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Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu in Aiki News

by Stanley Pranin

Aiki News #74 (April 1987)

Dear valued reader, it’s time for us to have a little heart-to-heart chat. I was recently asked about the significance of the appearance of regular articles on Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu in these pages. After all, we are a publication devoted to Aikido. To be perfectly honest with you I was somewhat taken aback by the question since I had dealt with this topic in editorials in the past. My first reaction was, “AIKI NEWS will have more pages”. It means that much more information will be packed into each issue. Not only on Daito-ryu but also more information on Aikido and, in the near future, articles on traditional Japanese martial arts. In fact, this issue has 72 pages, double that of AIKI NEWS two years ago. But the real reason behind the articles on Daito-ryu and Sokaku Takeda are dictated by historical events. Let me explain.

The major focus of AIKI NEWS has and always will be the life and work of Morihei Ueshiba, the Founder of Aikido. But this means his ENTIRE life not just the Aikido of the post-war period. The span of time we are talking about is some 85 years and four months. Beginning in 1915 and continuing through the mid-1930’s O-Sensei studied and taught Daito-ryu and had periodic contact with Sokaku Takeda. That’s 20 years. In fact, all of those who received rankings from O-Sensei during this period received “Daito-ryu” certificates. This includes such well-known teachers as Minoru Mochizuki, Rinjiro Shirata, Gozo Shioda and others. Granted, 0-Sensei had by then already made many changes to techniques and what he taught differed greatly from the instruction of Sokaku Takeda, nonetheless even a cursory glance at the “Budo Renshu” manual of 1933 or the several hundred photos taken during the Noma Dojo period (c1935-36) reveals the still heavy technical influence of the Daito-ryu tradition.

I should think it would be clear then from these observations that articles on the subject of Daito-ryu do not constitute an abandonment or subordination of Aikido, but rather are “mandatory” for any serious attempt to document the history of the art.

One further observation. I have said this before in an editorial but was rather circumspect in my use of language. Allow me to be direct at this juncture. The negative bias often displayed by Aikidoka toward Daito-ryu (the reverse is alas also true) has its origins in personal differences which arose between Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda more than 60 years ago. These prejudices have been passed down to their students and their students’ students. The fact that this state of affairs is not “aiki-like” is sad but not really surprising in terms of human nature. In any event, while ever aware of these differences, we have chosen not to be drawn into the dispute since as historians we can’t afford the luxury of taking sides. Perhaps a knowledge of the source of this rift will lead the parties involved to the kind of conciliatory attitude necessary for its gradual dissolution. Moreover, we have met so many wonderful human beings in both arts that we would not think for a moment of severing any of these newly-opened channels of communication.

There is yet another dimension involved here. Those of us who are advocates of the “Aiki” philosophy hold the principle of “nonfighting” in high regard. Nonfighting means not engaging in disputes, whether physical or verbal. It also implies not making enemies. To make an enemy is, in one very real sense, to admit defeat. It is a manifestation of the inadequacy of our “technique” in handling a given conflict situation. Obviously, living an Aiki life represents an idealistic goal that few of us have fully reached. Yet, if we can bear in mind what we are professing and let it be our guiding light, then we as individuals and the world as a whole will be better off for our efforts.

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