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Daito-Ryu Aiki Budo

by Takuma Hisa

Aiki News #85 (Summer 1990)

This article was published in the November 1942 issue of Shin Budo magazine, a martial arts publication which appeared briefly in Japan during the war years. The writer, Takuma Hisa Sensei, well-known to readers of AIKI NEWS as a direct student of Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda, gives us a rare glimpse into the Japanese martial arts world as it was during World War II. Hisa offers a lucid analysis of Judo as a martial art, and sketches portraits of his teachers Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda. References to the Emperor as a divine being and the mystique of Japan as an ordained nation reflect the national psychological climate of 50 years ago and stand in sharp contrast to the mentality prevailing today.

Practical Judo

Previously the Committee for the Promotion of Martial Arts has considered the questions of what constitutes a martial art, and what are some of the fundamental strategies to promote the martial arts, while the Dai Nihon Butokukai [a government-backed organization established in the early 1900s which attempted to regulate Japanese martial arts] has from its establishment continued a heated argument on which martial arts events it should support. But the issue of how some martial arts were categorized as such, and others as sports is still an important, serious, and interesting issue. Since the new Butokukai emphasizes a policy of the “practicality” of martial arts, I assume that their selection criteria are based on whether an art is practical or not.

Setting other issues aside, I would like to discuss Judo’s acceptance as a martial art from the point of view of practicality.

Jujutsu can trace its origins back to the ancient age of the kami (deities) and time immemorial as a unique Japanese martial art. These martial arts were developed to provide grappling techniques for the samurai especially during the turbulent ages when they were anxious to learn such techniques. If modern Judo had kept to this original idea, there would now be no argument over whether Judo should be considered to be a practical martial art. It is regrettable that, due to the influence of physical education with its emphasis on physical strength, contemporary Judo has changed so dramatically from the jujutsu of those days.

I do recognize and respect Professor Kano who collected together individual traditional schools of practical jujutsu which were about to become extinct and preserved and popularized jujutsu as a physical, moral and educational martial art and thus achieved the present prosperity of Judo. However, I do not think that Judo as it is now can be recognized as a practical martial art unless it revives the original practical elements which are again needed in the present age. I hope that the leaders of the Kodokan and Butokukai recognize this argument and that they pay serious attention to and study the practical elements of Judo which have disappeared, such as wrist locks and strikes with the fist at vital points (atemi), in order to transform Judo into a practical martial art in both fact and name.

Fortunately, some enthusiasts still practice the individual schools of traditional jujutsu such as Takeuchi-ryu, Shibukawa-ryu, Sekiguchi-ryu, Tenjin Shin’yo-ryu, Kito-ryu, etc., in which backhands, strikes with the fist at vital points, aiki, etc. are still learned. If these techniques are practiced, studied, and adopted in Judo, the present Judo will become a “hard-soft” (goju) aiki capable of killing with a single blow.

I will now explain a few things about the combative Judo called Daito-ryu Aiki Budo, which I have been studying.

History Of Daito-Ryu Aiki Budo

Daito-ryu Aiki Budo has come down to us from time immemorial. The first written record of it can be found in the era of Emperor Seiwa, and it has descended through the Genji family over the generations and was formalized into a school by Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu. In other words, Yoshimitsu studied and researched the techniques handed down in his family in more detail. He dissected corpses brought back from wars in order to explore human anatomy and mastered a decisive counter-technique as well as discovering lethal atemi. Yoshimitsu then mastered a technique for killing with a single blow. Through such great efforts, he mastered the essence of aiki and discovered the secret techniques of Aiki Budo. Therefore, Yoshimitsu is the person who is credited with being the founder of the original school of Daito-ryu.

Since Daito-ryu was formalized, it has continued to be transmitted through the Takeda family, through sons, Yoshikiyo, Nobuyoshi, Nobumitsu, Kunitsugu, and Takuminokami. When a descendant of the Takeda family took the position of official instructor of the Aizu clan, Daito-ryu came to be considered the secret technique of that clan and was transmitted to Sokaku Takeda, the present master of the school. From the time of its transmission within the Aizu clan, who considered its techniques to be secret, until today Daito-ryu has never been known to outsiders. Fortunately or unfortunately, Daito-ryu has kept its original combative techniques without being influenced by outside elements, while other schools of martial arts such as Kendo, Judo, etc., [whose ancestors] developed rapidly during the Warring States period, were changing, becoming extinct, or degenerating into sports events or games.

My Teacher, Sokaku Takeda Sensei

Sokaku Takeda was born in Aizuwakamatsu-cho, Fukushima Prefecture. From boyhood he learned Kendo, and at the age of 18, he received a license in Nito-ryu, and later received licenses in Onoha Itto-ryu, and Jikishinkage-ryu. He traveled and visited many provinces to engage in martial arts training. Later on he learned Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, which had descended through the Takeda family from his grandfather Soemon Takeda. After receiving a license, he endeavored to teach and spread Daito-ryu all over Japan. He taught over three thousand students. He is now retired and lives in Hokkaido, farming as well as teaching serious students such as military officers, police officers, and others. He is the head of Daito-ryu.

My Teacher, Moritaka Ueshiba Sensei

Moritaka [Morihei] Ueshiba was born in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture. From his youth he was physically strong and enjoyed training in military arts. As he grew up, he visited several regions and studied under teachers of various schools and practiced kenjutsu, jujutsu, and bojutsu, and then mastered the secret technique of Aioi-ryu Jujutsu which had descended through his family from generation to generation. He then learned Daito-ryu from Sokaku Takeda, became his disciple for many years, and received a menkyo kaiden [Ueshiba actually received the kyoju dairi or “instructor’s certification”] and the position of substitute master for Takeda Sensei. Since then he has studied hard to absorb the essence of various schools of martial arts and mastered lightning-fast empty-handed arts (taijutsu) against weapons, military arms and modern firearms to create his own unique school. He is the foremost figure in the modern world of traditional Japanese martial arts. He was invited to Tokyo to teach a variety of people of high position, military and naval officers, civil servants, police officers, and so on. Recently, he has built a large practice hall called the Kobukan Dojo in Wakamatsu-cho, Ushigome Ward, where he teaches these distinguished citizens real martial techniques. He has combined conventional martial techniques with the ancient Japanese mystical religion of Shintoism to establish his own new school of martial arts of the Kami for the benefit and glory of the Emperor. In his school he takes seriously the need for his martial art to be developed to protect the blessed Emperor’s land, to defeat enemies, and to demonstrate the Emperor’s power.

Diligent Training In Martial Arts

We have been learning Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, the essence of Japanese martial arts, from Moritaka Ueshiba Sensei since the spring of 1935 and have been training hard day and night. In four years the celebration of the 2600th anniversary of the reign of the Imperial line under Emperor Jimmu was to be held and also the world sporting event of the Olympic Games would be held in Japan. Therefore we strongly hoped to take advantage of this occasion to perfect a true martial art to remind those who tend to forget the essence of Japanese martial arts to recognize true Japanese martial arts. Also we hoped to have physical education professionals coming from all over the world for this ceremony recognize this fighting art which is without equal in the world. Moreover, we hoped to demonstrate the true value of Shintoist martial arts. Since the renovation of the Kashihara Shrine was to begin on November 11, 1936 and thus concurrently, the solemn festival of the transfer of the shrine, we felt that the glorious 2600th year was just around the corner and we decided to put all other thoughts out of our minds and devote ourselves to the perfection of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. We prayed for the help of the kami as we endeavored to perfect our art by worshiping the divine spirit of Emperor Jimmu and the martial arts kami at the Kashihara Shrine immediately after its transfer.

From that time we not only devoted ourselves to training under Ueshiba Sensei regardless of the severity of the weather, but even invited Ueshiba Sensei’s teacher, Sokaku Takeda Dai-Sensei, the headmaster of the art, all the way from Hokkaido to teach us the secret arts of Daito-ryu which were forbidden to be taught to outsiders.

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