Sokaku Takeda in Osaka, by Tokimune Takeda

Sokaku Takeda demonstrating at the Asahi News dojo in August 1936

Sokaku Takeda demonstrating at the Asahi News dojo in August 1936

“Sokaku’s concern for Morihei was like a father for his son.”

Aiki News would like to express its gratitude to Tokimune Takeda Sensei for granting permission to reprint this summary of an article which appeared in No. 39 of the newsletter published by the Daitokan Dojo.

Tokimune Takeda (1916-1993)

Here I would like to record the relationship between Sokaku Takeda and the city of Osaka. This relationship also has a deep connection with both Morihei Ueshiba and Takuma Hisa who were the most outstanding disciples of Sokaku Takeda. First, I would like to describe how it was that Sokaku came to teach Daito-ryu in Osaka.

In 1929, Admiral Isamu Takeshita, who studied Daito-ryu with Sokaku Takeda, published an article in the magazine entitled “The Story of the Bravery of Sokaku Takeda.” In this article, he described how Sokaku became a budo instructor serving in the capacity of a bodyguard for Marquis Tsugumichi Saigo, an army general, and how he performed acts of bravery in various places. This article came to the attention of the Tokyo Asahi Newspaper Company which sent a journalist to Hokkaido in 1930 to interview Sokaku who was travelling around the northern island teaching.

In 1930 Sokaku was teaching a number of prominent persons in the area of the town of Abashiri. In July of the same year, Sokaku, then 72 years old, went to Koshimizu village in Kitami no kuni accompanied by Taiso Horikawa where he taught Daito-ryu to various leading citizens. It was at this time that Yoichi Ozaka, a reporter of the Tokyo Asahi Newspaper Company followed Sokaku Takeda and went to the Daito-ryu master who was staying at an inn in Koshimizu for the purpose of interviewing the subject of the above-mentioned article written by Admiral Takeshita. He hoped to gather information on Daito-ryu techniques, famous disciples and materials concerning the art.

Sokaku prohibited Daito-ryu from being transmitted to the general public and taught it secretly as a police tactics method and self-defense techniques for prominent people. Consequently, Sokaku would turn away reporters commenting that the art was “not a show.” But this time Sokaku took into account the fact that the Tokyo Asahi newspaperman had come from a great distance to follow him around in order to see him, and the Daito-ryu master willingly agreed to be interviewed. Mr. Ozaka was very impressed by the list of names of top martial artists and noted personages recorded as students of Daito-ryu. As soon as he returned to his office he wrote an article entitled “Ima Bokuden” (reference to Bokuden Tsukahara (1489-1571), founder of Bokuden-ryu tactics and known as a great swordsman) about Sokaku that included a photo. This article became known to martial artists all over Japan and Sokaku’s fame spread far and wide.

Makoto Saito (1858-1936), Japanese prime minister

Makoto Saito (1858-1936), Japanese prime minister

In February of 1936, Sokaku went to Sendai with the author (Tokimune) accompanying him through the introduction of an Army officer, Mr. Umezu (at that time a member of the city council). He taught Daito-ryu to some 20 prominent persons including those connected with the military and police. During the time Sokaku was instructing leading members of the Sendai Police Department, an incident took place on February 26 where the Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal, Navy Admiral Viscount Makoto Saito was assassinated. Makoto Saito was a member of the Mizusawa Clan of Iwate Prefecture and became a Vice-Minister of the Navy with the support of Tsugumichi Saigo in 1898. In 1906, he became Minister of the Navy and in 1918 he rose to the office of Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Education. He was elected Prime Minister in 1935 and was assassinated on February 26, 1936. During the Meiji period, when supported by Makoto Saito, Sokaku, together with his student Kiichi Umezu, attended the Prime Minister’s funeral held in Saito’s parents’ home in Mizusawa.

In April, Sokaku was engaged in teaching a Mr. Takahashi, Department Chief of the Saitama Police Office and also head of the Police Officers’ Training School, a local police superintendent and nine other officers. Moreover, he held seminars on Daito-ryu at the Urawa Police Department and the Police Officers’ Training School in Saitama. I personally witnessed some of the students who were holding the article entitled “Ima Bokuden” (see AN #68) cut out from the newspaper as if it were really valuable.

In May of 1936, Sokaku taught Daito-ryu to the Chief of the Omiya Police Department in Saitama Prefecture and some 17 others. While in Tokyo he instructed the head of the Tokyo Asahi News together with 16 other persons.

The interest generated by the “Bokuden” article reached even Osaka and in June Sokaku received an invitation from the Osaka Asahi Newspaper. While he was staying upstairs in the house of his student, a Mr. Nagatani, some ten judo and sword experts and Mr. Takuma Hisa, chief of the business section of the Asahi News came to visit him having heard that the subject of the article in question had come to Osaka. [This version of the first meeting of Sokaku Takeda and Takuma Hisa is at variance with the version told by Hisa repeatedly after the war. For information on this version, please see my article Remembering Takuma Hisa. –Ed.]

When these men came to visit Sokaku they found a small, thin old man bent with age with no teeth and clad in long drawers. They were shocked by his appearance and doubted that he was really the famous martial artist. They exchanged disappointed glances because of the trouble they had taken to visit this little old man.

Noting their dismay, Sokaku changed into his street clothes. He then arranged the floor cushions for the visitors in order starting from the seat of honor to the lowest position. Next, he pointed to each person one after the other beginning with the highest ranking member of the newspaper company and had them take their appropriate seats. After this, Sokaku exchanged name cards with each person again according to their rank.

All of the Asahi people were very surprised that Sokaku could tell their rank at the first meeting. Their disappointment was replaced by concern that he might have read their minds when they had made light of him. I was told that the men were afraid to the point they felt like running away from Sokaku.

When I arrived in Osaka in August, my father commented on the incident in the following words: “Since they made light of me because I’m a small man, I put them in order according to rank using aiki.” I asked the Asahi employees about this and found out what had happened. It was then that I understood what he meant by “putting them in order using aiki”.

After instructing at Mr. Nagatani’s residence, my father and I taught enthusiastic members of the Osaka Asahi News office at the annex dojo of the company. Sokaku’s way of training was very severe and the students were afraid of him. For that reason, Mr. Takuma Hisa (8th dan in Sumo and 5th dan in judo) mainly took falls for Sokaku.

Before my father went to Osaka, Morihei Ueshiba traveled there with his best students and taught Mr. Hisa and other members Daito-ryu techniques. During that three-year period the art was called “Dai Nihon Asahi-ryu”, this being before Ueshiba called it “aikido.” On December 8, 1935 the second Omoto Incident occurred. (The military government violently suppressed the sect destroying many buildings and arresting leaders of the movement during this incident.) Many persons associated with the Omoto religion were arrested on the pretext of violation of the Public Order Act also for lese majeste. Hundreds of objects bearing the Omoto seal were confiscated by the police.

At the time Sokaku was instructing at the Urawa Police Department. He sent Mr. Yukiyoshi Sagawa and myself to Morihei Ueshiba’s house in Wakamatsu-cho out of concern over the safety of one of his favorite deshi. The police had already seized Omoto-related objects at Ueshiba’s house. We were told that Morihei and his family had already returned to Tanabe (his birthplace) and were confined to his home. Sokaku was very pleased to hear that Morihei was safe after we informed him of what we had learned.

When I went to Osaka I found out that Morihei was being sheltered by Takuma Hisa who was in charge of the Umeda Dojo of the Osaka Asahi News Company. I learned that Hisa had suggested that Morihei should go to see Sokaku but he instead said a prayer near the inn where Sokaku was staying and returned home without seeing Sokaku. When I related this story to Sokaku he merely said, “That’s fine,” and felt relieved.

Sokaku was distressed at Morihei’s spell of bad luck beginning with the first Omoto incident where he and Onisaburo Deguchi were arrested and taken to a place of execution (in Manchuria in 1924). [Rather than the First Omoto Incident that took place in 1921, this refers to the ill-fated trip of Onisaburo and Morihei to Mongolia in 1924. –Ed.] This was followed by the second Omoto incident as mentioned above. Sokaku’s concern for Morihei was like a father for his son. While Morihei Ueshiba was alive, the first thing I did whenever I would go to Tokyo was to visit him and find out how he was and then inform the spirit of my departed father.

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

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

Takuma Hisa learned Dai Nihon Asahi-ryu from Morihei Ueshiba and published a technical book entitled Dai Nihon Asahi-ryu Jujutsu with photos of Morihei Ueshiba. Hisa also studied with Sokaku Takeda and introduced his techniques in two books, Budo of the Gods and Secrets of Daito-ryu Aikibudo that were never allowed to be lent out. He presented these books to senior officials of the government and generals and admirals.

On March 26, 1939, Takuma Hisa received a Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu license from Sokaku Takeda and myself and also was named the head of the Osaka branch of Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu.

After the war, Ueshiba-style Aikido started to spread and Hisa taught at his dojo named the “Kansai Aikido Club.” Later Daito-ryu Aikido began to become better known and Hisa established the “Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu Takumakai.” In October 1980 Takuma Hisa passed away and his leading student Mr. [Hakaru] Mori has headed the Takumakai since then. Two years ago an annual “Daito-ryu Aiki Budo Osaka Demonstration” began to be held and I and others from the Daito-ryu Hombu Dojo have gone there to teach and perform. The third demonstration is about to be held and I have been observing with keen interest the progress the Takumakai has made. I would like to see it develop further.


Fukushima Incident

The following is a letter received from Tokimune Sensei in response to an article published in Aiki News 68.

By way of a response to your letter I would like to congratulate you on the recent growth of your publication. I read the Aiki News you were kind enough to send me recently.

The incident where Sokaku fought with about 50 construction workers in Fukushima Prefecture that was mentioned in the interview with Sokaku conducted by Mr. Yoichi Ozaka was exactly the same as the story I heard from my father.

Around 1882, on the advice of Marquis Tsugumichi Saigo of the army, the government decided to establish a garrison (later to become an army division) in Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture. A function of this military post was to maintain and improve the road from Tokyo to Sendai. The road in the Fukushima Prefecture area was especially poor and thus major repair work was carried out in that region.

At that time Sokaku Takeda was about 23 years old. He fell into a fight with about 50 construction workers. The foremen of the workers were also involved in the attack on Sokaku wielding swords and spears, etc. Sokaku was armed with a noted “Kotetsu” sword (Okisato Kotetsu was a famous swordmaker of the Edo period) and cut about 10 people. He received some 30 wounds himself but later was rescued by government officials of the construction work division. Sokaku was then subjected to a police examination and was taken into custody for one month. Later it was discovered that the construction workers in question had been guilty of various acts such as rape and exhorting money from passersby by setting up quarrels. Also, it became clear that the cause of the incident was the misbehavior of the construction workers since the fight broke out when Sokaku was challenged by them. Sokaku’s Bingo Nagafune Kotetsu sword was confiscated. The decision rendered by the court was that it was a case of legal self-defense and Sokaku was found innocent and acquitted. The construction workers of those days were similar to present-day gangsters given to use of violence.

Sokaku realized that in a group fight with adversaries wielding swords and spears the stance where one points the tip of his blade at the opponent’s face (the Itto-ryu Seigan Gendan Stance) is disadvantageous. However the jodan stance, with the sword held over one’s head that was transmitted directly to Sokaku by Kenkichi Sakakibara, proved to be advantageous. He understood the secret of cutting the opponent’s neck from the jodan stance as a result of this incident. Sokaku transmitted this secret to me.

Later, the road between Tokyo and Sendai was repaired and, in 1888, the 12th Army Division was established.

At that point Sokaku’s fame spread and subsequently he switched over to Daito-ryu and taught self-defense and arrest techniques. Judges and public prosecutors also received instruction from Sokaku.

(Translated by Ikuko Kimura and Stanley Pranin)

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHERE AIKIDO TECHNIQUES CAME FROM, FIND OUT HERE AND EXPLORE THE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE ART OF DAITO-RYU AIKIJUJUTSU!

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