Takeda Tokimune

Sogaku Takeda
One of the fighting arts Sogaku Takeda learned as a child was the ono-ha itto-ryu style of kenjutsu.

ences between the koryu arts and the modern systems than is possible in this article, Donn F. Draeger's three-part series, The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, is recommended.

The word "aiki" literally means a fusion or meeting of energy. It's no accident that it's an anagram of the word kiai (focusing the spirit), and indeed the distinction between the two is blurry.

In the koryu arts, the application of aiki first appeared in kenjutsu schools (see Aikido: Tradition and the Competitive Edge, by Fumiaki Shishida and Tet-suro Nariyama) and referred to a contest of wills between combatants. Some other interpretations include the ability to gain the initiative and to use physical and psychological techniques to unbalance a foe. Over time, more esoteric meanings were offered, which would make any Jedi knight proud. They included the ability to see in the dark, to bring a walking man to a stop and to read minds (see The Fighting Spirit of Japan, by E.J. Harrison).

Several jujutsu and judo schools also teach the concept of aiki, but the first one to formally include it in its name was daito-ryu aikijujutsu.

may not have looked anything like Tom Cruise, but it would be apt to describe him as the real "last samurai." Takeda was born in 1859 in Aizu, Japan, and lived through the Meiji Restoration, the ending of the feudal age and the final days of the samurai caste.

From childhood, he was trained in several of the bujutsu of the Aizu clan, including the ono-ha itto-ryu style of kenjutsu and the family art of daito-ryu aikijujutsu. According to oral legends, aikijujutsu was created around 1100 and passed down secretly within the Takeda family. It's said to have originated from sumo wresting and unarmed sword strikes. Daito ("great east") was the name of the area in which Yoshimitsu Mina-moto, the alleged creator, lived.

Despite standing less than 5 feet tall, Takeda was a formidable fighter and personally pressure-tested his skills in several life-or-death encounters. The most notorious incident occurred when he was in his early 20s and fought a gang of construction workers in Fukushima. Takeda killed around seven of them with his sword after they attacked him with weapons and tools.

During his lifetime, Takeda taught thousands of people. His most famous pupil, however, was undoubtedly Mori-hei Uyeshiba, founder of aikido.

Uyeshiba met Takeda in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, in 1915. Uyeshiba was already a strong fighter with considerable training in other

Sogaku Takeda's son and successor, Tokimune Takeda, sits with students in their dojo in Hokkaido, Japan.

Daito-ryu master Sogaku Takeda

Sogaku Takeda's son and successor, Tokimune Takeda, sits with students in their dojo in Hokkaido, Japan.

Daito-ryu master Sogaku Takeda

Takeda Tokimune

jujutsu styles, but he found he was no match for Takeda. Consequently, Uye-shiba abandoned all his activities to study with his superior. Contrary to the beliefs of many aikidoka, Uyeshiba studied daito-ryu for a long time—Takeda's meticulous records indicate that he trained for more than 20 years.

Uyeshiba would later modify the dai-to-ryu techniques and combine them with the spiritual teachings of the Omoto-kyo religion to create what we now know as aikido. In the later stages of his remarkable life, he played upon the fact that the character for love was pronounced ai, the same as the first syllable of aiki. His proclamation that "aiki is the manifestation of love" signified his conversion of aikido from its combative bujutsu roots into a budo system that could reconcile human beings and avoid conflict. This probably gave rise to the vision that many aikidoka of today are familiar with and have as their ideal.

But not all aikido teachers agree that this is being pursued in the best or most realistic way today. Dave Humm, a British aikido instructor and prison officer, believes that reconciliation and conflict resolution without violence are high ideals that are overemphasized in many organizations. While he ultimately agrees with the ideology and philosophy of the art, he also believes that many aikido schools don't fully condition their students for dealing with aggressive physical confrontation. He holds that spending many years training to control physically uncooperative aggressors is a necessary step on the path to achieving Uyeshiba's higher ideology.

That doesn't seem like such a radical doctrinal departure when one considers that even Uyeshiba defined aiki in a less-than-altruistic manner in the early part of his career. In his book Dueling with O-Sensei, koryu and aikido teacher Ellis Amdur describes how Uyeshiba reportedly said, "Aiki is a means of achieving harmony with another person so that you can make them do what you want."

In the same book, Amdur writes that Uyeshiba purportedly taught combat methods at the infamous Nakano Spy School during the war. The former headmaster is said to have recounted how Uyeshiba would demonstrate killing techniques, saying "This is how you finish them off." Given the nature of the academy, the era and the activities of its members, he probably wasn't teaching students how to love people to death.

When comparing aikijujutsu and aikido, some generalization is necessary because several styles of aikido and branches of daito-ryu exist.

Although the technical influence of daito-ryu on aikido is still clear, according to Antonino Certa, a daito-ryu teacher in Milan, Italy, the two are now separate arts with different outlooks. Certa, a longtime student of aikido prior to taking up daito-ryu, stresses that genuine aikijujutsu is not simply "hard aikido" or "aikido plus strikes and weapons."

For one thing, Certa found that the number of techniques in aikido is far fewer than in daito-ryu. Uyeshiba distilled a core of about 20 main techniques—including shiho-nage, irimi-nage, kote-gaeshi, ikkyo and nikyo—as the basis for aikido. Humm agrees but points out that aikidoka can use those core techniques to generate an infinite number of variations based upon circumstances, situations and methods of attack. The ethos, he says, is to be able to make any one of those applications fit any given situation.

In daito-ryu, however, the approach is very different. The techniques number several hundred, and each is performed only in a small number of situations for which it's deemed most suitable—for instance, when kneeling, when standing, when attacked from behind, when attacked by a taller person and so forth. No attempt is made to fit a technique to all situations.

Certa found that aikido practice is generally conducted in a more "free" way than aikijujutsu, with a continuous flow and the use of circles to bind movements and applications together. In contrast, daito-ryu uses mostly formal, two-person kata practice. The techniques are short and direct, and tend to be more linear and angular than circular.

Daito-ryu also tends to favor throwing with a dropping motion, rather than an

Takeda Tokimune
A Japanese master demonstrates the aiki nage technique.

outward projection as in aikido. The objective in daito-ryu is to keep the thrown enemy close so he can be finished off, if need be. Also, where aikido often favors controlling (osae) the opponent without causing excessive pain or injury, daito-ryu leans toward breaking (kansetsu).

Another important point is that daito-ryu doesn't claim to be a purely defensive system: There are several formal techniques in which one makes a pre-emptive attack, rather than waiting for the enemy to strike first.

Although much of aikido seems to be practiced as a defensive form,

Tsukitaoshi is a daito-ryu throw performed from a standing position. The same name is used to describe a popular sumo technique.

rom Dillman Karate International

rom Dillman Karate International

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