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An Introduction to Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu

by Stanley Pranin

Published Online

The article below is excerpted from Stanley Pranin’s Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu: Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters, published in both English and Japanese editions, the first book to appear on this subject.

Sokaku Takeda in action, Osaka 1939

There is strong argument for considering Sokaku Takeda, the disseminator of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, as the leading jujutsu exponent of twentieth-century Japan. The art he perfected and taught to some thirty thousand students remains today the most vigorous of Japan’s classical jujutsu schools. Moreover, the Daito-ryu system constitutes the technical basis for modern aikido. Despite its relative importance within a martial arts context where most of its historical brethren have long ago disappeared or been transformed into sports, Daito-ryu has remained little known to the general public. This stands in contrast to the popular success both in Japan and abroad of its derivative art, aikido, the creation of Morihei Ueshiba.

To date, no in-depth history of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu or Takeda has appeared even though Sokaku’s activities are among the best documented of the major martial artists of the first half of this century. Active as an instructor for more than fifty years, Takeda kept meticulous track of the participation and payments of his students in the form of enrollment books (eimeiroku) and payments received ledgers (shareiroku). These records provide convincing evidence of the extent of Takeda’s influence in prewar martial arts circles and the prominent social standing of many of his students.

In the absence of writings from Daito-ryu sources, the prevailing perception of Sokaku Takeda and Daito-ryu has been largely shaped by aikido historians and commentators. As such, certain biases and historically incorrect information have become part of the lore surrounding Takeda and his art. Thus, future Takeda biographers, in addition to endeavoring to document his adventure-filled life, will be obliged to unravel the many myths surrounding this little-understood master.

Attempts to compare Sokaku Takeda with his more famous contemporaries, Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) and Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), founder of judo, are an exercise in futility so unique were the characters and accomplishments of these three martial art geniuses. Morihei Ueshiba, the inspired martial artist with a profound ethical vision, conceived of his aikido as a vehicle for the promotion of social harmony and world peace. Jigoro Kano, the refined intellect and educator, devised judo as a means for the development of healthy, well-rounded and socially responsible individuals. Sokaku Takeda, in turn, can be considered the consummate old-style martial artist who viewed life as a battlefield where a moment of carelessness could result in one’s death. For Sokaku, his hard-earned martial skills were secrets to be jealously guarded and shown only to a responsible elite who paid well for the privilege.

The roots of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu have been the subject of much speculation. Sokaku declared that the art had been developed and passed down within the Aizu clan over a period of several hundred years. The transmission scrolls (mokuroku) given out to students by Takeda include a list of direct ancestors ending with his grandfather, Soemon, via whom he inherited the art. The little scholarly work done in an attempt to verify this unbroken ancestry has been inconclusive.

Except for his training in Onoha Itto-ryu kenjutsu, the specific content of the various arts Sokaku was taught by his father or others in Aizu remains unclear. Whatever the martial arts formation he received within the clan may have been, Sokaku’s training at the dojos of famous swordsmen Kenkichi Sakakibara and Shunzo Momonoi, and his lengthy journeys for self-training (musha shugyo) over more than a decade surely played a major role in shaping the sophisticated martial system which would later emerge. All evidence points to the conclusion that the Daito-ryu arts Sokaku taught over a span of more than half a century are as much a synthesis of his vast training experience and technical innovation as they are a faithful continuation of the Aizu clan martial tradition.

Biographical Sketch of Sokaku Takeda

The political and military upheavals occurring in the Aizu clan and the particular circumstances of the Takeda family into which Sokaku was born surely played a determinative role in awakening in him a passion for the martial arts. The Aizu headed the alliance of clans in northern Honshu resisting the authority of the new imperial government which took power in 1868 signalling the beginning of the Meiji Restoration. It finally succumbed in November of the same year after the Battle of Aizu during which the Aizu Wakamatsu castle and much of the surrounding town were destroyed. It was in this connection that the famous episode of mass suicide of the youthful Byakkotai took place on Mt. Iimori.

Apart from the political and military events occurring in the Aizu clan during these turbulent years of Japanese history which are a matter of historical record, the main source of information on the early years of Sokaku Takeda is his son, the late Tokimune Takeda. Tokimune published a series of historical essays on Aizu history and Sokaku’s life in the 1970s and 80s in Daito-ryu Aiki Budo, a newsletter published by the Daitokan, the headquarters dojo of his organization located in Abashiri, Hokkaido. These articles circulated initially among the limited readership of organization members, but then reached a larger audience when republished with Tokimune’s permission in Aiki News magazine. Aiki News also published several interviews with the Headmaster Tokimune which contain numerous anecdotes about his father and which have been reedited for this book. It is based primarily on these sources and an analysis of Sokaku’s enrollment books and ledgers that we will present an overview of his life.

Boyhood and Early Training

Sokaku Takeda was born on October 10, 1859 at the Takeda Mansion in Oike, Aizu Bange-cho, in present-day Fukushima Prefecture. His father Sokichi Takeda (1819-1906) was a so-called “country samurai” (goushi) who had inherited a piece of cultivated land passed down through his family. Sokichi married Tomi, a daughter of Dengoro Kurokochi (ca. 1803-1868), a prominent clan member and samurai who was an expert in the spear, blow-darts and shuriken. They had a total of four children of which Sokaku was the second son. Sokaku was adopted into the Kurokochi family of his mother for a short period although it is not known if this was before or after the death of Dengoro.

Sokichi Takeda

Sokichi was an avid sumo wrestler who weighed two hundred and forty pounds and held the rank of ozeki. Moreover, Sokichi was an expert swordsman and exponent of bojutsu who taught in a storehouse converted into a dojo on his property. The elder Takeda was also an educated man and established an elementary school (terakoya) in a nearby temple. In addition to teaching academic subjects, Sokichi conducted sumo training inside the temple which included a sumo ring.

Sokichi had military experience as the head of the Sumo Wrester’s Party who fought as artillerymen in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in Kyoto and later in the Aizu Wakamatsu War.

Sokichi was a member of the party of Tanomo Saigo which secretly escaped from the Aizu castle prior to its surrender. He had seen with his own eyes how the role of the classical warrior had become relegated to the past as even the most skilled swordsman was no longer a match for a commoner wielding a firearm. The practice of martial arts suddenly lost favor with the fall of the Shogunate government and many kenjutsu (swordsmanship) schools were closed as the Aizu clan went down to defeat. In light of the times, Sokichi had his eldest son, Sokatsu, pursue an academic career in preparation to entering the Shinto priesthood.

Young Sokaku, on the other hand, was an energetic child endowed with a rebellious spirit who proved a source of continuous frustration to Sokichi. His attempts to get his mischievous second son to attend temple school met with great resistance and Sokichi eventually abandoned hopes of providing Sokaku with even a basic education. The only time Sokaku seemed to pay attention to books was when his father would read to the children about stories of martial valor. Later, he would boast of the fact that, even though he was uneducated, his importance was such that he could have educated people write for him whenever needed.

As a boy of eight, Sokaku saw battles of the Aizu War unfold all around him. Despite knowing first-hand the horror and bloodshed of warfare, it was the excitement and spectacle of combat which held him fascinated. Sokaku’s first martial arts training experience came under the tutelage of his father. There were many spear experts among members of the Aizu clan and Sokichi had learned Hozoin Takada-ha Sojutsu from his father-in-law, Dengoro Kurokochi. Sokaku was taught the Hozoin spear, kenjutsu, sumo and Daito-ryu by Sokichi and showed a keen interest and aptitude for the martial arts from an early age.

As mentioned above, Sokichi was one of the most skilled sumo wrestlers in Aizu and held the provincial rank of ozeki. Sokaku progressed rapidly having the advantage of his father’s expertise and the opportunity to practice with other aspiring wrestlers who formed part of his father’s stable. Although of slight build, he seems to have been an excellent technician and very agile. The story goes that the teenage Sokaku would compete without his father’s permission in regional sumo tournaments and invariably return home with the prize. Since his father was a sumo professional, it would have been an embarrassment for his son to continue winning at these amateur events. Thus, Sokaku was forbidden to participate in the local tournaments and kept at home to practice bojutsu on the days of sumo festivals. These measures notwithstanding, Sokaku would sometimes sneak away to compete and win.

Sokaku’s introduction to the Onoha Itto-ryu sword began as a boy at the Yokikan dojo of Toma Shibuya in Aizu Bange-cho. He would practice kendo in the morning and then proceed to the Itto-ryu dojo in the afternoon. Practice of the Onoha sword had long been a tradition within the Aizu clan, and the Shibuya family, who served as court physicians, were among the most skilled practitioners. A certain Ichiro Shibuya, who was the adopted son of Toma and later inherited the Yokikan dojo, became an outstanding exponent of the Shindo Munen-ryu dojo of Shingoro Negishi in Tokyo where one of his training partners was the famous swordsman Hakudo Nakayama. Sokaku would later include instruction in the Onoha sword as part of the Daito-ryu system. Moreover, the first page of several of Sokaku’s enrollment books include a notation describing him as an Onoha Itto-ryu student of Toma Shibuya.

Uchideshi at Sakakibara dojo in Tokyo

At the age of thirteen following his expulsion from temple school due to his misbehavior, Sokaku succeeded in convincing his father to allow him to become a live-in student (uchideshi) at the Jiki Shinkage-ryu dojo of famous swordsman Kenkichi Sakakibara (1830-1894) in Tokyo. Sokichi and Sakakibara were old friends and had fought together in the Shogunate army against troops of the Choshu clan some ten years earlier. Sokaku had heard about the exciting Gekkenkai fencing tournaments which were so popular at the time. Indications are that Sokaku spent about two-and-a-half years at the Sakakibara dojo and excelled in his training. The curriculum at the school included the sword, staff, spear, small bow, kusarigama, naginata, and other weapons. Later Sokaku, too, participated in Gekkenkai exhibitions where he displayed his excellent technique. However, he grew tired of these public spectacles which degenerated into mere acrobatic performances finding them degrading to the martial arts.

Sokaku devoted himself instead to training at the Sakakibara dojo. During this time he would engage in matches with fellow students skilled in other martial arts. He also practiced with experts of various schools who formerly taught at the military institute of the shogunate. Moreover, Sokaku made the rounds of dojos of the various martial arts schools in Tokyo for additional training and to match his skills with other practitioners.

Testing his skills in real combat

There were several occasions in his mid-teen years when Sokaku used his martial skills in life or death situations. In the spring of 1875, while on his way home from the Sakakibara dojo for a visit, he arrived at a bridge in Inawashiro in Fukushima Prefecture in the evening after darkness had set in. He was attacked without provocation from both directions and, in the process of escaping, cut the legs of four or five of his attackers with his sword. Sokaku had apparently been caught in a battle among rival gangs and managed to save himself by jumping into the river.

In autumn of the next year, Sokaku had to suddenly leave Tokyo as a result of the death of his older brother, Sokatsu. There was a desolate mountain pass near Aizu-bange where three bandits had recently been robbing and murdering travelers. When he reached the point of ascent, Sokaku set out alone on the winding pass against the advice of the villagers and soon encountered the outlaws. Being quick-witted and fearless, Sokaku surprised the three men with a lightning-fast series of attacks and escaped from the ambush unscathed. One of the three died as a result of wounds inflicted by Sokaku, and the other two were left with deforming injuries.

Chikanori Hoshina

At home in Aizu following the unexpected death of Sokatsu on September 2, 1876, Sokichi decided to have Sokaku succeed his eldest son in the priesthood. The reluctant Sokaku was taken by his father to the Tsutsukowake Shrine in eastern Shirakawa County in Fukushima Prefecture. The head priest (guuji) was Chikanori Hoshina, formerly known as Tanomo Saigo, who was at one time the chief councillor (karo) of the Aizu clan. He had previously served as governor-general of Aizu Shirakawaguchi during the Aizu War. As the western army approached the castle in 1868, defeat appeared imminent and Tanomo secretly escaped with a small party, which included Sokichi, to seek outside help. Believing her husband’s death was inevitable after seeing him off to the Aizu castle, Tanomo’s wife, Chieko, and twenty-one family members committed mass suicide in a famous episode of martyrdom.

After the surrender of the Aizu Castle, Tanomo entered the Hoshina family of his ancestors and assumed the name of Chikanori Hoshina. Chikanori was a long-time supporter of Takamori Saigo and remained sympathetic to his cause even after the Aizu defeat. He no doubt informed Sokaku of the contemporary political situation including the political unrest in the Satsuma clan. It seems that the time spent with Chikanori inspired in Sokaku a strong sympathy toward the views of Takamori Saigo. Thus, after serving as an apprentice priest for only a few weeks, Sokaku abandoned his duties with the firm resolve of joining Takamori Saigo’s anti-government forces in Kyushu. Chikanori’s encouragement would later be a key factor in Sokaku’s decision to begin actively disseminating Daito-ryu outside the Aizu clan.

Training at the Momonoi Dojo

Sokaku stopped at the Sakakibara dojo in Tokyo to visit his teacher and informed him that he wished to set out on a self-training journey to Kyushu. Sakakibara guessed his real intention and provided Sokaku with a letter of recommendation to Shunzo Momonoi (1826-1886), Headmaster of the Kyoshin Meichi-ryu sword school, who lived in Sakai City, Osaka. Momonoi, then about fifty years old, had served as head of the flying column of the Tokugawa shogunate during the Toba-Fushimi civil war together with Kenkichi Sakakibara as an escort to the Shogun Yoshinobu in Osaka. However, being devoutly respectful of the emperor, he escaped alone from Osaka Castle upon learning that the shogunate army had become the enemy of the emperor.

After touring several dojos, Sokaku arrived at the Momonoi dojo bearing Sakakibara’s letter around the beginning of November 1876. He is said to have had received direct instruction from Momonoi and impressed the swordmaster with his outstanding technique and amazing agility. Sokaku later even claimed to have bested Momonoi in three out of five matches after engaging in intensive training at his dojo.

In his letter, Sakakibara had requested Momonoi’s assistance in preventing Sokaku from attempting to join up with Saigo’s troops. Although Sokaku could not read, he understood the intentions of the two and continued sword practice while biding his time hoping for a chance to go to Kyushu to join Saigo’s army. When word reached Osaka of Saigo’s move early in 1877, Sokaku bid farewell to Momonoi and secretly set out for Kyushu accompanied by a fellow swordsman from the Momonoi dojo with similar sympathies. The two were unsuccessful after several attempts at penetrating police cordons, perhaps due to the intervention of Momonoi. Soon thereafter, Sokaku learned that the troops of one of the leaders opposing Saigo, a certain Kambe Sagawa, included Aizu clansmen. Sokaku was thus forced to abandon his plans to join up with Saigo’s army to avoid fighting against members of his own clan.

Travels in Kyushu and Okinawa

After the end of the Seinan War in September 1877, Sokaku set out for Kyushu to continue on his journey for self-training. The police had placed the use of weapons under strict control and most sword schools suspended their activities. Unable to train, Sokaku joined a troupe of acrobats based in Nagasaki Prefecture which were popular at that time. Being agile and well trained, he perfected many acrobatic skills in a short time. Sokaku performed with the troupe in many locations before arriving in Kumamoto Prefecture. There he saw the amazing feats of an Okinawan karate expert who was a member of a different troupe. Despite the karate exponent’s outstanding skills, Sokaku defeated him in a bare-handed match using the rapid body movements he had developed through sword and spear training. One of his purposes in going to Kyushu and later Okinawa was to observe first-hand Okinawa-te, an earlier term for karate. After leaving the acrobatic troupe, Sokaku toured Kyushu and the Okinawan Islands seeking out karate masters with whom to match skills. He was even rumored to have traveled to Hawaii, perhaps while touring the islands, although no evidence has yet been found to confirm this.

Sokaku returned to Kyushu in 1879 after traveling about Okinawa. A revival of interest in the Japanese sword was taking place and the practice of kendo was again becoming fashionable. Sokaku focused his training efforts on the study of kendo and continued his travels around Kyushu. During this period, he apparently also had a series of memorable encounters with religious ascetics and spent some time practicing esoteric Buddhism. He also engaged in spear training at the Sakai dojo in Kumamoto in 1880. Sokaku would recall an episode there where he lost his two front teeth when foolishly challenging several opponents to attack him simultaneously using real spears. He must have departed Kyushu not long after this for we find him in the Tohoku region two years later.

A famous episode often recounted by Sokaku took place in Fukushima Prefecture around 1882. It seems that Sokaku was goaded into a fight by a group of construction workers involved in repairing the road joining Sendai with Tokyo. Takeda killed several of the attackers with his Kotetsu sword and wounded numerous others. He barely survived and was detained by the police for nearly a month. In the resulting trial, Sokaku’s actions were judged a case of legitimate self-defense and he was acquitted. It appears that the construction workers had committed numerous crimes in the area and were somewhat akin to present-day gangsters.

The Unknown Years

Few facts have survived concerning Sokaku’s life following this famous episode through the end of the century. He is known to have accompanied Tsugumichi Saigo, a younger brother of Takamori Saigo and prominent political figure, to Hokkaido when the latter became head of the Hokkaido Development Project around 1887. It is also recorded that Sokaku married a certain Kon in Aizu about 1888 and that this union produced two children. We may safely assume then that some of these years were spent back in Aizu and that Sokaku received additional training in Daito-ryu techniques from his father Sokichi. Given his errant nature, it is also likely that Sokaku spent part of this period traveling for self-training thus furthering his already considerable martial skills. There is evidence as well that Sokaku made several visits of unknown length to the Nikko Toshogu and Ryozen shrines to study under Chikanori Hoshina. As the issue of the line of transmission of Daito-ryu techniques hinges upon a correct understanding of the relationship between Sokaku and Chikanori, the subject deserves special attention.

Line of Transmission of Daito-ryu Techniques

Some Aizu historians have stated that Sokaku received his principal training in Daito-ryu from Chikanori rather than his father Sokichi. The argument is that Soemon Takeda (d. 1853), Sokaku’s grandfather, did not transmit Daito-ryu techniques to his son because Sokichi, a large, powerfully-built man and sumo ozeki, could not appreciate the intricacies of Daito-ryu arts. Consequently, Soemon passed on the secret clan techniques to Chikanori who, being of small stature and a leader of high-social standing, was a more suitable candidate to learn the subtle techniques of Daito-ryu. As Sokaku is known to have visited Chikanori on several occasions during which time he received some sort of instruction, it has been assumed that Chikanori taught him Daito-ryu arts. Moreover, Chikanori later adopted Shiro Saigo, an early student of Jigoro Kano and model for the famous fictional character, Sugata Sanshiro. Shiro became well-known for having defeated top jujutsu experts in well-publicized matches, some say due to his knowledge of Daito-ryu techniques learned from Chikanori.

However, this theory has certain flaws which must be addressed. First, it is deduced that Chikanori was a martial arts master, not based on historical findings, but by inference based on his close connection to Sokaku and Saigo, both of whom are considered to have been martial arts geniuses. Chikanori Hoshina’s life is well-documented and even his diary has been preserved. Hoshina scholars have, however, found no evidence of Chikanori having undergone any extensive martial arts training or having taught such arts. Had Chikanori been a skilled martial artist in his own right, surely some record of his talents and exploits would have survived.

Another consideration that casts doubt on this theory is the difference in social station between Sokaku’s grandfather Soemon and Chikanori. Then known as Tanomo Saigo, Chikanori was a chief councillor and governor-general and thus one of the most powerful figures in the Aizu clan. He was also a supporter of Takamori Saigo as mentioned above and very active in the political events leading to the Meiji restoration. It is difficult to imagine him engaged in vigorous martial training for a lengthy period under the tutelage of Soemon. Chikanori’s expertise was clearly in the areas of military and political affairs.

On the other hand, Hoshina’s contribution to Daito-ryu history may lie in his role in convincing Sokaku to begin teaching Daito-ryu to the general public by arguing that the times no longer called for keeping the Aizu clan martial tradition secret. Chikanori may also have assisted Sokaku in organizing and recording the vast Daito-ryu technical curriculum, including the detailed Takeda family lineage, which appear in the transmission scrolls Sokaku later awarded to his students. The formal and elaborate nature of these scrolls suggest the hand of some learned person, perhaps Chikanori. It seems highly unlikely that Sokaku could or would have initiated such an effort on his own.


Afurther unresolved issue is the matter of the term used historically to refer to Daito-ryu techniques transmitted within the Aizu clan. Tokimune and others have written that Sokaku learned secret techniques called oshikiuchi and that it was these arts that form the essence of Daito-ryu. The characters used for oshikiuchi, “o (an honorific) + shiki (ceremony) + uchi (inside),” are rather curious and do not convey any obvious meaning. They were probably recorded based on the oral testimony of Sokaku who was himself illiterate. One theory is that the correct Chinese characters are actually “o (an honorific) + shikii (threshold) + uchi (inside).” According to this view, what was actually referred to as oshikiuchi was not martial techniques at all, but rather the samurai etiquette or manners observed by trusted subjects of the inner circle who were allowed “inside the threshold.” If this is indeed the case, what Chikanori Hoshina taught Sokaku during the latter’s visits may have had to do with matters of court etiquette.

It is unlikely that these and other issues will be resolved any time soon. Despite the sketchy information concerning the details of Sokaku’s tutelage in Daito-ryu techniques in Aizu, the most persuasive theory to date is that Daito-ryu was indeed a tradition passed down within the Takeda family. This tradition was complimented by training in the Onoha Itto-ryu sword, also an Aizu clan martial art. Sokaku then built upon this technical legacy and incorporated elements from numerous classical traditions he studied during his long self-training period outside of Aizu. The Daito-ryu techniques Sokaku later taught are part of a complete martial system which emphasizes jujutsu techniques, but also includes weapon arts at the more advanced levels. Sokaku is referred to as the chuko no so of Daito-ryu, a title stressing his role in the revival of the Aizu martial tradition and its dissemination on a large-scale outside of the the clan.

Daito-ryu aikijujutsu today

As we have mentioned above, Daito-ryu aikijujutsu is today the most widely practiced of jujutsu schools of classical origin. A disproportionate number of dojos are located in Hokkaido due to the fact that Sokaku established his permanent residence there and conducted numerous seminars all over the island during his long career. There are four major groups whose roots can be traced to the Daito-ryu teachings of Sokaku Takeda.

Daito-ryu AIkbudo - Headmaster Tokimune Takeda

The main school based in Hokkaido was headed by Sokaku’s son and designated successor, Tokimune Takeda, until the latter’s death in December 1993. Technically speaking, the school is conservative in orientation and endeavors to faithfully transmit the martial system of Sokaku Takeda. Tokimune opened his Daitokan dojo in Abashiri in 1953 and called the art Daito-ryu aikibudo. It incorporated both Sokaku’s system of empty-handed techniques (taijutsu) and Onoha Itto-ryu sword techniques.. The training curriculum centered on the 118 techniques contained in the Hiden Mokuroku. The Daitokan served as the training and organizational center of Daito-ryu Aikibudo from the time of its establishment until Tokimune’s passing. In May 1988, the Headmaster appointed Katsuyuki Kondo, head of the Shimbukan dojo in Tokyo, as Soke Dairi and charged him with overseeing instruction of Daito-ryu both in Japan and abroad.

Tokimune was in poor health for the last several years of his life and this factor contributed to the fragmentation of the Daito-ryu Aikibudo organization. At present time, three persons, all self-appointed, claim to be the new Daito-ryu headmaster. None of them has any significant following or has been widely recognized. Technically and organizationally speaking, Tokimune’s successor is clearly Katsuyuki Kondo, although the latter has not aspired to become the headmaster. Kondo has been recognized in his capacity of Soke Dairi by several martial arts organizations including the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Some ten dojos from the defunct Daito-ryu Aikibudo organization have remained with Kondo and his group is now in a rebuilding phase.

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Takumakai

The Kansai-based Takumakai organized around the teachings of Takuma Hisa is, in numerical terms, the largest of the Daito-ryu schools and is presently headed by Hakaru Mori Sensei. The Takumakai has historically been on good terms with the Daito-ryu Aikibudo school in Hokkaido and invited former Headmaster Tokimune to conduct seminars on several occasions. Established in August 1975, the Takumakai also uses the 118 techniques contained in the Hiden Mokuroku as the basic core techniques for instruction purposes in an effort to achieve standardization with the curriculum of Tokimune’s school. Advanced students are further taught from the material contained in the Soden technical manuals privately published by Hisa. The Soden include techniques taught to Hisa by both Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda at the Asahi News dojo in the mid- to late 1930s.

As of 1995, the Takumakai counted more than forty dojos among its members located primarily in and around Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, and Kobe. One of the strengths of the Takumakai is its active instructional program with includes frequent seminars and inter-dojo exchanges. It has recently produced Japanese and English editions of a comprehensive technical manual for members.

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Kodokai

The Daito-ryu aikijujutsu Kodokai was established by Kodo Horikawa in September 1950. Horikawa was one of Sokaku’s closest students and a certified Daito-ryu instructor. Horikawa taught Daito-ryu for some thirty years in and around Kitami in northern Hokkaido. The Kodokai places strong emphasis on the concept of aiki and its technique is soft in appearance. It incorporates very subtle hand and arm movements to unbalance the attacker at the moment of contact.

The Kodokai presently has only about five active dojos in Japan. The group has been headed by Yusuke Inoue, menkyo kaiden shihan, since the death of Horikawa in 1980. The headquarters dojo is situated in Kitami and is attached to the Horikawa home. Another Kodokai group known as the Sapporo Hombu Dojo is active in city of Sapporo.

The Kodokai was the first Daito-ryu organization to offer instruction abroad. 7th dan Katsumi Yonezawa of Muroran, a junior high school English teacher, conducted seminars in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and more recently in Germany. He has awarded various dan rankings and Hiden Mokuroku transmission scrools registered with the Kodokai to foreign practitioners. Several Kodokai-affiliated schools operate in the U.S.

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai

The Roppokai is connected historically to the Kodokai in Kitami. It was established as an independent organization in 1977 by Seigo Okamoto, one of Horikawa’s leading students, after the latter’s move to Tokyo. Okamoto’s art is similar in some respects to the Daito-ryu of the Kodokai but also includes many original elements. Okamoto’s activities in Japan are centered in the Tokyo and Okayama areas and he makes annual instructional trips to Europe and the United States where he has large followings.

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Sagawa Dojo

Yukiyoshi Sagawa is the only active Daito-ryu instructor to have trained directly under Sokaku Takeda. He has practiced Daito-ryu aikijujutsu continuously since 1914 and is considered by some as the leading exponent of the art. Now in frail health, Sagawa operates a small dojo attached to his home in Kodaira City and has limited entry to his dojo to only a few students.


In recent years Daito-ryu aikijujutsu has received a great deal of attention in the martial arts media primarily as a result of its close historical connection to aikido. As little factual information has been published about Sokaku Takeda and the origins of Daito-ryu, various groups which are unrelated historically or technically have adopted use of this name or such names as aikijujutsu, aikibudo, and others. This phenomenon has occurred both in Japan and abroad and, for the uniformed martial arts public, Daito-ryu is often viewed as “hard-style aikido.” As more well-researched materials are published this erroneous image will certainly be corrected and Sokaku Takeda will assume his rightful place alongside Morihei Ueshiba and Jigoro Kano as one of the towering figures of twentieth century Japanese martial arts.

Stanley Pranin
Tokyo, October 1995