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Interview with Hakaru Mori of the Takumakai

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #96 (Summer/Fall 1993)

The Takumakai, an organization based on the teachings of Takuma Hisa, was established in 1975. Its name derives from both Takuma’s name and the Japanese phrase sessa takuma, which literally means “constant diligence.” Initially, there were only seven branch dojos, but the organization has developed into one of the largest Daito-ryu organizations in the greater Osaka area and now includes about forty branches. Many Daito-ryu aikijujutsu techniques—from basic to advanced—were transmitted to the Takumakai through Takuma Hisa, and its activities continue to center on the study of these techniques to ensure their survival to future generations. Our interview focuses on the present activities of this Osaka-based group and its technical curriculum.

Aiki News: Sensei, I’m certain that Daito-ryu is not merely a hobby for you, but rather has a much deeper meaning.

Mori Sensei: At first it was just a hobby. No one really has an idea of the depth of the art when he first enrolls. I, like others, was fascinated by the old Japanese martial arts. By chance, I saw a poster about Hisa Sensei’s dojo on the wall of the building where I worked. Sensei was from Shikoku where both my wife and I come from, so we had something in common. His humanity and techniques fascinated me. Now I try to work diligently to carry out his will.

About how many branch dojos are there in the Takumakai?

We have nearly forty dojos, with a total of about six hundred members. The reason we have grown to be such a large organization is, I believe, due to our use of the seminar system, which began at the Asahi Newspaper Company for teaching groups of students. Originally, the classical martial ways were taught one-on-one, as individual lessons. I suspect that Sokaku Takeda O-Sensei taught on an individual basis as well. However, we could not teach the way it was done in places such as the Asahi Newspaper Dojo, and so we organized things into a seminar-style approach where we gathered together those who wanted to learned and taught them.

I have heard that when Morihei Ueshiba learned from Sokaku Takeda in Engaru, Sokaku held classes for seven or eight students. There is also a record of him teaching a class of fifty students at a police department in Saitama. Of course, there are also his enrollment and payments received records that in-dicate he did teach individually. Thus, this form of group class originated some time ago.

If that’s true, it did start a long time ago. The Takumakai uses this seminar-style lesson, through a combined system. We hold seminars at the various branches. If each branch or dojo were isolated, the individual characteristics of each instructor might be too strongly reflected in the techniques of the dojo and there could be distortion and a loss of standardization. To avoid this we often practice together in groups based on levels; the more experienced practitioners work together, while the beginners work together as well.

We also have instructors go to other branch dojos to practice. In addition, we have compiled a text in both Japanese and English, called the Keiko Techo [Aikijujutsu Training Handbook], which helps to make aikijujutsu easier to understand. For kyu and dan examinations, two or more branch managers must be present as witnesses to prevent bias or distortion of techniques.

Thus, there are clear-cut technical steps from the beginning stages to the upper levels, and I think that all practitioners can realize their goals. I believe that our curriculum is a good one. As the last step we teach sodenwaza [the 11-volume collection of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu techniques compiled by Hisa ca. 1942 based on the techniques of Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda].

Other organizations also have joint training sessions, although they are usually held only once or twice a year, and are more like a festival. But if group practices were held more often as is done in the Takumakai, everyone would be able to progress and a better technical analysis would be possible.

There are any number of third-generation students of Sokaku Sensei still at the Asahi Newspaper Dojo and we learn from them too. We do such things very openly. If you think you are better or superior, you cannot learn. But the members of the Takumakai are all humble. I think this is one good feature of our group. It is true that there have been some members who were not such people, but those individuals have left the Takumakai. If someone has something to teach us, we learn what he teaches, and absorb his techniques and methods. We simply absorb exactly what he teaches. Even though the source of the techniques is the same, as time passes, they become modified based on one’s own experience and study. While Sokaku Sensei was teaching at the Asahi Newspaper Dojo, I don’t think the students really had enough time to understand completely the essence [of his teachings]. But they could understand the outline, and they realized the true essence of the techniques after their own studies and practice. Each of them has a marked individuality. They tell us, “I have learned it like this, and if I add my own experience to the technique, this is what I understand…” We can learn much by watching this. In this respect the Takumakai is the Daito-ryu organization with the largest amount of technical information in Japan.

Although there are five prefectures—Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara, and Shiga—in the greater Osaka area, as well as Shikoku, each with its own history, we can get in touch with one another quickly due to our good climate and efficient means of communications. I think this is an advantage for the operation of the Takumakai as an organization.

Another reason that the Takumakai has grown into such a large association is that we teach techniques openly. Hisa Sensei was generous and taught us all he knew. Thus, those who learned from Hisa Sensei talk about how he taught them.

The increasing popularity of aikido could also have been a factor.

Absolutely. When aikido became popular, people started to take a new look at its roots. Although aikido is deep and its level is high, there are fewer techniques to practice. Thus, some people who studied aikido became dissatisfied with it and joined us in a quest for more variety.

As you have just mentioned, the number of techniques that are regularly practiced in aikido is fewer than in Daito-ryu.

This was done intentionally. Ueshiba Sensei taught Hisa Sensei many more techniques than are usually taught in aikido today. There are just too many of them to learn. For example, we can see in documents such as Admiral Take-shita’s notebooks [Isamu Takeshita, 1869-1949], that Ueshiba Sensei taught a wealth of techniques. I believe that aikido teachers do not teach all of those techniques to students today on purpose. However, they practice their techniques in depth and they have attained a high level. For us, if we teach too many techniques, or if we teach techniques indiscrimi-nately, students become confused and can’t improve the level of the techniques that we teach. This can be a problem because not all students are able to continue training throughout their entire lives.

In this respect, the Keiko Techo of the Takumakai is very valuable.

This may be one reason that the Takumakai is growing. At first, everyone is confused by the number of the techniques and variations to be learned. They wonder, “What am I learning now?” or “What should I concentrate on as the center of my training?” If there is no clue, one remains puzzled. However, with the Keiko Techo, you can know what you are learning and how far you have advanced in the curriculum.

Does the Keiko Techo include a description of the history of Daito-ryu?

Only the general history—the parts that are common knowledge—is described. I do have, however, some personal views about the history of Daito-ryu.

Please tell us about the relationship between the famous Shiro Saigo and Daito-ryu.

Shiro Saigo [a well-known early judo exponent who served as the model for the famous Sugata Sanshiro novel] was adopted by Chikanori Saigo. Thus it is natural to assume that Saigo had some kind of connection to Daito-ryu. However, Shiro Saigo studied judo at the Kodokan starting when he was a child, and there is no evidence that he learned Daito-ryu. But Shiro Saigo left the Kodokan, and there are many theories on why he did so. He was one of the students who were left in charge of the Kodokan while Jigoro Kano was on a trip, but he ran away. We simply cannot prove that he used Daito-ryu techniques at the Kodokan. Some people say the yamaarashi is a variation of shihonage, but the technique introduced by the Kodokan as yamaarashi is totally different. Besides, I doubt that you can actually bend an arm in that way. When you try to apply the technique to someone, you will discover that it is very difficult to bend a judoka’s arm that way. Thus the theory that yamaarashi is a variation of shihonage is not convincing. Furthermore, there is no evidence that Saigo used Daito-ryu after he left the Kodokan. Although it is said that his adopted grandfather taught him Daito-ryu, is it difficult to judge whether or not this is true.

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