Video: Spectacular Daito-ryu Aiki Budo
Demonstration with Katsuyuki Kondo

“I consider Sokaku Takeda Sensei to have been a master without peer.
I believe that without Sokaku Sensei, aikido would not exist now.”

Born in Tokyo in 1945, Katsuyuki Kondo, Sensei first learned Daito-ryu while still a child from Tsunejiro Hosono of the Shineikan dojo. He began studying under Tokimune Takeda Soke in 1961 and under Kotaro Yoshida in Hitachi in 1963. He became a direct student of Tokimune Takeda in March 1966, and was appointed soke kyoju dairi in November 1974 and soke dairi as well as menkyo kaiden in May 1988. At the national branch managers’ meeting in September 1994 he was made headquarters’ chief and executive division chief for Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. He is also a researcher of Tesshu Yamaoka.

The following text is an edited compilation of two interviews of Katsuyuki Kondo conducted in 1988 and 1992. Both of these talks took place before the death of Headmaster Tokimune Takeda in 1993, so there are a number of references to the state of his health at the time, as well as discussions of the future directions for the organization.

Would you describe Daito-ryu aikijujutsu?

It would be difficult to explain its entire history, so I will just summarize. About eight hundred years ago there was a man named Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu, who resided in a mansion known as “Daito.” He is considered to be the founder of Daito-ryu. His art was then transmitted through the Minamoto family line and then to their descendants, the Takeda family in Kai [present-day Yamanashi Prefecture]. After that it was handed down through the Takeda family as a gotenjutsu [martial art for use inside the palace]. In addition to this line, during the reign of the fourth Tokugawa Shogun, Ietsuna [1641-1680; shogun 1651-1680], Masayuki Hoshina of the Aizu clan, the fourth son of Hidetada, entered Edo castle as an instructor to the shogunal family and completed development of an art that came to be known as oshikiuchi. The Daito-ryu of the Takeda family and the oshikiuchi of Lord Masayuki Hoshina were transmitted separately. Then, in the Meiji period, Sokaku Takeda Sensei perfected Daito-ryu by combining the school of the Takeda family with the tradition of the Aizu clan. Thus, Sokaku Takeda Sensei is the father of modern Daito-ryu and should not be omitted from the history of the art.

This video contains highlights from a spectacular sogo budo event centered on Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. In addition to numerous Daito-ryu masters, experts demonstrate aikido, Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujutsu, and various kobudo schools. The finale features an outstanding demonstration by Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei, Menkyo Kaiden.

I understand that Sokaku was not interested in studies as a boy and was illiterate.

Although it is said that Sokaku Sensei was totally illiterate, I understand that he actually could read. It seems that when he was a child he had a reason for declaring that he would never write. I have heard that whenever there was an election, he would practice writing the Chinese characters of the name of the person he was going to vote for and then go to the polls.

Sokaku Takeda Sensei taught for many years all over Japan. Was this also a means of training himself?

Exactly. Teaching can be a way to train oneself. Teaching is learning and studying. Sokaku Sensei taught mainly former members of the samurai caste, those working as police, military officers, and judges. He visited only such people for his own training and there surely were occasions when he found himself in life or death circumstances.

Sokaku Sensei traveled all over, from Hokkaido in the north all the way to Okinawa in the south. It is also remarkable that he taught not only in police departments of one particular region, but throughout the entire country. I believe that if his technique was fake or ineffective, he would have been considered useless because police departments could easily exchange such information. The case would have been the same with the military. He also taught at many military establishments. It is sometimes said that Sokaku Sensei’s relationship with the military was limited and only through the Omoto religion and the connection with Morihei Ueshiba Sensei. In fact, however, Sokaku Takeda Sensei had direct connections to the military. This is clear from the enrollment books he kept.

I believe that a person of ordinary ability could not have done that in those days. To my knowledge, Sokaku Sensei started traveling for self-training in his teens and continued for more than sixty-five years until his death in 1943 in Aomori where he was teaching at age eighty-three. He was a great martial artist who trained all of his life.

Despite the fact that Sokaku Sensei used to teach Daito-ryu at police departments, we do not hear much about the art of Daito-ryu in modern police departments.

I believe this is due to the fact that Sokaku Sensei taught only periodically and also because he did not give individual training. He was in the process of training himself while teaching in various places. He was a true martial artist in this sense. Although I have heard recently that there is a place, perhaps Sendai, in the Tohoku region where Daito-ryu is still taught, I believe that realistically such places are few and far between. Since the art was taught in those places starting in the Meiji period, I think Daito-ryu should have been transmitted up to the present. But, instruction was halted prematurely. We have to take into consideration the fact that the structure of the police force changed dramatically following the war. Sokaku Sensei also taught judges, prison officers, and public prosecutors, but no dojo has survived today. I think things changed considerably after the war.

Sokaku Takeda Sensei was quite a unique martial artist in the sense that he traveled around Japan for many years instructing only persons of high social standing. What is more, he recorded all of this.

I believe you are referring to the enrollment books and payments received ledgers he kept. As you pointed out, even from the early 1900s, Sokaku Takeda Sensei taught people such as the police and military officers, judges, and other influential persons in whatever town he happened to visit. Before that, the art belonged exclusively to the Aizu clan and was never allowed to be shown to outsiders. Sokaku Sensei was the first to teach it outside of the clan. In those days, teaching at a military institution or a police department was considered to be a sign of great status. This is because the military and police considered themselves to be the descendants of samurai. I think that while such a social hierarchy still remained during the Meiji period, it was quite difficult to have all these important people sign their names and affix their registered seals.

What are the main differences between Daito-ryu and aikido?

I don’t think there is any difference. In Daito-ryu, too, practice begins and ends with courtesy (rei). And its final goal is the spirit of love and harmony.

How about technically?

I do not think that there is much difference technically, either. However, we have what we call ikkajo, which consists of thirty different techniques, ten of which are seated, five hanza handachi, ten standing techniques (tachiai) and five rear-attack techniques (ushirodori). Each of these thirty techniques has its own name. In Daito-ryu, the first technique you learn is called ippondori, a difficult technique where you receive, barehanded, the frontal attack of your opponent.

In the traditional martial arts, a secret technique is usually taught at the very beginning. In Daito-ryu, too, we teach a difficult technique first. This ippondori, I believe, has become ikkyo in aikido and also is related to techniques like shomenuchi ikkyo, katatedori ikkyo, ryotedori ikkyo, and so on. Ikkajo consists of t hirty techniques, but only the ippondori technique became ikkyo in aikido. There are twenty-nine other techniques such as gyaku udedori, kurumadaoshi, koshiguruma, and so on. Nikajo also has thirty techniques and only one of them is called nikyo in aikido. And the case is the same for sankyo. Yonkajo includes fifteen techniques and one of them is called yonkyo in aikido. Gokajo has thirteen techniques and one of them is gokyo in aikido. It includes tasudori (techniques against group attacks), tachidori (techniques against a sword), jodori, kasadori, emonodori (techniques against various weapons) and so on, all of which were practiced in the old days.

So we have 118 different techniques, classified as the ikkyo through gokyo series in Daito-ryu. These make up the hiden mokuroku and only five of those techniques were included in aikido. I would like this to be clear, to avoid any misunderstanding.

The difference between aikido and Daito-ryu in the eyes of the general public is that in techniques of Daito-ryu you must break the balance of your opponent the instant you touch him. This is because there is aiki in the technique, which we use to break the balance of the opponent. This is a major characteristic of Daito-ryu. Another characteristic is its use of atemi. This atemi is also a part of aiki in Daito-ryu. Although it is often said that Daito-ryu looks unrefined or is lacking in magnificence, Daito-ryu also has a component called aiki no jutsu (fifty-three techniques) and they are truly wonderful. The aiki no jutsu techniques come after the 118 hiden mokuroku, and they are followed by the hiden ogi, the hiogi, the kaishaku soden, and finally the kaiden techniques.

Since various names are used to refer to Daito-ryu, I believe there is some confusion. For example, terms such as Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, Daito-ryu jujutsu, aikijutsu, aikijujutsu, aikibudo and so on are used. Would you clarify the use of these terms?

I understand that some people use the terms aikijutsu, aikijujutsu, or aikibudo in running their dojos. However, none of them has anything to do with Daito-ryu. All of the Daito-ryu schools recognized by the headmaster can be checked with him. We have and continue to use both terms, Daito-ryu jujutsu and Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, depending on the techniques taught. The present headmaster Tokimune Takeda Sensei calls the art Daito-ryu aikibudo since Daito-ryu is a composite art and should be practiced as a “Do” or “Path.”

Sokaku Takeda is a fascinating figure and is surrounded by controversy. Would you summarize his importance to twentieth-century Japanese martial arts?

I consider Sokaku Takeda Sensei to have been a master without peer. I believe that without Sokaku Sensei, aikido would not exist now. In other words, Sokaku Takeda Sensei of Daito-ryu should occupy a position of importance in the history of aikido. According to one book I read recently, Daito-ryu didn’t have much of an influence on aikido and Morihei Ueshiba Sensei only studied the art for a short period. This is not true, since Morihei Sensei actually studied the art for a long time, from 1915 to 1937. He also received instructor certification in the art, that is, the kyoju dairi license and also the goshinyo no te scroll, which was the highes t level of Daito-ryu scroll awarded in those days. You cannot really say that twenty years of practice is a short period of time; twenty years out of one’s life is quite a long time. Although the Omoto religion was also related to the remarkable progress of Morihei Sensei in aikido, I am sure that it is no exaggeration to say that without Sokaku Takeda Sensei, aikido as we know it today would not have come into being.

How do you view the relationship between Sokaku Takeda Sensei and Morihei Ueshiba Sensei?

This is just my personal opinion, but Morihei Sensei studied Daito-ryu for over twenty years and served Sokaku Takeda Sensei as his master. Sokaku Sensei looked after Morihei Sensei as his student in various ways. There are many stories about this aspect of their relationship, illustrating the courtesy of a student towards his master and the affection of a master towards his student. This relationship continued for a period of time, and at a certain point Morihei Sensei began to seek his own path and eventually created modern aikido. Morihei Sensei was a great person, and I believe that anybody who can be called great always exceeds his master. I do not know that Morihei Ueshiba Sensei exceeded his master, Sokaku Takeda Sensei, in terms of technical ability, but I think that realistically speaking, Morihei Sensei far exceeded Sokaku Sensei in terms of number of students and also the extent of his reputation.

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Aikido Journal is offering a Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Learner’s Package in downloadable format that covers instruction in the basic techniques and history of Daito-ryu. A total of 5 videos and 2 ebooks are included in the package and include expert instruction by Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei in the Hiden Mokuroku techniques of Daito-ryu both in video and book form. Stanley Pranin’s “Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters” contains in-depth interviews with top Daito-ryu experts. Seigo Okamoto of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai demonstrates his soft form of the art. Finally, two complete historical demonstrations of Daito-ryu with many top masters are featured. This collection of high-quality materials will stimulate your understanding on aiki-related arts and improve your practice.

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