Historical photo: “Takuma Hisa, the bridge between Daito-ryu and Aiki Budo,” by Stanley Pranin

“A small, yet sturdily built middle-aged man walked on to the screen. He had a big
mustache and a strong physical aura about him. It was Morihei Ueshiba at age 51!”

Takuma Hisa receiving his menkyo kaiden master teaching award from Sokaku Takeda in 1939

Back in April 1979, I met a slight old man who had suffered a stroke and spoke in a halting, somewhat slurred voice. I am embarrassed to say that I can’t remember the circumstances of my introduction to old gentleman. I think I was told that he was an important person in the early history of aikido. I didn’t know anything about him really when I went to visit him at his home in Nakano Ward in Tokyo. The man’s name was Hisa Takuma.

I must say he was a charming person, and he kept attempting to speak to me in English. I appreciated this because my Japanese was not very strong at that time, but it made the conversation tediously slow. Little by little, I was able to piece together that he had been a student of Morihei Ueshiba first, and then Sokaku Takeda, at the Asahi News dojo in Osaka. Having learned this, I began to sense that perhaps this man might have played some important role in the early evolution of aikido. Toward the end of our conversation, he began to sing me a song. I remember the introductory words very well: “You came, you came, you really came…” He really liked me, but I don’t exactly know why because I wasn’t knowledgeable enough to ask very many intelligent questions at this early stage of my research. Perhaps it was simply the fact that I was a foreigner, a journalist of sorts, and had shown interest in an aspect of his younger years that was very important to him at this last stage of his life.

After our first meaning, he began to write me regularly in broken English. He sent me the newsletters that he was publishing, and one of them mentioned my name and the fact that I had visited him at his home. Soon after this, something dramatic happened.

In our conversation, Hisa Sensei mentioned an old film of Morihei Ueshiba that was shot before the war. I knew of the existence of this film and desperately wanted to see it. A friend of mine did some research and located a film from the prewar period that might possibly be the footage I was looking for. I went to a film archive facility in Tokyo where a special viewing had been arranged for me. As the projectionist prepared the film, I became very nervous in anticipation. Then the first image flashed on the screen with the title “Budo.” I felt my heart sink because there was no mention of anything related to “Aiki.” Resigned, I thought that, still it would be interesting to see this prewar “talkie” film because it might contain footage of some important martial artist. Then it happened.

I saw a small, yet sturdily built middle-aged man walk on to the screen. He had a big mustache and a strong physical aura about him. It was Morihei Ueshiba at age 51! I immediately felt tears well up in my eyes, which was very embarrassing. Fortunately, the room was dark and the fellow showing the film did not notice anything.

Takuma Hisa demonstrating a Daito-ryu technique c. 1939

Then another man, much larger and very powerful looking appeared on the screen. He was obviously the leader of the group. He sat down in seiza and opened a scroll and began reading in a loud voice. This was Takuma Hisa, the little old disabled man I had met only a few weeks before!


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