Anyone with an interest in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu will be aware of its two main study groups, the one from Hokkaido operated by the successors of Takeda Tokimune, and the one in Kansai, run by the students of the famous Takuma Hisa, the only recipient of the Menkyo Kaiden from the hands of Takeda Sokaku. Being closely involved with the latter group, Olivier Gaurin and I were introduced to a third major branch of the discipline, one whose Hombu Dojo is located further south on the island of Shikoku. There we met Chiba Tsugutaka Sensei, a Daito-ryu instructor who has been the direct student of both Takeda Tokimune and Takuma Hisa, as well as the close pupil of a man who, according to Takeda Tokimune, was even more skilled in the art than Takuma Hisa himself: the great Nakatsu Heizaburo. Such a pedigree makes Chiba Sensei one of the last living legends of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. This documentary is the first detailed account of his life, told by the man himself.
Documentary on Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu from the Takumakai
Video: Documentary on Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu from the Takumakai
Thanks to the help of our teachers Kobayashi Kiyohiro Sensei and Sato Hideaki Sensei, Olivier Gaurin and I have been lucky enough to be allowed to study with this master and we usually several trips to Shikoku every years in order to deepen our understanding of the art. In the past couple of years, we have been allowed to record these masterclasses and we have started to document our trips on video, hoping to one day release a documentary about this very rare experience.
We are glad to be able to present you today with the first part of this series of video centered on the life of Chiba Tsugutaka Sensei and his teachings in Shikoku. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time ever that anybody has been allowed such an unlimited access to the master and his archives. We have done our utmost best to ensure that the documentary does justice to this privilege. We have also decided to include not only the techniques, but also the culture that underlines the practice in Wakimachi, including the traditional Awa-odori dances, the commerce of Aizome, and typical Udatsu houses of the region.
Please embark with us for a journey through time at the origin of Daito-ryu Aikijujustu and follow our steps in the life of one of the last remaining masters of Aiki. The interview was conducted at Chiba Sensei's residence in the Jokou-Ji temple of the city of Ikeda. Chiba Tsugutaka is the 14th Great Priest of the order.
First part of the documentary on the life of Chiba Tsugutaka Sensei, the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu master of Shikoku (Click on "CC" to display subtitles)
Olivier Gaurin: Sensei, when were you born?
Chiba Tsugutaka: I was born in 1931, I am 82.
Olivier Gaurin: Where were you born?
Chiba Tsugutaka: Here [in Ikeda, Tokushima].
Olivier Gaurin: How did you start Budo?
Chiba Tsugutaka: Well... because it was fun! It was when World Ward II started. The schools had been turned into cultural centers and some were teaching Budo. Just next door, there was a dojo. They were doing Judo and Kendo. But Kendo, with the sword, the armor, and all that, it was kind of a pain. So I preferred when we did Judo.
For the New Year, we had the hatsu-geiko [first trainign of the year]. These were a rare occasion to eat nice things because we usually didn't have much. We deserved it because the Judo falls were really painful. We used to throw each other pretty hard! That is how I started.
Olivier Gaurin: How old were you?
Chiba Tsugutaka: I was in elementary school [at age 7 or 8]. We used to wear the armor, and use the shinai, you know, the Kendo gear. We just put on the gear like that, we did not have tenugi [towels] at the school. We just put the helmet on bare head and whenever we got hit, it hurt like hell! It was the same for the shinai. Inside, we put rolled newspaper between the bamboo blades, and tied them very tightly. When we got hit on the head or the forearms, it hurt a lot. That is how we used to practice.
Olivier Gaurin: How did you get into Daito-ryu aikijujutsu?
Chiba Tsugutaka: After that I returned to Judo but my Sensei told me: "Judo is great but before, we used to have atemi, but if you don't give atemi, your partner won't fall" So we started using atemi. And from there, he told me to enroll in another school, and it was Daito-ryu.
But soon after I got a letter from the army. It said: "Apt for armed service." I was supposed to integrate the school for Assault troops. I got it three months before the end of the war. It was an appeal for volunteers. To enroll, you had to undergo a physical examination, but when I got there, the Emperor had declared the surrender of Japan. That is what must have happened but I did not know anything at th e time. These were strange times. I heard from someone that the war was over and I thought: "That's it, we lost".
Olivier Gaurin: Then you came back to Ikeda?
Chiba Tsugutaka: There was no point being a volunteer anymore. From then on, we had nothing, money was worth nothing.
Olivier Gaurin: Where did you start Daito-ryu?
Chiba Tsugutaka: I heard about a place where they practiced it, so I went to visit it. I was told it was the office of someone named Nakatsu [Heizaburo]. He was a 6th Dan [Kodokan] Judo. He was one of the 6 experts who went to protect the Asahi newspaper. The team had been put together by Ishii Mitsujiro because the newspaper had been attacked three times [by right wing terrorists]. Takuma Hisa Sensei was the head of security there. It is also the time when Ueshiba Morihei was asked [by Ishii] to come to the journal because he knew violent koryu techniques. It lasted 5 years and from the 6th, it was called Asahi-ryu. So the techniques that are in the Takumakai's Soden corresponding to these first 5 years are those taught by Ueshiba.
From that point, Takeda Sokaku arrived and Ueshiba left for Tokyo. Ueshiba took his students with him. From then on, Takeda Sokaku took over the teaching at the journal. The rest of the Soden pictures represent that. So this is the start of the period with Takeda Sokaku and the master-disciple transmission with Nakatsu Sensei.
It was a long time ago but they had cameras that they used at the journal. Imagine that, click! click! This is how they took all these pictures, there must have been thousands of them. All of very high quality for the time. It is because they were at a newspaper that they could do it, but even there, people complained. There were gossips because they were using large amounts of film. They took pictures during the breaks. They did it by pretexting that since the practice had been intense, Sensei had to go for a bath. And they took these pictures in the meantime behind his back. But I think he probably wasn't fooled by it. They were taking pictures of techniques that they were doing for the first time so these were not much use as learning tools, but just reminders of the new forms. You cannot understand these pictures alone.
Then Nakatsu Sensei retired from the Asahi journal. Since he was from Ikeda, he came back here. He setup a small dojo in his chiropractic cabinet. It was in the waiting room, a very small place. It was about 4 square meters. On the other side, there was the treatment room. It was for those with dislocated jaws, or hurt joints and broken bones. There were no X-rays at the time, so you had to touch to make a diagnostic, based form experience. We had to make do with what little we had. We diagnosed like that and tried to put things back together. We used to secure the hips of the patient to prevent messing him up. It was like that at the time.
Olivier Gaurin: Did Nakatsu Sensei do any advertising to get students?
Chiba Tsugutaka: Not at all, he would never have done that For him, anybody was suitable. It was always "Go ahead" with him. He liked to drink with someone, but there was not a lot [of alcohol] at the time, that a the way to make him happy. So I brought some to him, telling him to use as he pleased, and he said "Thank you". That is how I started.
Olivier Gaurin: How was the training there?
Chiba Tsugutaka: I knew how to do shikko [moving on one's knees] and he used to say "One has to start with shikko". I had done Judo, Kendo, and a lot of other things...
Olivier Gaurin: Your body was well conditioned.
Chiba Tsugutaka: Yes, and I was amongst the tallest people at the time. We used to train in the field at the back over there.
Olivier Gaurin: Outside?
Chiba Tsugutaka: Yes, on the ground. There were some stones so it hurt when we fell. There used to be a sewing school there, so sometimes, there were needles on the ground. It hurt a lot! Now there are tatami so it is like practicing on pillows.
Olivier Gaurin: You never injured yourselves?
Chiba Tsugutaka: We had nothing at that time, but the wooden floor was flexible enough so we were ok. We bounced like on cushions! We wanted a sandbag but we had no money. It was expensive. So we used to take a big grain bag, and fill it with gravel. We used to charge into it, like rugby players. We went that far in order to train.
- Many thanks to Sato Hideaki Sensei for helping us conduct this interview.