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7/08/01 - In Memoriam: Shihan Fumio Toyoda
5/13/01 - The Myth of Martial Arts
3/21/01 - Recommended Reading
3/21/01 - Interview With Larry E. Bieri
3/13/01 - Why Are There No Ashi Waza in Aikido
3/3/01 - Interview With Tokimune Takeda

This is a fantastic interview with Tokimune Takeda. At the time he was the Head of the Daito Ryu Organization. One of the last living links to not only their past but to ours as aikidoka as well. I have added a few photos to complement the text and if you would like to know more we have an Aikido Journal Link on our link pages.

-Dan Hover


Born in Yubetsu, Hokkaido; 1916-1993, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Soke The third son and successor of Sokaku Takeda, Tokimune Takeda began training in the martial arts under his father in1925. He completed the Hokkaido Police Officer Training Course in 1946, and in 1947, a police course in stick handling techniques. While a member of the police force, Tokimune received several awards for outstanding service in arresting criminals. He joined the Yamada Fishery Co., Ltd., in December 1951 and worked there until his retirement in 1976. Tokimune established the Daitokan dojo in Abashiri, Hokkaido in 1953, and organized the Daito-ryu techniques, incorporating into them elements of Ono-ha Itto-ryu to create his own Daito-ryu Aikibudo. He received the Cultural Social Education Award from Abashiri City on November 3, 1987.

The following text is a compilation of several interviews conducted with Tokimune Takeda between 1985 and 1987 in Abashiri, Hokkaido and Tokyo.

Now that the role of Daito-ryu in the development of Aikido is better understood I think it likely that more Aikido people will become interested in the history of the art. I would like to begin by asking you some questions about your father, Sokaku Takeda. Can it be said that he created the art of Daito-ryu?

No, the art's origins lie in an art called tegoi. There is a story about this art in the Kojiki. When the goddess Amaterasu Omikami went to her fellow god Takeminakata no Mikoto to order him to return her country to her, he and the god Takemikazuchi no Mikoto fought a match. This match was conducted using tegoi, which can be considered to be the origin of present-day sumo. In ancient times, sumo matches were held at shrine festivals. Emperor Seiwa created the two Imperial Guard corps of Ukon and Sakon, and made sumo into a martial art. Later, during the Kamakura period, sumo became the most popular martial art. Therefore, it can be said that Emperor Seiwa is the founder of Daito-ryu. When the youngest grandson of Emperor Seiwa, Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, went to Oshu in the northeastern district of Japan, he studied human anatomy through dissection, and this was the origin of Daito-ryu. He stayed at a place known as Daito, and called himself Saburo of Daito. This is the source of the name. Daito-ryu was then passed down through generations of the Takeda family, as we are also descendants of the Emperor Seiwa.

The record of this story is kept at the Ise Shrine. Although these documents are not shown to anyone except Shinto priests, I was permitted to see them since the Takeda family is descended from a family of priests. When I went there to check what my father had told me, I found these documents.

The name Soemon Takeda appears in the genealogy of the Takeda family you have shown us. I believe he was Sokaku's grandfather?

That's right. He was the father of Sokaku's father Sokichi. At the time of the Aizu war, soldiers from all over the country came to attack the clan since it was considered to be an enemy of the Emperor. Thus, I think if someone hadn't asked a temple to keep these documents, they would have been lost.

Would you give us some background on the Aizu clan?

The Aizu clan was originally responsible for guarding Kyoto. A group of samurai called the Shinsengumi was active just prior to the Meiji Restoration. The crest of the Shinsengumi was the same as the crest of the Aizu clan and they were descended in a direct line from Aizu clan members. It was a violent group that assassinated Imperial supporters belonging to the Satsuma and Tosa clans. They even killed top leaders. Because of the Shisengumi's relationship to the Aizu clan, when the Satsuma and Tosa clans came into power they attacked and defeated the lord of the Aizu clan in the Boshin Civil War. Once the clan had been beaten, it was unable to recover. During that war, the Aizu were still using heated cannon balls while the Imperial army used imported cannons. The Aizu were no match for the Imperial forces. The Aizu clan, which was supposed to have been guarding the Emperor, had become the Emperor's enemy. At one point, the lord of the Aizu clan was arrested and was about to be killed, although in fac t he was not. The Aizu castle was put to the torch and completely destroyed. There are not many people who have records of the genealogy of the Aizu clan.

I'm sure your father must have told you many stories about his experiences as a boy.

Yes, he did. Once, during the time of the Aizu war when my father was nine years old, all of the adults from his household had fled to the mountains. Sokaku and his sister were left behind in the house because the adults believed that the children would be safe there. When the soldiers of the Imperial army came to the house, they grabbed a duck that Sokaku had been carefully tending and killed it. Seeing this, Sokaku shouted, "Imperial troops are thieves!" When the captain heard Sokaku, he came to him and explained that members of the Imperial army were not thieves, because they were all soldiers of the Emperor. But Sokaku continued to insist that they were thieves, and so the captain had to calm him down by giving him some money. I understand that some of the local people who witnessed this scene later masked their faces and came to the house to frighten Sokaku and steal the money he had received. In the old days, they used paper-covered lamp stands, and it was quite dark at night. After darkness fell , they broke into Sokaku's house wearing their masks. But, Sokaku got angry and threw the rice bowl from which he was eating straight at one of the masks. I understand that the mask he hit broke in two. He really had a heroic temper, even at the age of nine.

I also heard that Sokaku used to walk some seven miles in the middle of the night to see the cannons firing. The old cannon balls were quite different from modern ones. They didn't explode, but were heated, red balls of flame that could easily be seen in the dark. Every night Sokaku would make some rice balls and set out to watch the fighting because he was interested in seeing the guns being shot at the castle. Since it was a battlefield, many people were carrying spears and other weapons. Sokaku saw people kill each other this way when he was very young. He loved battlefields. Because he was a child he didn't have to worry about being killed and he used to run around wherever he pleased. But there were guards everywhere and they often caught him when he made a sound. Since he was only a little boy, he was threatened and sent home. But he always went back!

He told me many other stories about himself. He talked about how he went around testing his skills and how he studied under top masters. He even told me the habits of these teachers, as well as the characteristics of their arts. I think these stories were quite valuable to me.

Would you tell us something about Sokaku's education?

He was not a very academic type. In fact, Sokaku Takeda couldn't write! When he had to write something, he had someone do it for him. His father Sokichi believed that for the future, children would need to be able to write, and so he opened his temple to the public during the Edo period, establishing a private temple elementary school. He also taught Sokaku. But his son was a strange child who was always causing a commotion by disappearing suddenly or creating trouble for other people. In the end, Sokaku's father expelled his own son from the school. Sokaku defied his father, and declared that he would not write himself but have others write for him. When his father, Sokichi retorted angrily, "Who would want to write for you!" Sokaku insisted that he would have people write for him. And that is exactly what he did. What's more, he had judges and public prosecutors do so.

You know it was quite unusual for police to sign their names to anything. I was a police detective and I know the situation well. It was quite extraordinary that Sokaku was able to make the police and descendants of samurai sign their names and stamp their seals in his enrollment books. Even in my day the police would never give out name cards, because they would be in big trouble if someone misused them. But even in the Meiji period, Sokaku required his students to sign their names.

Did Sokaku Takeda Sensei have any brothers and sisters?

He had one elder brother and one younger brother. He also had a sister.

Can you tell us something about Sokaku's martial arts background?

Sokaku studied the traditional Ono-ha Itto-ryu sword of the Aizu clan from a teacher named Toma Shibuya. Most of the records and documents of the Aizu clan were burned at the time of the Aizu war. Only the few documents that were kept in a temple survived.

Kenjutsu was popular and jujutsu was merely a supplemental art in those days. In other words, since the samurai always carried their swords, they never needed to think about throwing someone with their hands. Therefore, at the time of the Meiji Restoration, sword arts were more popular than jujutsu. Jujutsu was just beginning to be practiced then. Oshikiuchi, the palace art, was an exception, of course.

What is the importance of the Ono-ha Itto-ryu in the later development of Daito-ryu?

The sword style incorporated into Daito-ryu is Ono-ha Itto-ryu. This art is the source of Sokaku's sword. Sokaku learned just about everything. There was very little he did not know. Swordsmen in the old days were not merely experts in swordsmanship. Training during the latter part of the Tokugawa [1603-1868] and Meiji eras [1868-1912] required "ten thousand men." In other words, you had to put on your men ten thousand times and then spend three years traveling around to various dojos for training. You put on your men and participated in sword matches. Each school had its own individual forms, but regardless of style, everyone used the men.

Modern-day kendo derived largely from Ono-ha Itto-ryu, due to the popularity it shared with the Hokushin Itto-ryu. Sasaburo Takano of the former, and Takaharu Naito and Shusaku Chiba of the latter, are well known. Until about 1910 there was no particular classification of forms, so the faculty of the Advanced Teacher Training School (Tokyo Koto Shihan Gakko) and the Butokukai created kata (forms) to facilitate instruction. The kendo kata as they are practiced today were established at that time. At the Daitokan we no longer practice using men, because we practice only kata.

When we use swords, we talk about receiving. You receive the attack as soon as the opponent draws his sword. You've got to have that kind of speed. The aiki sword doesn't work unless your arms and legs are working together effectively. Since Sokaku had practiced kenjutsu, he was able to turn his wrists easily. In order to cut your opponent, you need to set the blade of your sword in a specific position; you need to turn your sword this way [gesturing]. You receive your opponent's sword with the back of your sword and then you turn your sword to cut him. This is not how you hit your opponent with a bokken. Since a real sword has a sharp blade, you need to receive your opponent's blade with the back of your sword. You should not receive it with your blade because if you do so using a real sword, the blade will be nicked. But if you receive your opponent's sword with the back of your sword and then go to cut him with your blade, the cutting edge will never be nicked. Therefore, you must be able to easily turn your wrists to be able to perform these sword techniques, and this twisting of the wrists is the essence of Daito-ryu techniques.

Would it be correct, then, to say that Daito-ryu is based on sword movements?

Yes. Sokaku's techniques are based on the sword. In learning Daito-ryu, it is absolutely essential to study the sword. The first short sword technique in the Ono-ha Itto-ryu is the same as the first technique in Daito-ryu, where you pin your opponent, then thrust at and cut him. This technique was only used during the Sengoku Jidai [Age of the Warring States, 1467-1568], but Sokaku taught it as an important technique.

Sokaku always carried a short knife wrapped in a towel. He never showed it to anyone, but I understand that once someone saw him drop it. The technique using this knife was a secret technique of Shingen Takeda. When an enemy comes to attack you with his sword, you use this knife in this way [demonstrates]. I now get your vitals. This is ippondori in Daito-ryu.

I understand Sokaku also studied martial arts from teachers outside of the Aizu clan?

Yes. Sokaku was a student of Kenkichi Sakakibara and studied Jikishinkage-ryu. Sakakibara's sword was of the so-called hard-style. His techniques have also been transmitted as part of the Daito-ryu curriculum. When Sokaku was a live-in student, there were scores of students training at the Sakakibara dojo. All of them suffered concussions as a result of being struck on the head by their teacher's sword. When he thrust at them, they went flying.

I understand that they had very little to eat, so they made a thin rice gruel and sucked it up through a bamboo tube. That was all they had for breakfast. They were starving. These were the conditions when Sokaku was living there. I think he studied there for about two-and-a-half years. There was also a man named Jirokichi Yamada at the Sakakibara dojo, who later taught sword at Hitotsubashi University. Sokaku once demonstrated at Hitotsubashi University because of his connection with Mr. Yamada.

I believe Sakakibara was instrumental in introducing Sokaku to Shunzo Momonoi of the Kyoshin Meichi-ryu sword school.

As you know, the so-called Southwestern Rebellion took place in 1877.Sokaku intended to support Takamori Saigo, who was rumored to be raising an army. But Sokaku's brother Sokatsu, who was a Shinto priest, died suddenly and he was obliged to return to Fukushima to the shrine of Chikanori Hoshina to replace his brother as an apprentice priest.

Later, however, Sokaku decided to go to Kyushu in order to support Saigo, and he visited Sakakibara in Edo [Tokyo] on the way. Sakakibara Sensei wrote a letter and asked Sokaku to deliver it to Shunzo Momonoi in Osaka. Sakakibara had learned of Sokaku's plan to join Saigo's army for warrior training (musha shugyo) and asked Momonoi to prevent him from doing so. Since Sokaku could not read, he put the letter into his kimono and carried it to Momonoi in Osaka. Then he began to practice there.

What was Sokaku's training like at the Momonoi dojo?

Sokaku was treated like a guest at Momonoi's dojo because of his introduction from Sakakibara. Shunzo Momonoi had become a police instructor on Sakakibara Sensei's recommendation. At first it was Sakakibara who taught the police, but he recommended Momonoi for the job, because he felt that Momonoi was better educated than he was. In the end, Sokaku was unable to support Saigo and join his army because of Momonoi's intervention.

Would you tell us something about Sokaku's years of itinerant martial arts training beginning in the late 1870s?

There were no trains in those days so Sokaku traveled on foot. He would never know in advance what special techniques each dojo he visited might have. He told me he would stand outside and call in to someone, but would never enter the place. Even when he returned to his own home as an old man, he would stand in front of the entrance and call me, shouting, "Sozaburo!" without even coming into the house.

In those days people trained for three years after having participated in ten thousand matches. They say that after such training a swordsman could then begin to understand how to grip a bamboo sword. If they practiced a little more, they would say, "I have practiced a little." This meant in those days that a person was a grandmaster. That was one of the martial artists' codewords. You could tell how many years of training a person had done by the way he gripped a bamboo sword, and others would say, "Ah! This one has worn his men ten thousand times and has done three years of training around the country." This was the way it was at the beginning of the Meiji era. There was no dan-ranking system then.

Was Sokaku's hometown legally in Fukushima Prefecture?

No, it's here at my current address. He branched off from the main family in Aizu and formally changed his address to Hokkaido.

Sensei, you once described a famous incident that occurred in 1882 in Fukushima where Sokaku was attacked by a group of construction workers and miraculously escaped death. Are there documents remaining in Fukushima Prefecture about this event?

I went to Fukushima but could find no documents. When that incident occurred, Sokaku had wounds all over his body. He was even stabbed in the back with a pick. He was rescued after he lost consciousness. According to Sokaku, it was dark and he could see a fire in the distance. He said that he felt good when he followed the fire with his eyes. Then, he gradually regained consciousness and heard his uncle, Shinjuro Kurokochi, calling his name. Sokaku was saved because his uncle was at the scene. [Looking at the enrollment book] This uncle was a former Aizu clansman. I think that together with several other government officials he was responsible for saving Sokaku.

When was the term Aikijujutsu first used in Sokaku's enrollment books?

I think that aiki was taught as a self-defense art beginning a long time ago, during the Tokugawa period. Among the Daito-ryu jujutsu techniques is a particular type of aiki technique that we call hanza handachi. Techniques that were studied for use in the palace are called oshikiuchi. In the old days when people passed into the obanbeya of Edo castle, all of their swords were taken away. Everyone--except for those nobles of a certain rank, who were allowed to keep their short swords--had to surrender all of their weapons. They had to walk on their knees in front of the family of the Shogun. The hanza handachi techniques of the Daito-ryu were used during that period in response to any situation that might arise.

Then hanza handachi must be an important part of the Daito-ryu curriculum.

Yes, that's true. Knee-walking (shikko) is a basic skill in Daito-ryu. Hanza handachi techniques are based on knee-walking as well and are used against sudden attacks while seated. Techniques begun from a seated position and finished while standing exist only in Daito-ryu. Other classical martial arts do have techniques for controlling seated opponents, but only in Daito-ryu do you learn to throw your enemy in five directions in the process of standing from a seated position. We use the term goho, which means five directions, and thus the technique is called gohonage. In gohonage, you throw your enemy in five directions--front, back, right and left and center--that is, wherever you have just been. This sort of technique is unique to Daito-ryu. There are also five-directional throws associated with ikkajo, nikajo, and sankajo.

Did the Aikido term shihonage come from Daito-ryu?

That's right, and so did kotegaeshi.

How about kokyunage?

We call that technique aikinage.

And koshinage?

It is called koshiguruma.

What about tenchinage?

It is one of the aikinagetechniques.

Would you talk about some of the basic Daito-ryu techniques like ippondori?

Ippondoris referred to as kogusoku in Ono-ha Itto-ryu, and a kodachi (short sword) is used. You thrust up from below when you are attacked by an opponent with a sword. In Daito-ryu, as an opponent swiftly attacks by grabbing you by the chest, you hold him down. The technique applies in situations where the enemy thrusts at you and you control him.

What is different from other schools is that you hold the opponent down using the knee. Then you grab the opponent's hair in order to cut off his head. This is true Daito-ryu technique. You may wonder, "What meaning does this have in this day and age?" But this is basic to Daito-ryu. If you hold an opponent down with your knee, both of your hands are free. Then you can cut his throat. You must remain alert until then. Even situations with multiple attackers can be handled with your free arms because one attacker has been pinned under your knee. This is the essence of Daito-ryu. If you hold an opponent down with your entire weight concentrated on your knee, the enemy cannot rise. Each and every technique is lethal. None of the techniques give the opponent any openings.

Daito-ryu teaching methods are completely different from those of other schools. Our techniques use real swords for serious combat. When Daito-ryu was used in the police department, the police gradually stopped practicing in this way, and they began to just gently hold the opponent down. Even during the Meiji era, people no longer controlled their enemies in order to stab them and cut off their heads. However, the essence of Daito-ryu is to keep alert until you have cut the enemy's throat. Thrusts must be made immediately. We strictly teach students of Daito-ryu these things. So practice is violent, and a little different from other kinds of practices or from just practicing softly with aiki.

Could you explain in a little more detail about the concept of aiki?

Aiki is to pull when you are pushed, and to push when you are pulled. It is the spirit of slowness and speed, of harmonizing your movement with your opponent's ki. Its opposite, kiai, is to push to the limit, while aiki never resists.

Aiki applies to self-defense when an opponent attacks first, and we use the term to refer to self-defense for people in general. These two must not be confused. Thus, the police do not use the word aiki. They use jujutsu. They fight with kiai, using a sen sen attack. Attacking is kiai. Aiki, on the other hand, is go no sen. policemen are permitted to attack first. This is why the police studied Daito-ryu, though these days the mixture of judo, kendo, Aikido, and other arts used by the police is usually referred to as taihojutsu or arrest techniques.

Would you tell us something about the seminars Sokaku conducted after he began his teaching career?

He would teach for periods of ten days at a time, that is, one course lasted for ten days. It was not possible to spread the art systematically because, unfortunately, Sokaku spent his time traveling to teach and never established any branch dojos. Sokaku Takeda was not that type of person; at that time he was only interested in teaching. Students had to sign their names in the enrollment book each time they participated in a course. He never allowed Daito-ryu to be taught to people who were not his students.

There is a famous story about Sokaku's encounter early in his teaching career with a foreigner named Charles Parry who taught English in Japan during the Meiji period. I believe this man's name appears in one of the enrollment books.

That's right. At that time, Sokaku was teaching at the Second Army Division in Sendai. Mr. Parry came to teach English at the Sendai Second High School. A foreigner who came to Japan with Mr. Parry also studied with Sokaku Takeda. My father knew words like "shoulder." He also could say "pin" for "osae." So he knew a little bit of English!

When did Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, meet Sokaku for the first time?

In 1915, I understand they met each other at the Hisada Inn in the town of Engaru in northern Hokkaido. It seems that Mr. Ueshiba came to Hokkaido to cultivate the land when he was in his thirties. He gathered together the second and third children of families--not the eldest sons--and they settled in Hokkaido. He was still young so I imagine it must have been quite difficult for him.

Mr. Ueshiba studied Daito-ryu with my father from 1915 through 1919, about five years. He trained extensively and was enthusiastic. He was Sokaku's favorite student. However, I was the one who was scolded most frequently by Sokaku. After me, it was Morihei Ueshiba whom he scolded most often. Since I was Sokaku's son I wasn't so bothered when he scolded me, but I imagine that Mr. Ueshiba must have been greatly affected since he wasn't a member of the family?

[Looking at accounting ledgers] Mr. Ueshiba really practiced quite a lot. This was the first time, here the second, and this the third. Here are the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh times... Here is the eighth seminar where Mr. Ueshiba participated as Sokaku's assistant. All together, he had seventy days practice as a student. Here is yet another entry, the ninth time.

This is quite different from earlier accounts of the connection between Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda, isn't it?

Yes. Mr. Ueshiba also accompanied Sokaku a great deal. Traveling with Sokaku was more significant than just studying with him during the regular practice sessions. And what's more, Mr. Ueshiba also taught as Sokaku's assistant.

So Ueshiba Sensei appears as Sokaku Sensei's assistant starting from this eighth seminar...

That's right. He started accompanying him from that time. Since Sokaku went to various places to instruct the police, judges, and that sort of person, Mr. Ueshiba probably thought that the art was wonderful and that he wouldn't have to continue farming if he mastered it. He was very devoted to Daito-ryu and also quite talkative. When Sokaku was teaching a group of judges and public prosecutors in Hakodate, Mr. Ueshiba happened to be his companion and assisted in teaching them. He was in his thirties then, and he was able to teach judges at this young age. Usually, it was quite difficult to rise to that position in those days. An instructor wasn't employed by the police unless he was descended from a samurai family. It was quite formal. So, it was a great thing to teach judges while so young. Morihei Ueshiba was a splendid person even at such a young age.

Did Ueshiba Sensei become a certified instructor in Daito-ryu at that time?

Actually, it was much later. He went back to Honshu [the largest of Japan's four major islands] before receiving it. It is recorded right here that he received his certification in Ayabe. If I remember correctly, my mother and I went to Ayabe, near Kyoto, when I was six years old. We stayed in Mr. Ueshiba's home, which was known as the Ueshiba Juku, for a long time. I would watch the training even though I was small. At that time there were forty students.

Oh, here it is... This is the record of our stay there. We were there for about five or six months. Here, it says that the students of the Ueshiba Juku received instruction in Daito-ryu jujutsu under Sokaku Takeda Sensei. Many of the students were Omoto believers.

Here, for example, is Masaharu Taniguchi of Seicho no Ie. Vice Admiral Seikyo Asano also studied Daito-ryu. These sorts of people also learned the art. Look at this, here is the name "Morihei Ueshiba." It is clearly written that the training ran from April 28 to September 15, 1922, quite a long time. Mr. Ueshiba was also teaching as an assistant then. Sokaku didn't like the Omoto religion very much so it seems he [sarcastically] referred to the house as Morihei Ueshiba's "villa."

So Sokaku taught daily from April 28 to September 15?

That's right. He taught together with Ueshiba. This is Morihei Ueshiba Sensei's kyoju dairi (assistant instructor) certificate. It is in his own handwriting and says:

1. When accepting students for instruction in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu be careful to choose persons of good conduct.

2. When instructing students, have them write their address, name, age, location of their dojo, and the terms of their instruction in an enrollment book and have them stamp it with their seal by way of authentication.

3. When instructing students, an initial payment of three yen should be made to Takeda Dai-Sensei as an enrollment fee.

September 15, 1922

Everyone wrote the same words when receiving their assistant instructor's certificate. It is the same as setting up what we call today a branch dojo. Mr. Ueshiba practiced a great deal, more than anyone else.

Did Sokaku go to Ayabe on Ueshiba Sensei's invitation?

Actually, there were a number of people from the navy training in Mr.Ueshiba's dojo. All of the navy members had experience in sumo wrestling and were quite strong. Since Ueshiba would have had difficulty in handling such individuals he asked Sokaku Takeda Sensei to come. These men were huge, while Mr. Ueshiba was smaller than me. I would imagine that he wasn't able to pin them because he wasn't using precise techniques. After all, it would be difficult using only aiki.

Could you tell us something about the relationship between your father and Morihei Ueshiba after Sokaku's stay in Ayabe in 1922?

Since Ueshiba Sensei was one of Sokaku Takeda's best pupils and studied under him for a long time, I always used to visit him first whenever I went Tokyo, although I haven't been there since his death. I guess Sokaku Takeda loved Morihei Ueshiba best of all his students. Sokaku was terribly worried when Ueshiba was arrested in Osaka. He asked Yukiyoshi Sagawa and me to go see how he was managing. At that time, Ueshiba was under house arrest in Tanabe. When Sokaku heard that Ueshiba was all right, he was relieved. He was always concerned about Morihei. Sokaku trusted him a great deal, and would call out his name whenever he had a problem. Ueshiba was a diligent student.

Sokaku is known to have taught thousands of police officers. Would you talk about this aspect of his teaching career?

Sokaku Takeda taught for a very long time and instructed about thirty thousand individuals. His main students were police and he was truly exceptional because among them were many judo and kendo experts. Sokaku was a strict person and his manner of teaching the sword was strict. Everyone was powerless against him. So, although Sokaku allowed his partner to wear a face protector when demonstrating the sword, he never did so himself.

When he was visited by journalists he never showed them any techniques. He was very strict about the art because it was applied to police tactics. The police were the strongest in judo, kendo and everything else, because they were concerned with these sorts of things as part of their jobs.

In a given police department there is usually a maximum of about one hundred personnel. Once a month they hold a briefing-type meeting, which brings together many police officers from the smaller substations. It was on such occasions that Sokaku was invited to teach. He directly taught a huge number of people.

I remember one incident in Urawa, Saitama Prefecture when Sokaku Takeda was teaching there. One day, Mr. Shuzo Shibuya asked Sokaku to go with him to a restaurant. My father asked me to go in his place since he had a cold and wanted to stay in bed. So, I went along without any idea of what was going to happen. There I met a police instructor, who asked me when Sokaku Takeda Sensei had received his hanshi certificate. When I replied he didn't have one, the man then asked when he was awarded the kyoshi rating. I said that he didn't have a kyoshi certificate either. Then he asked about a renshi rank. Again I answered in the negative. When he finally asked whether or not he had a dan rank and I answered that he did not, he became angry. "Where do you think this is? In Urawa we have a master kendo instructor, Takano Hanshi!"

Martial arts were flourishing in Urawa, and a man without a hanshi or kyoshi rating was teaching there. What's more, Sokaku Takeda didn't even have a kyu rank!

Mr. Shibuya looked so threatening that I found myself shrinking. If you think of it, it was natural for him to become so angry. Sokaku was teaching the sword in the area where Takano Sensei lived and was instructing the police. Then Mr. Shibuya asked me what sort of things we practiced in Daito-ryu and proceeded to choke me. I immediately strangled him with one hand. That finished things! He apologized on his knees. Afterwards, he changed his attitude completely and said he would talk to the Chief of Police the next day.

Sokaku taught the Urawa police when he was nearly eighty years old. The budo experts were taken aback too. Sokaku pulled out one of the policemen and pinned his right hand with his left hand. The man could no longer move. Sokaku made the man bow to the people present and said, "Okay, now greet these gentlemen!" Sokaku was able to get all of these judo and kendo experts to bow down with one hand. Finally he said to the people, "Now, do you understand?"

It seems that the man he selected first was a sixth dan instructor of judo at the police school. Sokaku used to say, "When you go out to teach, you should pull out the strongest man. When you apply your techniques to the strongest person everyone will be convinced and will want to study with you." But how can you know who is the strongest among two hundred people? He just looked around and selected the right individuals one after the other. That's aiki!

There must be many stories concerning Sokaku's experiences teaching police.

Yes, at one particular police seminar, Sokaku did something very puzzling. He pointed out several individuals among the many attending policemen and told them to leave. Then, he taught the others. After the course was over, the police chief asked why he had required those particular three or four officers to leave before the practice began. Sokaku looked at him quietly and then said, "You don't know? One of them is a heavy drinker and has been causing you problems, hasn't he? How can I teach a person like that? One of the others is a woman chaser, isn't he? That's why I didn't teach him. Then the other one has been disobeying you and you have been having a hard time handling him, haven't you? I can't teach people like that!"

Sokaku was meeting all of these people for the first time, so the police chief was quite surprised. People followed Sokaku because he could do such things. One of the most important skills for a judge is to be able to judge people and Sokaku was able to do that. It is impossible to imitate him. I began to understand the importance of judging a person's character when I became a detective. We read people's characters by their faces. Of course, we also pay attention to their actions, but an ability to read faces is essential. Although I have read books on the subject it is not an easy one to master. There is no way I am able to order a person to leave at the first meeting.

There was another surprising incident involving the police. Once when my father went to Osaka he told me to "put some people in order through aiki." I didn't know what he meant by that and asked one of the people in the dojo. He told me how surprised he was when Sokaku identified the ranks of those he met for the first time and had them sit according to their positions from the highest to the lowest. The man thought that this was something no ordinary person could do and started studying with Sokaku in earnest.

These anecdotes are fascinating and give us a real glimpse of Sokaku's character.

There was another story that happened at an inn in Sendai. A woman, who was about forty, was staying there and I was talking to her with other guests present. She claimed to be the daughter of a samurai and said she was accomplished in naginata and the tea ceremony, and such things. We were impressed and listened to her intently.

Suddenly, my father, who was upstairs, ran down to us, making a terrible ruckus. Sokaku, who had difficulty hearing, noticed us from the second floor and came running. This incident surprised even me. How could he hear us when he was hard of hearing? We weren't talking at all loudly and he was upstairs.

He sat down right between the woman and me, pointed at her and said, "This woman is insane! You mustn't be with her. Come with me!" He stood up and went back up to the second floor. How could I stand up and follow him? We had been talking seriously. Normally, Sokaku would make no sound when he walked but this time, he scrambled down the stairs and made a lot of noise. I was really in trouble!

I apologized to the woman and explained that my father was nearly eighty years old and often did strange things. However, the woman and other guests were angry and wouldn't listen to me. I thought that the situation had gotten quite out of hand and apologized to her sincerely. Then I went upstairs. The moment I touched the door, I heard my father shout in a thunderous voice, "Don't you understand that you mustn't associate with that insane woman!" He was truly angry and said, "I can read the minds of normal people. But insane people's thoughts occur arbitrarily and I can't read their minds. Why are you spending time with a woman like that?"

I didn't know what to do. Even if I told him that the woman wasn't insane, he wouldn't listen and would call me a fool, insisting that she was insane. Then about two days later the owner of the inn told me that the woman's husband had come to fetch her. I met him and told him what had happened. He looked at me silently, then asked how old my father was. When I replied that he was eighty years old, he asked if my father had really called his wife insane. I confirmed this and asked his pardon.

"Let me tell you a story," was his reply and he started to talk. He said that his wife had gone insane after she had borne a child. On this occasion he was looking for her because she had disappeared. In the spring and fall she would go to an inn or to a friend's house to stay. The husband had found out that his wife made a phone call from this particular inn and had come to get her. The fact that she was insane was kept a secret from both their parents and their child. It was a secret shared only by this man and his wife. That's why he asked me so many times if my father had said she was insane. He wanted to know what my father had done. My father was able to see through to the truth.

There is another similar story. One day we were staying with a person called Yoshizo Hasegawa in Osaka. He lived in a two-story house and worked as a commercial agent. At that time people used to call their employees bonsan and that's how the owner introduced one sixty year-old man to us. I was talking to this fellow about various things. Then Sokaku suddenly ran down the stairs. He usually made no noise but once again he made quite a racket. He looked at the man.

Then he said, "This man is a Buddhist priest. Why is he here?" Although the owner explained that the man was merely an employee he had recently hired, Sokaku surveyed the man quietly and said, "Oh, yes. I can see by your face that you have gotten into trouble because of a woman. You must have lost your head over a woman. Otherwise you could have kept your position as a high-ranking Buddhist priest. You were a priest from a good family."

The bonsan didn't say a word. Sokaku then went back upstairs after having said his piece. He didn't order me to follow him this time. The bonsan asked me if my father was a fortune-teller. "No, he practices martial arts. He's very old. Please forgive him," I answered.

"I have never been so surprised in all of my life!" the man exclaimed. "I was supposed to become the head of a temple, although I cannot mention its name because it is embarrassing. However, I ended up like this because of a woman. How did he know?"

About two days later the man quit his job and left the house saying that he was terrified. Sokaku should have kept his observation to himself, but he spoke out. I later heard that the man was a priest of high status. I could never imitate what Sokaku did. He was truly great in this sense. He understood a person the moment he saw him. He could see the past, present, and even the future.

It seems that Sokaku had amazing powers of perception.

Yes. I'll tell you another story. Since Sokaku Takeda was a man of budo he was very suspicious. He never ate anything offered by students other than his own. He would eat something if you ate it first in his presence and then offered it to him, but otherwise he was very cautious. I suppose this kind of behavior was to be expected of a man such as he was. He was totally alert at all times.

His cautiousness once caused me a great deal of trouble. As you know there was a famous sword teacher named Sasaburo Takano. My father and I and Shuzo Shibuya once visited this sensei. Mr. Shibuya's niece was married to Shigeyoshi Takano, an adopted son of Takano Sensei, so Shibuya came with us. Takano Sensei was quite a strange person. He had spears and naginata on display on the beams in the entrance of his house. In the back room there was a thick tiger's skin. Takano Sensei was a very gentle person and spoke quietly, while Sokaku Takeda always spoke in a loud voice as if he were quarreling. Wherever he went he would speak loudly. He used to tell me that he spoke loudly so that people would understand him. Since he was a samurai he had retained the habit of talking at his voice's highest pitch--like a traditional warrior--when introducing himself!

In any event, we were talking with Takano Sensei and were served so me sweets. I ate mine but my father didn't. So Takano Sensei wrapped them up and looked up in order to hand them to Sokaku who was sitting in front of him--but found no one there. By the time Takano Sensei had wrapped up the remaining two sweets Sokaku had disappeared. I was there with him, and can say that he disappeared as if by magic.

Since I liked kenjutsu I had been watching every movement of Takano Sensei, who was a sword master. It was during this time that Sokaku disappeared. My father was sitting next to me, opposite Takano Sensei. When Takano Sensei asked me where Sokaku had gone, I replied that I thought he had gone to the back part of the house to greet his wife. So Takano Sensei went to the back room to find him, but didn't return for a while. When he came back he had a strange expression on his face and said, "Well, I couldn't find him there either. Where in the world has Takeda Sensei gone?" Since we couldn't look for him forever, I decided to go home. On our way out of the room Takano Sensei motioned for me to precede him, since I was the son of his senior, Sokaku. We left the room and were in the entrance when we saw Sokaku outside. Takano Sensei said, "There he is! And in such a place!"

Then Sokaku opened the front door from outside and came in. One moment he had been in the room with us, but now he was suddenly standing in the entrance. We paid our respects to Takano Sensei and went home. Once we got there, my father scolded me severely. He said, "Who do you think Takano is?" In fact, I knew he was a teacher of a higher normal school. The qualifications for a teacher of a normal school in those days were the same as for the principal of a junior high school today. He was also an excellent swordsman. Sokaku scolded me for having walked in front of Takano Sensei. He said to me, "What would you do if Takano grabbed you from behind?"

I couldn't believe such a thing was possible. Takano Sensei was a school teacher, as well as a kenjutsu master, and I was a young man of about twenty. However, when I said it was impossible for Takano Sensei to do such a thing my father scolded me again. "People have been killed after saying that such things are impossible! Shame on you for allowing Takano to follow you! It is natural for a man of budo to follow others. Walking in front of someone is the same as being killed. Don't you understand that? Then go back to Hokkaido!"

It seems that in the old days situations such as he was describing actually happened. For example, one would come to a corner and suddenly be attacked by men wielding spears. But I was living in the Showa period [1926-1989]. I never thought of these possibilities. Being a man of budo is quite difficult. One of my father's cousins once told me that there was a secret technique in the family. "The family has a kabenuke (wall-passing) technique. Don't forget that," he said.

Although I didn't believe that sort of technique actually existed, when Sokaku suddenly disappeared like that I changed my mind. My father never told me where he had gone. Takano Sensei was the most surprised. My father vanished from the room where Takano Sensei usually did his reading. We never knew how he got outside. He didn't open the door of the room. It was a western-style door that had been closed from the beginning. We don't know how he exited the room.

We have learned a great deal about Sokaku Sensei thanks to the articles you have published in your newsletter.

It is important to know how and why Sokaku Takeda became what he was. A small man--less than five feet tall--would not have been able to teach the police just because he could use a sword. He had supporters. This is what I am researching now.

These supporters included navy and army officials whose names were all recorded in the enrollment books. There were also people who supported him even earlier, including an admiral whose biography was recently published. If you look at this book, you will find the names of the same officers that are in the enrollment books and can find out what kind of people supported Sokaku.

At the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904 or 1905, the men of the Second Army Division of Sendai where Sokaku was teaching shipped out and so he went to Hokkaido at the request of one of the courts in the Hakodate region. This proved quite an experience for him too.

This was not the first time that Sokaku had been to Hokkaido. He had traveled there with Tsugumichi Saigo [1843-1902] who was known as the "father of the Second Army Division." Saigo introduced Sokaku to the generals as a student of Tanomo Saigo, the Aizu counselor, and gave him a great deal of support.

When Tsugumichi became head of the Hokkaido development project and went to Hokkaido, he had Sokaku accompany him as his guard. Tsugumichi was a younger brother of Takamori Saigo. Tanomo Saigo, the Aizu counselor who was later known as Chikanori Hoshina, and Takamori Saigo were also related and corresponded with each other. After the Aizu War, when Tanomo was in some financial difficulty, he even received money from Takamori. It was said to have been hundreds of thousands of yen, which in the currency of the day was an extremely large amount. Through this connection with Tsugumichi, Sokaku had first gone to Sendai to teach the art to the Second Army Division. It was not something an ordinary person could have done without a recommendation.

So there were many distinguished people who supported Sokaku. All those navy and army officials who studied with Sokaku signed and sealed their names in his enrollment books. Gombei Yamamoto--twice Prime Minister of Japan--was one of these officials. He was from Kagoshima, which was also Isamu Takeshita's native prefecture. This was the reason Takeshita introduced Morihei Ueshiba to Gombei Yamamoto.

Would you please tell us a little more about the relationship between Sokaku and Admiral Isamu Takeshita?

I can't really say very much since I never actually met Admiral Takeshita. But I have read an article he wrote titled "The Heroic Deeds of Sokaku Takeda." In it, he records some of Sokaku's various encounters with gamblers. I think the article was based on things Sokaku himself talked about, but it wasn't very long. Mr. Ueshiba talked about Isamu Takeshita having written such an article, but I didn't realize the writer was an admiral since only his name, Isamu Takeshita, was mentioned.

When did Admiral Takeshita become a student of Sokaku?

He was more a supporter than a student. Sokaku did teach him techniques though, in the mid-1920s.

Does his name appear in Sokaku Sensei's enrollment books?

Yes, it does. "Admiral Isamu Takeshita" is written there. Everyone wrote their names in the enrollment books. Government ministers in those days were of such high standing that they would not have bothered to put their seals in the enrollment books. However, they did write what was called a kakihan or written seal in the books, which was quite amazing. I think it was at the navy headquarters in Tokyo that Sokaku taught these ranking officers. Vice Admiral Seikyo Asano was also present.

By the way, Isamu Takeshita and two others demonstrated their art as Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, not as Aikido, at the first Classical Martial Arts Demonstration [held in 1935]. Thirty-eight different martial art schools participated in this demonstration. In the spring of 1940, the Kobukai foundation was established and Admiral Takeshita was inaugurated as its first chairman. Although Aikido people now call their art Aikido, in those days it was referred to as Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. Admiral Takeshita also became the third director of the Japan Sumo Association in 1939.

You have mentioned that Sokaku Takeda was a friend of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. Could you tell us more about their association?

Yes, they met many times. Mr. Kano and Sokaku were close friends, since they were both martial artists of similar age. They met each other often in Tokyo. Mr. Kano created judo based on the Kito-ryu and Tenshin Shinyo-ryu jujutsu schools. Sokaku had also practiced classical martial arts. Kano created his system as a method of physical education. The difference between Daito-ryu and judo is that we do not have one-on-one matches in Daito-ryu.

There was also a man named Shohachiro Noguchi who was the chairman of a group called the Imperial Shobukai and the friendship among these three was famous. Noguchi also studied with Sokaku. Also, the reason Kano sent Kenji Tomiki and Minoru Mochizuki to Ueshiba was because Ueshiba was Sokaku's student.

A man called Shiro Saigo was also one of Kano's students. Sokaku met Kano through his acquaintance with Saigo. Shiro Saigo was the adopted son of Tanomo Saigo. Shiro Saigo also played a leading role in making the Kodokan well-known. He was a natural son of Tanomo Saigo, born out of wedlock. Therefore, although Shiro was Tanomo's real son, he later adopted him to make it official.

I understand army General Makoto Miura was also associated with Sokaku Sensei?

Yes, his name appears in Sokaku's records beginning in the late 1890s. He was an expert swordsman and studied under a man named Hidetaro Shimoe. Shimoe taught jukendo at the Second Army Division of Sendai when my father was teaching there. Shimoe was the first person to receive the hanshi grade, the top rank among sword masters. He was also a sword master. This was why Sokaku Takeda knew him well.

There is a famous story about Shimoe and Sokaku. Shimoe was blind. When Sokaku had a match with him, Shimoe asked Sokaku to be generous and allow him to touch Sokaku's sword first. The moment he touched Sokaku's sword, Shimoe moved in to thrust. Since Shimoe was a spear master, he thrust immediately. He would not strike, he would just thrust, even when using a sword, in the same way he would with a spear, with one hand. Since Sokaku knew what Shimoe would do, he let him touch his sword and then raised his sword upward. In this way he could avoid the thrust.

This record in the enrollment book [indicating the entry] is proof that Makoto Miura studied in Sendai. Without these books, we would not have known that now. Sokaku left no openings in anything in that sense. He set things up so that no false statement would ever be possible. In the old days, the power of army officers was enormous, but he had them all seal their entries. In that sense, he provides no openings even though he is dead!


This interview was taken from -

Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu

Edited by Stanley A. Pranin

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