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The History Of Aikido

Daitoryu Aiki JuJutsu

The Daito ryu is an extremely efficient martial art system, but execution of its techniques does not depend on size or physical strength. This is amply demonstrated by the example of Sokaku Takeda (1860-1943), a thin little man who nevertheless was the dominant martial artist of the early twentieth century. Sokaku regularly defeated all comers; sumo wrestlers and experts in judo, karate, or kendo, until he was well into his eighties.

The source of his amazing skill was his mastery of aiki, the essence of the Daitoryu system. Another important element in the unique Daito ryu system is its inclusion of ancient Shinto teachings and esoteric practices that dramatically increased a practitioners’ knowledge of the cosmos and their capacity to utilise universal energy to its fullest.

Historical Development of the Tradition

The Daitoryu is believed to have originated within the family of Emperor Seiwa (reigned A.D. 858-876) and to have been greatly developed by one of the emperor’s descendants, Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, in the 11th Century. Through his careful study of human anatomy, he made a point of visiting the 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 harmonised energy, Yoshimitsu spend 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 “Daito ryu” after the name of one of his residences.

Yoshikiyo, his eldest son, settled in the village of Takeda in Koma (in present-day YamansashiPrefecture) and founded the Tekeda branch of the minamoto clan.

The Daito ryu tradition of Yoshimitsu was there after handed down in complete secrecy to successive generations of the Takeda family. Near the end of the sixteenth century, the family, led by Junitsugu Takeda, shifted its main base to the Aizu district (in present-day FukushimaPrefecture). 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 Daito ryu techniques were guarded. The art was secretly transmitted to the samurai of the Aizu domain until the fall of the Shogunate in 1868. It was not until the nineteenth century when martial art genius Sokaku Takeda began to teach Daito ryu 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 minister of the Aizu domain. Sokaku is considered the thirty-fifth Grand Master of the Daito ryu tradition stemming from Kunitsugu Takeda.

In addition to the Daito ryu system, Sokaku studied many other martial arts and acquired firsthand combat experience in street fights all over the country. Around the turn of the century, Sokaku began teaching the Daito ryu system which had by then then included some new elements that he himself had incorporated to select groups of military officers, police officers and aristocrats. Sokaku was based in remote northern Japan, but had occasional forays to Tokyo and western Japan. In the course of his travels, Sokaku defeated all challenges.

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 Daito ryu Grand Master. Several of Sokaku’s students themselves became extremely distinguished teachers.

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 each. Under the influence of Onisaburo Deguchi (1871-1948), charismatic teacher of the Omoto-Kyu religion, Morihei adopted and simplified the Daito ryu 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.