toma Shibuya at the Yokikan and was initiated into all of the secret teachings of Itto-ryu. He later declared his expertise in both Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu (the martial art tradition of the Aizu clan), which had been handed down in the Takeda Family and Onoha Itto-ryu which had been transmitted in the Aizu clan and began traveling about Japan. He made the Aizu spirit well-known throughout Japan. He traveled from the Karafuto and Chishima Islands in Hokkaido all the way to Okinawa and even to Hawaii.

He continued to give instruction in both arts while traveling all over Japan until his death in Aomori at the age of 86. (He did not die on tatami mats but in the street due to illness.)

The present headmaster (Tokimune Takeda) residing in Abashiri City, Hokkaido has inherited both Daito-ryu which was handed down through the Aizu clan and Onoha Itto-ryu from Sokaku. Tokimune Takeda is making every effort to instruct genuine Aiki Budo at the Daitokan in Abashiri.

Sokaku always used to emphasize the significance of sword training. He stresses that the way of the sword is the mother of the martial arts and that it contains a common truth applicable to all martial arts including weapons such as the spear and staff and yawara (jujutsu) and kenpo arts.

Sokaku takes up practice of the spear

Sokichi Takeda, father of Sokaku, had practiced the Hozoin Takada-ryu Sojutsu from his stepfather, Dengoro Kurokochi. He was initiated into all of the secret teachings of the art and taught it to his son, Sokaku. Sokaku trained hard in Onoha Itto-ryu and tried to sharpen his favorite technique of thrusting using both the sword and spear.

He hung a ball of thread from the ceiling of the dojo built-in a godown style in his house to practice thrusting. The ball dangling by the thread flew right back at him after being poked. He repeatedly practiced hitting the ball to practice thrusting to any direction. Furthermore, he used to practice thrusting at a tree until he cut a hole in it.

The Aizu were noted for their expertise in spear techniques. Since there were numerous spear masters, Sokaku visited those who had survived the Aizu War to challenge them. He had bouts with the masters of different schools – some who used long and some who used short spears – and never lost.

There were many people who derided Sokaku’s martial arts training method. They thought that the age of the sword and spear had ended. In the Battle of Toba-Fushimi during the Boshin War in 1868, companies of townsmen and farmers bearing firearms severely defeated the sword and spear corps of the Aizu and the courageous men of the Shinsengumi (See AIKI NEWS 74) causing them to grovel on their hands and knees. Despite such derision, Sokaku threw himself whole-heartedly into training in martial arts.

Sokaku joins the dojo of Kenkichi Sakakibara

There was an upheaval at Hamaguri Gate of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto in 1864 when samurai of the Choshu clan struggled against Shogunate troops. As a consequence, the first punishment of the Choshu began in the same year. Along with the Shinsengumi lead by Isami Kondo and Toshizo Hijikata, Sokichi Takeda participated in the battle as the head of an artillery regiment consisting of Aizu sumo wrestlers.

Kenkichi Sakakibara was also a member of the mobile forces in the battle against the Choshu. Sokichi and Sakakibara, both extraordinary martial artists, got along very well.

In the spring of 1873, Sokaku heard about the reputation of the exhibitions given for the Gekken Kai (fencing tournaments) conducted by Kenkichi Sakakibara. He then urged his father Sokichi to approve of his studying under Sakakibara. Seeing his son’s determination Sokichi finally gave in and agreed to take him to Tokyo to Sakakibara’s dojo. This Sokaku joined Sakakibara’s dojo to become a student of Jiki Shinkage-ryu.

In the spring of 1873, Kenkichi Sakakibara, along with some of his old colleagues from the military institute of the Tokugawa Government, held a series of grand ceremonial matches as a memorial to the late 14th Shogun in Kotokuji-ga-hara.

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