Historical Development of the Tradition

THE DAITORYU is believed to have originated within the family of Emperor Seiwa (reigned a.d. 858876) and to have been greatly developed by one of the emperor's descendants, Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, in the eleventh century. Through his careful study of human anatomy—he made a point of visiting battlefields and execution grounds to examine and dissect the bodies of war dead and executed criminals—Yoshimitsu determined which were the most effective strikes, blows, holds, joint locks, and pins. To fathom the mysteries of aiki, or harmonized energy, Yoshimitsu spent hours observing a female spider trapping prey in her web. Furthermore, he was a talented musician, and while accompanying dancers on his sho (a type of wind instrument), he gained insight into the nature of good rhythm and smooth transition between movements. Yoshimitsu incorporated all of this knowledge into the martial art he had been taught by family members and then passed on to his sons this improved and expanded system—which came to be known as the "Daitoryu," after the name of one of his residences.

Yoshikiyo, his eldest son, settled in the village of Takeda in Koma (in present-day Yamanashi Prefecture) and founded the Takeda branch of the Minamoto clan. The Daitoryu tradition of Yoshimitsu was thereafter handed down in complete secrecy to successive generations of the Takeda family. Near the end of the sixteenth century, the family, led by Kunitsugu Takeda, shifted its main base to the Atzu district (in

Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu
Samurai commander Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu playing the sho.


present-day Fukushima Prefecture). There the martial art system became known as o-shiki-uchi, or "practice in the room," and alternatively as an o-tome-bujutsu, or "inside-the-clan martial art"; both these terms are thought to suggest the great secrecy with which the Daitoryu techniques were guarded. The art was secretly transmitted to the samurai of the Aizu domain until the Call of the Shogunate in 1868.

It was not until the nineteenth century—when martial art genius Sokaku Takeda began to teach the Daitoryu to the public—that the art became widely known. Sokaku was born in 1860 in Aizu, where he received instruction in the traditional o-

shiki-uchi arts of the Aizu clan from his relatives and from Tanomo Saigo {1830-1905), the last V minister of the Aizu domain. Sokaku is consid ered the thirty-fifth Grand Master of the Daitoryu 1 ^ ^^m tradition stemming from Kunitsugu Takeda. In addition to the Daitoryu system, Sokaku studied

  • many other martial arts and acquired firsthand
  • Hr combat experience in street fights all over the country. Around the turn of the century, Sokaku

I. began teaching the Daitoryu system—which by k * - i110'11^^ some new elements that he himself had incorporated—to select groups of military officers, police officials, and aristocrats. Sokaku ^ was based in remote northern Japan but made

\ i' Vjl^^l occasional forays to Tokyo and western Japan. In the course of his travels, Sokaku defeated all challengers. It is said that thirty thousand martial artists received instruction at Sokaku's hands. Of this vast number, only twenty or so received formal teaching licenses from the Daitoryu Grand Master. Several of Sokaku's students themselves became extremely distinguished teachers.

Yukiyoshi Sagawa (1902-1998) was one of Sokaku's earliest students. He began studying with Sokaku in Hokkaido when he was just twelve years old, and continued this training for many years. Sagawa eventually settled in Kodaira, a suburb of Tokyo, and established a ddjo (training hall) there. Sagawa was widely considered to be the premier Daitoryu exponent of the second half

Sokaku Takeda. '

Sokaku Takeda


Another early student of the Daitoryu was Kodo Horikawa (1895-1980). Horikawa began his training in Daitoryu under his father, one of Sokaku's first students, and then with the Grand Master himself. Horikawa lived all his life in Hokkaido's Kitami district, where he disseminated the Daitoryu teachings. He had many excellent students, the foremost of whom is Seigo Okamoto (1925-).

Takuma Hisa (1896-1980) was Sokaku's principal student in western Japan. He is believed to be the only one of Sokaku's students to have received the complete


transmission of all the Daitoryu techniques for unarmed and armed combat. After university, where he had been a champion sumo wrestler, he taught Aiki Jujutsu Daitoryu for many years in and around Osaka. He taught a great many students. Hakaru Mori (1931—) and other of his most outstanding students continue to teach

Hisa-style Daitoryu in the Kansai region.

Tokimune Takeda (1916-1993), Sokaku's second son, established a Daitoryu aiki budd headquarters in Abashiri, Hokkaido in 1953, subsequently assuming leadership of the Daitoryu tradition. In this role, Tokimune established an archive for Daito-ryu-related material, codified all of the Daitoryu techniques, and established branch dojo throughout Japan. Tokimune Takeda's principal student, Katsuyuki Kondo (1945—), is active promoting Daitoryu aiki budo in the Tokyo area.

Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969) was Sokaku's most famous student. Morihei first met Sokaku in 1915 in Hokkaido, and trained under him until 1922, when Morihei in turn was licensed to teach. Under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi (1871— 1948), charismatic leader of the Omoto-kyo religion, Morihei adopted and simplified the Daitoryu techniques and added a prominent spiritual dimension to create the art of Aikido—which in recent years has become extremely well known around the world and gained a large international following.

The Daitoryu tradition continues in various forms in Japan, and its teachings are slowly being introduced to the rest of the world.

Daitoryu Photo
Morihei Ueshiba.

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