Jujutsu: The Evolving Art
Part 3 - Unarmed Jujutsu Systems, Daito
Ryu & Aikido
By Tom Ross & Christopher Caile
the peaceful Tokugawa(1600-1868) period, when Japan
had been unified under a single and powerful military
power, amour was not commonly worn and internal warfare
had ceased. Need arose for minimally armed and unarmed
techniques and numerous self-defense oriented jujutsu
systems developed, many by warriors.
It was also during this period that some systems
began to emphasize self perfection, ethical and spiritual
goals over combat efficiency (the beginning of "do"
forms of various combat systems).
was not generally open to the public, and candidates
were strictly scrutinized. Candidates who were accepted
frequently were required to take a "Keppan"
(blood oath) that they would not divulge the secrets
of the system. This practice combined with the lack
of a sense of necessity (warfare) led to a further
decline in practice of many jujutsu and other classical
weapon arts. In some instances skilled jujutsu practitioners,
who no longer were able to make ends meet due to a
lack of students, were forced to perform sideshow-like
demonstrations, taking on all challengers for money.
Jujutsu began to lose its prestige and came to be
looked upon by many as an activity for ruffians and
The Ancient Tradition of Daito Ryu
As Japan emerged into the modern age countless weapon
and jujutsu systems died with their teachers. Having
developed and prospered in the feudal ages, a modern
Japan infused with western technology and armament,
had little need for these ancient systems and skills.
Many systems did survive, however. One such system,
Daito Ryu had been preserved and practiced within
a secret family tradition for centuries and has become
a popular classical tradition. Daito ryu has also
inspired many secondary systems, known under the heading
aiki jujutsu, that developed from it. Daito ryu is
also the primary source and inspiration for another
derivative art, one that has become known the world
over as aikido.
Daito ryu's existence also indicates that not all
early jujutsu systems existed merely as an adjunct
to weapon arts. While its techniques certainly were
useful in countering a sword welding battlefield opponent
(empty handed), daito ryu's techniques comprised a
separate system of self-defense. It was also oriented
to non-battlefield situations, as when warriors, in
camp, or in other situations when dressed in light
armor (or regular warrior attire and often carrying
only a knife), needed to deal with empty hand and
weapon attacks (including knives and swords). The
existence of this art, however, was not known to the
public until comparably recently.
stepping from the mist of history, as if a man out
of place and time, came Sokaku Takeda. Born October
10, 1859 at the Takeda Mansion in Oike, Aizubange
cho (modern day Fukushima Prefecture) into an established
family with a long Samurai tradition, Sokaku had the
benefit of learning the various Aizu clan's weapon
systems as well as its secret empty hand methods (thought
to be first developed by Shinra Saburo no Minamoto
during his lifetime 1045-1127, although many techniques
used in the art are thought to have been in existence
for some time) that had developed over centuries as
Although many theories exist as to why Takeda decided
to come forward and begin teaching this formerly private
system, it is generally regarded as having been due
to the urging of Sokaku's mentor, one Chikanori Hoshina
(known prior to changing his name as Tanomo Saigo)
who reputedly advised young Sokaku that times had
changed, and that he should go forth and teach acceptable
candidates in order to prevent the loss of the family
system. Sokaku is thus not regarded as the founder
of Daito ryu but rather the "Chuko no so,"
meaning the "reviver" of Daito ryu.
Although Takeda was not much known outside of Japan
(leading many to make false claims of having trained
directly under him), he is amongst the most written
about and documented of martial arts masters. He kept
a series of ledgers not only documenting who he taught,
but what he taught to whom and how much they paid
for instruction. Takeda was a vigorous instructor
who taught many of Japan's political elite as well
as military and law enforcement officials. In 1910
Takeda traveled to Hokkaido (a northern Island of
Japan) as an escort for a Police Chief newly transferred
to the inhospitable area.
It was around 1922 that Takeda first began referring
to his teachings as "Daito ryu Aikijujutsu."
Prior to this time, he merely referred to Daito ryu
as a system of jujutsu, as evidenced by his early
ledgers which contain such notations as "Daitoryu
Jujutsu Hombu cho" (Daito ryu Jujutsu Director
Although many theories exist as to why this was done,
one can readily assume Takeda sought to differentiate
his system from others by including the Aiki prefix.
Borrowing from the book known as the Jujutsu Kyoju
sho Ryu no maki (text of jujutsu volume on Ryu), we
have an excellent definition: "Aiki is an impassive
state of mind without a blind side, slackness, evil
intention or fear. There is no difference between
Aiki and Ki ai, however if compared, when expressed
dynamically Aiki is called Ki ai, and when expressed
satically it is called Aiki."
What distinguished the art, however, was the breath
of its inventory and subtlety of technique developed
over centuries of refinement. Technique did not stress
strength but rather use of one's weight and center
as well as internal energy.
Here a modern exponent of Daito
Ryu practices an empty hand stop of a downward
sword cut. The sword's cut is interrupted then
redirected to the side. If this was a real attack,
the defender would counter by breaking the attackers
elbow, and then follow with a kick to the ribs
and finally when the attacker was taken to the
ground, a finishing knife hand strike to the
Daito Ryu's Modern Jujutsu Derivitive: Aikido
is in his ledger in February of 1915 where we see
the entry of one Morihei Uyeshiba who participated
in a ten day seminar in Diato ryu given by Takeda
at the Hisada Inn in Engaru. Uyeshiba quickly became
a devoted student of Tekada and his name immediately
appears again in two subsequent ten day seminars.
In 1916, Uyeshiba, then residing in Shirataki, had
a house built near his instructor and shortly thereafter
Uyeshiba sent for his family and resided there from
that time on. Uyeshiba departed, however, in December
of 1919 upon the illness of his father, and he gave
his home in Shirataki to his teacher. Uyeshiba, himself
a talented martial artist, became involved with the
Omotokyo religious sect settling in Ayabe near Kyoto.
In September of 1922 Sokaku Takeda visited Uyeshiba
there awarding him a Kyoju Dairi (a teaching representative
certificate) after a further five months of study.
Uyeshiba, however, began to branch off, adapting
the techniques he had learned from his teacher to
fit the moral and philosophical idea's he had developed
as a member of the Omotokyo. At first he called his
new art Aiki Budo but this was later changed to Aikido.
There is some speculation, based on the patterns of
movement (circular, pivoting and turning), that Uyeshiba
may have been influenced by Chinese Pa kua (an internal
kung fu system stressing circular foot movements and
technique) while having been in Manchuria with Onisaburo
Deguchi (leader of the Omoto kyo sect). There is,
however, no direct documentation to support this theory.
any event, the aikido that emerged was much less linear
than daito ryu and included powerful spinning and
turning techniques. And while the number of total
individual techniques was reduced, those retained
were made more universally applicable, and modified
not to cause physical damage, only momentary pain.
Sokaku Takeda died on April 25, 1943 after naming
his son Tokimune, heir to the system. Today, however,
several competing systems lay claim to this system
of traditional techniques. Many other aikijujutsu
systems have also developed since that time each influenced
by the diato ryu tradition.
Over the following years, Morihei Uyeshiba promoted
his new art and even brought it to foreign shores,
attracting millions of adherents to his "Aikido.'
With his death in 1969, the art fragmented into schools
with varying emphasis on technique, ki (internal energy)
and philosophy of engagement.
Although both Takeda and Uyeshiba did a tremendous
amount in the promotion of their respected systems,
we can not fail to mention the work of a man who preceded
Takeda by some eighteen years, Jigoro Kano. See the
next installment of this series.
(2) Aikido sources say that
their founder had received a Menkyo Kaidan from Takeda,
the highest certificate of achievement indicating
that he had achieved full mastery of the Daito Ryu
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