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A Brief Outline of Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu


Daito ryu is an ancient system of unarmed and armed combat founded by Minamoto Shinra Saburo during the Heian period (794-1156) and perfected in battlefield warfare. The techniques were most fully systematised by Takeda Sokaku with sword and unarmed techniques practiced together. It was the first and only tradition focused upon aiki-jujutsu. While it has inspired many succeeding disciplines, including aikido founded by Morihei Usehiba (Takeda's student from 1911-1918), daito-ryu exponents suggest that while the other systems share aiki jujutsu classification, the understanding of aiki, as well as the techniques themselves, they may in fact be very different.
Daito Ryu is the oldest aiki-jujitsu in Japan. It is a cultural treasure that in addition to being the ancestor of modern day aikido has greatly influenced many other modern similar budo disciplines. It began its development when Shinra Saburo no Minamoto (1045-1127), a relation of the Emperor Seiwa who was to become the governor of Kai (modern YamanashiPrefecture), studied the body's secrets by dissecting corpses. He researched the body's weak points in order to discover how most effectively to attack them with a sword and how to apply locks to joints. He further learned how muscles support the skeletal structure. The knowledge was passed to his descendants in the Takeda family of Kai and Daito Ryu was further developed there until the death of the family's most famous Daimyo, Takeda Shingen in 1573. In the mid-seventeenth century Takeda Kunitsugu, a relative of Takeda Shingen, became a senior counsellor to the son of Tokugawa Hidetaka, Lord Hoshina Masayuki of the Aizu Han. Daito Ryu was combined with the Aizu Han's oshiki uchi techniques and became the method of self-defense for all Daimyo of the Aizu and those responsible for their protection. Unaltered Daito Ryu continued to be passed from generation to generation within the Takeda family.
Takeda Sokaku Sensei formalised and named modern Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu. With his knowledge and skill in Daito Ryu and Ono-ha Itto Ryu Kenjutsu (Sokaku den), he travelled all over Japan on foot, teaching and meeting all challengers until his death in Aomori Prefecture in 1943 at the age of 89. In Sokaku's 70 years of martial travels he remained undefeated, leaving behind an exceptionally rich curriculum of techniques and his mark on the history of budo. Takeda Tokimune Sensei, Takeda Sokaku's son, organised the curriculum of 2,884 techniques into a more readily teachable syllabus in line with the modern kyu/dan grade system designed by Kano Jigoro. Techniques up to the 5th dan are included in the Shoden syllabus of 118 techniques plus many henka (variations). These techniques are executed from both sitting and standing positions as well as against attacks from behind.
Only a very few Daito Ryu teachers have extensive knowledge of these techniques, and all of these are Japanese. Takeda Tokimune Sensei passed away in 1993 leaving no official successor, however, a few of his high ranking students now head their own Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu organisations.