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Interview with Katsuyuki Kondo

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by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #80 (April 1989)

The first techniques we practice are grouped together as the Hiden Mokuroku. There are five different groups of techniques (ikkajo through gokajo) or a total of 118 separate techniques. Gokajo includes tasudori (techniques against group attacks), tachidori (standing techniques), jodori, kasadori (techniques for throwing an opponent in the rain while holding an umbrella without getting wet), emonodori (capturing techniques) and so on, all of which were practiced in the old days. The next series of techniques is aiki no jutsu, followed by Hiden Ogi, then Hiogi, then kaishaku soden and finally the kaiden techniques.

Would you give us some background information regarding Tokimune Takeda Sensei, the present headmaster of Daito-ryu, who presently resides in Abashiri, Hokkaido?

The headmaster was born on October 7,1916. He underwent a strict upbringing which might better be described as preparation for succeeding his father Sokaku Sensei. This is because he spent his childhood in Shirataki village [in Hokkaido] where it becomes extremely cold in the winter. His training began with swinging a wooden sword against a clump of trees in the mountain. On snowy days with the temperature in the low 20s in the depth of winter, Sokaku Sensei had Tokimune Sensei go outside alone with a saw and locked the door. I’m sure his mother must have found it very painful to watch. Since it was extremely cold outside Tokimune Sensei had no choice but to move around. Naturally, he sawed trees with the saw in his hand. If he didn’t do so he would have frozen to death. By sawing he could make himself warm and at the same time train his arms, legs and hips. Sokaku Sensei had him do that strictly for many years. He was a very severe father. In those days they used an implement which looked like a large nunchaku for hulling rice and Sokaku Sensei had him use that tool. He had to hull the rice since, if he merely loafed around, there would be no way to hide the fact. Tokimune Sensei endured such training as a boy.

By the time he was about 15 years old, he had already become a skilled martial artist. There is a story that Sokaku Sensei told Tokimune Sensei that there was no one capable of defeating him at that time. I heard from one of Sokaku Sensei’s sons and his niece in Sapporo that he seemed to have trained the 15-year-old Tokimune Sensei to the point that none of his other students could handle him. Tokimune Sensei was trained in that way in order to become head of the art.

Sokaku Sensei used to travel around to train himself quite often leaving his wife and children behind. Therefore, I believe that they had an extremely difficult time supporting themselves. Tokimune Sensei was brought up under such circumstances and left Shirataki experiencing many things in life before becoming a police officer. After entering the police force he distinguished himself using Daito-ryu techniques. After his marriage, he began to participate in the management of a large fishing company called Yamada Fisheries. In 1953 because of the request of many supporters in Abashiri, a part of the Yamada Fisheries’ warehouse became a temporary dojo, and thus the precursor of the present Daitokan. Then in 1956, the present Daitokan dojo was built.

Tokimune Sensei never missed his early morning training sessions beginning back in the old days. Although he is 73 years old now, the size of his wrists is twice that of an ordinary person. He is really a gentle person who always sets himself aside and praises other people. When he describes other advanced students of Sokaku Sensei he says things like such and such a teacher is the best in the country technically or such and such a teacher has the best personality in the country. He never criticizes others. It has been nearly 30 years since I began studying under Tokimune Sensei, but there is still a world of difference between us in terms of real ability. Although I never knew Sokaku Sensei directly, I believe that Tokimune Sensei is in no way inferior to him in terms of character or actual ability.

How did Tokumune Sensei come to succeed Sokaku Takeda Sensei?

I believe that his succeeding his father came about naturally even though he was the third son of Sokaku Takeda. Sokaku Sensei created a separate family register [after his second marriage] and registered Tokimune Sensei as his first son. Therefore, he succeeded to the Takeda house as his first son. Traditionally, in Daito-ryu succession to the headmaster position has been according to the family blood line. For that reason, Tokimune Sensei was educated to become the headmaster by Sokaku Sensei from boyhood and succeeded him in 1943 when Sokaku Sensei passed away.

Since various names are used in reference to Daito-ryu, I believe some confusion exists. For example, terms such as Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu, Daito-ryu jujutsu, aikjutsu, aiki jujutsu, aiki budo and so on are used. Would you clarify the use of these terms?

I understand that some people use the terms aikijutsu, aiki jujutsu or aiki budo in running their dojos. However, none of them have anything to do with Daito-ryu. All of the Daito-ryu schools recognized by the headmaster can be checked with the headmaster. We have and continue to use the name Daito-ryu jujutsu and Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu separately depending on the techniques taught. The present headmaster Tokimune Takeda Sensei calls the art Daito-ryu aiki budo since Daito-ryu is a composite art and should be practiced as a “Do” or “Path”.

What about the difference between aikijutsu and aiki aujutsu?

Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu includes aiki no autsu (aikijutsu). As I mentioned earlier, these aiki no jutsu are marvelous techniques and are representative of the Daito-ryu school.

In some martial art magazines published in the U.S.A., you find names used such as aikijutsu or aiki jujutsu. Readers of those magazines are left with the strong impression that aikijutsu or aiki jujutsu are the same as Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu. Would you explain the difference for our foreign readers?

I believe that this is proof that the true value of Daito-ryu has been recognized. Whatever name they are using, if they trace back the origin of the art, I believe they are sure to come to Sokaku Takeda Sensei of Daito-ryu. However, I don’t think that this means that their art is Daito-ryu. The lineal descendants of Daito-ryu bear the name of Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu or Daito-ryu aiki budo and are recognized by the headmaster Tokimune Takeda Sensei.

Sensei, you have a very unique teaching system. Most of the workers of the company you operate practice Daito-ryu and your dojo is also on the same premises. How did this system come about?

“Budo and life are one and the same,” is my motto. Although it goes without saying that human beings are a combination of body and spirit, one must be nourished in the spiritual sense as well, just like babies given life by their parents who receive milk and food in order to grow. Physically, you can tell that someone is thin or fat, but spiritually, you cannot tell just by looking at someone [what his level of development is]. I believe that through training you become able to tell the spiritual level of another person just by looking at him. Physically speaking, it is better to be slim than overweight. However, spiritually speaking, it is better to be fat than thin. To put it in plain language, let’s suppose that here in front of us there is an animal and a man. The Chinese characters for a “human being” (ningeri) means “between an animal and a human being”. This means that people are neither animals nor human beings. When we talk about someone’s spiritual level, we use the termjinkaku (character or personality). Thus, the higher one’s spiritual level, the closer he is to becoming a human being. Those who have reached the level of becoming hito (man, person) at which man becomes worthy of his name are called “masters” (tatsujin). They are people who have become spiritually awakened. On the other hand, the lower one’s spiritual level is, the closer he is to becoming an animal. In other words, one tends to act in a barbarous way being unable to exert self-control. So, for example, in comparing martial arts training to mountain climbing, we can say that they both constitute starting points for ascending the mountain. There are other starting points such as tea ceremony, flower arrangement and other martial arts. They all involve training the spirit in order to reach the top of the mountain, that is, to achieve spiritual awakening, regardless of the point of departure. In the martial arts, we use techniques for spiritual training. However, if one is content solely with training the spirit, there are other ways to train. In the martial arts, being strong is an absolute condition. I think that it is important to be strong and at the same time to develop oneself spirituality.

In this sense, I believe that we can call the dojo the backstage of life. It is a place where one can steal the good points of one’s seniors and juniors and also where one can repeat something over again even if he makes an error.

The next thing I will mention is where one can realize the results of one’s training. I don’t think there is a chance to use martial techniques in the real world. In Japan, we have the best police force in the world. Therefore, the only part of our training we can use in the real world is the spiritual side. In other words, in society, at home, school and on our jobs are the places where we realize the real value of martial arts training. The real world is the place where one can actually practice the martial arts. Also, it is in society where we can engage in real martial arts training. The dojo is the backstage and life is the main stage for realizing the true value of the martial arts. One’s training in the martial arts is worthless unless he can realize their true value. That is the reason I have adopted the motto, “Budo and life are one and the same.”

Being young and inexperienced as I am, it is very awkward to say this, but I expanded my private business into a company in 1982 in order to realize the true results of my martial arts training and also to train myself in the real world through my work. I gathered together those who shared my ideas from among my students as well as those I considered suitable in order to establish the present company. With this goal in mind, we constructed the dojo in the same building in order to unify it with the company. Therefore, we do not separate work for the company and training in martial arts. This is our way of doing things based on the motto, “budo and life are one and the same.”

What direction do you think Daito-ryu should take in the future?

You might call it a very traditional method of instruction, but during his travels for self-training, Sokaku Takeda Sensei taught more than 30,000 students all over the country, many of whom later became well-known. The present headmaster Tokimune Takeda Sensei created an organization for the art, something that Sokaku Sensei never tried to do. He also established branches throughout Japan as well as in foreign countries. I believe that we, his students, should stand soldily behind Tokimune Sensei and endeavor to further develop the branches he has established. Tokimune Sensei has directed me to instruct at all branch dojos in Japan and abroad to promote their growth and I would like to exert myself to the fullest in this task.

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