武田 惣角; Takeda Sōkaku; October 10, 1859 – April 25, 1943) is known as the reviver of the aizu clan martial art the" Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu
Born in the Aizu domain (modern-day Fukushima Prefecture , Sokaku grew up in a time of war (Boshin) and civil strife and was able to witness both first hand while still a young boy. The second son of Takeda Sokichi, a samurai of the Takeda clan who worked his farm and taught at a local school in a Buddhist temple and Tomi Kurokochi, a daughter of Dengoro Kurokochi , a Yari and Kenjutsu master. Sokaku received his first martial arts training from his father who had a dojo on their property. Sokichi was apparently expert in the use of both sword ( kenjutsu ) and spear ( yari ), and had once been a sumo wrestler of ozeki rank. It is believed that Sokaku was exposed to the teachings of Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha and Ono-ha Itto-ryu, schools of spear and swordsmanship respectively.
Sokaku then left to go on a period of austere training where he travelled, fought and trained at the schools of many teachers, a not uncommon practise of the time. Reputedly, Sokaku spent some time as a live-in student of Kenkichi Sakakibara, headmaster of the Jikishinkage Ryu and considered to be one of the most famous and skilled swordsmen of the era. What is known, however, is that Sokaku engaged in many matches and duels with both shinai and live blades and was considered a swordsman of great skill in a period of time when such things were beginning to be forgotten
With the outlawing of the samurai class and the prohibition against carrying swords ( Haitōrei Edict ) apparentally Sokaku decided to emphasize the empty handed, jujutsu oriented, techniques of his ancestor's art. These apparently were 'oshiki-uchi', or secret teachings of the Aizu clan, up to that point ,Sokaku Takeda is the reviver of the 'Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu',the ancient martial art from the aizu han.
Sokaku lived a somewhat itinerant life, travelling the length and breadth of the country giving seminars in martial arts to military officers, police officers and martial arts enthusiasts, often of high social standing. He left extensive records of those he taught in the 'eimeiroku' and the 'shareikoku' which were attendance and fee ledgers of those who attended and paid for lessons from him.
Sokaku Takeda was about 9 years old when the Meigi Restoration took place. There was a rebellion of samurai who felt Japan was making changes that did not benefit the country. Both sides were made up of samurai and everyone respected the Emperor, and everyone believed what they were doing was for the good of Japan. However, it boiled down to old clan power struggles with the Emperor supporting the progressive side while the Shogunate military government supported the past traditions which made them rebels. This led to a short civil war that was mainly swords, spears and arrows against rifles and cannons. The Aizu clan was the last hold out and they were driven into a last stand area and castle. Sokaku's family was well to do in this prefecture, but the mansion was deserted except for Sokaku. He knew where the rebels were pinned down and was able to pass through the army lines to observe the rebels holding out in the castle that was under siege. He did this for nine days. The soldiers at the road blocks would catch him, but let him go because he was so small.
He was taught Daito-Ryu by his grandfather. Sokaku was not a good student. He learned well by listening and watching but did not like reading and writing and did not want to learn this. He wanted to be like Hideyoshi who had others read and write for him. When the teacher was out of the room, Sokaku would pretend like he was a general and command the other students while standing on a desk. He very definately enjoyed learning fighting arts. In the end his father felt that Sokaku was distracting the other students from learning and so he was finally thrown out of the school his father ran.
Sokaku's father, who was an accomplished sumo wrestler in addition to running the school, also had a stable of sumo wrestlers. Sokaku grew up around these wrestlers and they naturally taught the boy what they knew. Sokaku became a very good sumo wrestler at a young age despite his small stature. In his teens he would go around to festivals held in surrounding villages and regularly won all the trophys. It got to the point that his father would forbid him to go to the festivals because Sokaku's actions discouraged other boys from practicing sumo.
When Sokaku was a young man, there was supposed to be another uprising in Southern Japan and Sokaku made his way towards the area with the intent of joining, but never made it before the situation was diffused. He then started wandering around Japan like a ronin shugyosha (masterless traveling martial arts student and teacher). He "stormed" (challenged) many dojos testing his knowledge and skills and supposedly never was defeated. In the process he killed a number of men.
By the 1910's Takeda Sensei was living and teaching in Hokaido, which in those times was similar to the frontier of the American Wild West except with swords as the main weapon. At the turn of the 20th century Japan was colonizing Hokaido and sent everyone they could, so it was populated with colonists as well as convicts and other rejects from the central islands . Sokaku Takeda as a coal mine strike breaker. The coal miners (probably convicted prisoners sentenced to work the coal mines) were in one end of town and they knew Sokaku was at the other end of town sharpening his sword. The miners decided to go back to work, but they had to draw straws to determine who was going to let Sokaku know they would apologize and go back to work. The short straw man started crawling from his end of town, apologizing loudly and bowing as he crawled on his knees, pleading that Sokaku not kill them all.
Sokaku takes up practice of the spear
Sokichi Takeda, father of Sokaku, had practiced the Hozoin Takada-ryu Sojutsu from his stepfather, Dengoro Kurokochi. He was initiated into all of the secret teachings of the art and taught it to his son, Sokaku. Sokaku trained hard in Onoha Itto-ryu and tried to sharpen his favorite technique of thrusting using both the sword and spear.
He hung a ball of thread from the ceiling of the dojo built-in a godown style in his house to practice thrusting. The ball dangling by the thread flew right back at him after being poked. He repeatedly practiced hitting the ball to practice thrusting to any direction. Furthermore, he used to practice thrusting at a tree until he cut a hole in it.
The Aizu were noted for their expertise in spear techniques. Since there were numerous spear masters, Sokaku visited those who had survived the Aizu War to challenge them. He had bouts with the masters of different schools – some who used lo Reunion with old sword friends
Around 1874 or 75 while Sokaku was training at the Sakakibara “Hell” dojo, many students with little will-power fled the dojo after about a week being unable to withstand the daily severe training. It was at this time that Yoshizo Saito trained together with Sokaku as a live-in student. Saito later worked in government service and became well-known as a swordsman in the Miyagi region. While on a martial arts pilgrimage 20 years later Sokaku met Saito and the latter left a poem to commemorate their meeting and which attempted to capture the power of Sokaku’s kiai of the early days.
Tokimune sensei told that
What I felt when I accompanied Sokaku in his travels (Sokaku was in his 70s and 80s), before my conscription examination was that my father’s character was ferocious. His eyes were sharp and brilliant and never revealed any opening even when he was asleep. He was clear-headed with strong prescient powers and his kiai permeated his entire body. He walked very fast while wearing high clog sandals and when I lagged behind him he would scold me saying that a vigorous young man should not fall behind when walking.
When Sokaku (aged 80) and I met with Shuzo Shibuya (uncle of the wife of Shigeyoshi Takano) in the spring of 1936 in the house of swordmaster Sasaburo Takano of Urawa, the latter said, “I have never seen anyone with a kiai like yours, Takeda Sensei! A normal person would be defeated by your kiai alone!” Takano, a martial artist and educator, was a mild mannered person who spoke gently. On the other hand, Sokaku was fierce and filled with kiai, a man of action who continued his martial arts training until his death. Sokaku’s students from the mid-Meiji period having heard that he had become gentle and almost saintly later in life due to age had the following to say: “Takeda Sensei was really a man of fierce character such as could not be expressed in words.”
Such a kiai cannot be acquired in a day. It is the result of long years of training. It must have been this kiai which made it possible for Sokaku to travel teaching exclusively martial arts all over Japan.
Sokaku left the following oral instruction: “Real fighting and training in a dojo are quite different. The mental attitude and way of using the sword are different in these situations. In a real fight a quick-witted person can win. Especially when in the darkness, lie on the ground and you can see the movements of the enemy’s legs with your mind’s eye from below. Before you move yourself you must strike in the direction you are heading to make sure there is no person or thing.”
One fascinating story about Sokaku describes his adventure-filled trip to Hokkaido in 1904. It seems that Sokaku was asked by the Municipal Court of Hakodate to provide assistance in helping prevent the disruption of court proceedings by local gangs. Several of the prosecutors had trained in Daito-ryu and were teaching the art to court employees and policemen in Hakodate and this was the connection to Sokaku. A few days after his arrival in the city, it looked as though the diminutive Daito-ryu master would attempt to take on single-handedly some two hundred gang members wielding a variety of weapons, including firearms. Fortunately, the matter was settled through arbitration, without violence. The gang leaders agreed to cease their disruptive activiries and Sokaku was convinced to leave Hokkaido so as not to provoke any further hostilities.
About ten days after his arrival in Hokkaido, he went to a public bath in the town since he liked taking morning baths. Three gambler types were in the bath and were talking and laughing with each other as they pointed at Sokaku. Sokaku knew by intuition that they could provoke him into a quarrel, so he watched them carefully. They somehow found out who the man was who was newly-appointed as the court guardsman. They found Sokaku to be a small man, less than 5 feet tall (151.5 cm) and weighing only about 115 pounds (52.5 kg). They were waiting for an unguarded moment of Sokaku who was quite unarmed wondering how such a small man like him could possibly be a bodyguard. Sokaku exited the public bath house and walked for a while. However, five or six gamblers came to attack him all at once. He struck their faces with his wet towel. Striking an opponent with a wet towel using the “kokyu” method of Aiki was as powerful as hitting one with a young bamboo stick and they were scattered one after another. Since the ruffians were used to fighting, they persistently attacked Sokaku swishing their knives with their hands. But Sokaku dealt with them severely and broke arms and ribs and the group finally beat a hasty retreat.
When he was 21 years old he engaged in a life-or-death struggle with some 300 rowdy construction workers for six hours. He managed to survive by cutting down scores of the strong attackers. Later the construction workers were shown to be at fault. Sokaku’s act was recognized as legitimate self-defense and he was found innocent. He sustained some 30 wounds all over his body and was called indestructible.
The rumor is that Sokaku fled to Hokkaido to escape the authorities after being implicated in a killing. This story and others were repeated, it seems, in an attempt to discredit Sokaku, thereby making Morihei Ueshiba’s parting-ofthe-ways with his teacher seem more justifiable. The reality is that Sokaku, before moving to Hokkaido, had spent the better part of a year teaching in Akita. Among his pupils were police officers including the Akita Prefectural Police Chief, Sanehide Takarabe. Takarabe held Sokaku’s skills in such high regard that when he was posted to Abashiri in the northernmost part of Hokkaido, he invited the Daito-ryu master to accompany him. No doubt Takarabe had heard about Sokaku’s earlier experiences in the yet-to-be-civilized Hokkaido.
One day, after sojutsu training, he said to the students, “I cannot fully concentrate on giving you lessons in sojutsu using only a practice spear. “Come on! Attack me with a real spear!” Giving one opponent a real spear, Sokaku, armed with his wooden sword, challenged him to a match. Using the wooden sword that his teacher, Kenkichi Sakakibara, had given him, he assumed the jodan (upper sword) stance. Dodging to either side of the thrusting spear, he easily struck the spear down. This bored him, so he encouraged two opponents to attack him simultaneously, and he jumped and dodged the spear heads, which were thrust at him from different directions, with a single leap, and defeated them. The teachers, who were sitting in a row watching, were surprised at Sokaku’s lightening-fast evasions. He could have saved his honor if he had stopped the matches at this point. But Sokaku was too proud to quit and next engaged in a match with three opponents: two were on their guard against Sokaku’s attack from the front and back, and the third moved to Sokaku’s right side. Each of them assumed an attack posture, and Sokaku raised his wooden sword to the jodan (upper) stance. As soon as he jumped and evaded the two spears thrust at him from the front and rear, the opponent at his right side also attacked, aiming at Sokaku’s armpit. Sokaku twisted, avoiding the attack and struck the third opponent’s spear from jodan, snapping the shaft of the spear, which flipped up and hit him in the mouth, breaking his two front teeth. He plucked out his dangling teeth and threw them away, challenging his opponents again. “Thrust at me!” Although Sokaku ordered them to attack him again, the three students were frightened by the terrifying sight of Sokaku, blood gushing from his mouth, and he overpowered them again with his outstanding vigor. At last, the match was stopped. That night Sokaku had a fever, and the next day he left the dojo to stay at an inn to rest.
In later years, when Sokaku was an old man, he said regarding this episode, “I was quick and highly-skilled, and was a bold youth who was fond of rushing headlong into any situation. While I could have easily given the students lessons in sojutsu using practice spears, I was defeated because of my arrogance in saying that I couldn’t concentrate my attention on practicing unless I was facing a real spear.” Sokaku, on principle, admitted as students of aikijujutsu only those who were over 20 years old and who had a steady occupation. He always admonished them against arrogance saying that it led to defeat.
Sokaku lived a somewhat itinerant life, travelling the length and breadth of the country giving seminars in martial arts to military officers, police officers and martial arts enthusiasts, often of high social standing. He left extensive records of those he taught in the 'eimeiroku' and the 'shareikoku' which were attendance and fee ledgers of those who attended and paid for lessons from him
Takeda Sokaku, the reviver of Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu, claimed that it was a secret martial art passed down through members of his family in the Aizu domain, and that he combined in some way with his family's martial arts, which he eventually taught publicly as Daito-ryu. Such a claim is supported by his descendants
Taking over the role of headmaster of the art was Sokaku's son, Tokimune Takeda, who established the Daitokan school in Hokkaidō
to promote the art and re-christened it 'Daito-ryu Aiki Budo'. Tokimune is said to have contributed much of the teaching system which exists for the art today; naming and classifying the techniques and further simplifying the weapons component of the system. He emphasized the Ona ha Itto-ryu portion of the weapons curriculum over other elements that Sokaku taught to some advanced students
Daito-ryu and other modern martial arts
The influence of the teachings Sokaku Takeda are readily discernible in the physical techniques of aikido, Hakko Ryu
, Nippon Shorinji Kempo, hapkido
self defense kata
(via Kenji Tomiki
The Daito -ryu aikijujutsu group are continuing the request of Sokaku and Tokemune Takeda to diffuse this very unique martial art all over the world and preserving it as it was teached over the years to the Aizu wariors of the Takeda clan