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History of Daito-Ryu

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by Tokimune Takeda

Aiki News #67 (May 1985)

Aiki News would like to express its gratitude to Tokimune Takeda Sensei for granting permission to publish this summary of the history of the Daito-ryu tradition. Tokimune Sensei is the present headmaster of Daito-ryu.

Tegoi, Origin of Sumo

Daito-ryu Aiki Budo has its origins based on the concept of “tegoi”. The concept of tegoi comes from a passage in the Kojiki which reads as follows: “… When Takeminakata no kami took the hand of Takemikazuchi no kami, the hand changed into a column of ice, then again changed into a sword blade and the latter was completely hopeless. Then Takemikazuchi no kami in turn took the hand of Takeminakata no kami. He held it as if grasping a young reed and cast it aside”. It is this tegoi which is said to be at the origin of Sumo and its techniques have been transmitted as “Aiki In-Yo (yin-yang) method” and now constitute the basic techniques of Daito-ryu Aiki Nage. This form of tegoi was transmitted for a long period until the Sumo Assembly of the Kamakura warriors (Kamakura Period = 1192-1333). In 868 during the reign of the Emperor Seiwa, supervision over court banquet Sumo was transferred over to the Board of Military Affairs and was controlled by the Imperial guards thereafter. From that time Sumo developed as a martial technique. The art continued to be transmitted through Emperor Seiwa’s descendants of the Seiwa-Genji family for six generations through Shinra Saburo Minamoto no (Genji) Yoshimitsu.

This Yoshimitsu served in the Emperor’s court and was said to have been a strong Sumo wrestler and the best yumitori (Sumo wrestler receiving the championship bow). He was also an expert performer on the free-reed mouth organ and often played this instrument to traditional dances performed at the court. He realized that there was in the elegance and suppleness of these dances a certain formlessness without openings which allowed numerous permutations. He made additions to the secret methods of the Genji tradition and formalized the secret techniques of Aiki.

Origin of Daito-ryu

The origin of the name “Daito-ryu” is based on a story in which Yoshimitsu, as a child, lived in the mansion of Daito in Oe (present-day Shiga Prefecture) and was called Saburo Daito. Yoshimitsu studied Chinese military tactics and in his later years trained his spirit and body in the Enjo-Shrine Mikkyo Dojo. He was later appointed governor of Kai (present Yamanashi Prefecture) due to his military exploits during the Gosannen no Ek i war fought at that time (1083-1087). One of his descendants moved to Takeda Village in the Kita-Koma district of Kai and acquired the name of Takeda.

The younger brother of the famous daimyo Shingen Takeda (1521-1573), Kunitsugu, arrived in Aizu in 1574 and became governor of the Aizu Clan centered in present-day Fukushima Prefecture. Kunitsugu’s descendants of the Takeda family settled in Aizu and served in the position of chief priests of local temples. The Takeda family transmitted the secret methods of Daito-ryu Aiki in the form of kogusoku (a martial art where one arrests a criminal without carrying any weapons dressed “only in armor”) through successive generations.

Daito-ryu Centered in Aizu

An important figure in the evolution of Daito-ryu was a certain Masanori Hoshina. Parenthetically, he became an adopted child of a son of a retainer of Shingen Takeda and a younger sister of the first Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa. Masanori made a triumphant entry into Aizu Castle in 1643 as a lord of the Clan. It is said that Masanori governed well. In 1651 he became the guardian and adviser to the eleven-year old fourth Shogun Ietsuna Tokugawa. He served in Edo Castle as an adviser for more than 20 years. During this time, in order to keep peace in the palace he revised Daito-ryu, which had been transmitted by the Aizu Clan through Kunitsugu Takeda, into a self-defense art called “Oshikiuchi” (lit., “court self-defense art”). He taught this art to members of the Shogun’s Council of Elders and senior political figures. He also studied the secret arts of Onoha Itto-ryu. He required each succeeding lord of Aizu to transmit these two schools, that is, Onoha Itto-ryu and Oshikiuchi.

The latter art was transmitted by the Saigo family of the Aizu Clan for many generations. It is said that the Saigo residence had more than 30 rooms. Oshikiuchi was taught in this residence to senior political personages as a secret art never to be allowed out of the house.

A distant descendant of the Takeda family, Soemon, studied In-Yo-Do in Kyoto receiving a diploma. When he returned to Aizu Oike (as the chief priest of Oisenomiya), he was reputed to be a master of Shindo, In-Yo-Do and Daito-ryu. He instructed in various areas and also taught the secrets of these arts to Saigo Tanomo, the head retainer of the Aizu Family. The eldest son of Soemon, Sokichi, studied Sumo, Kenjutsu, Sojutsu (hasshaku bo) and Daito-ryu as a youth and later became known for his incredible strength. He became an ozeki (second highest Sumo rank) among the wrestlers in Aizu. He participated in the Aizu War and many other battles and was recognized for his distinguished military service. Stories about his courage and strength abound.

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