Interview with Kobayashi Kiyohiro, 8th Dan Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu
Kobayashi Kiyohiro is an 8th dan instructor of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu. He was a close student of Hisa Takuma and serves as the manager of the Takumakai, the organisation that Hisa’s students created to carry on his teachings. My last interview with him dates back to 2011 and it dealt specifically with the group he is running in Tokyo. As a consequence, a more in-depth discussion about his substantial experience of Aikido and Daito-ryu was overdue.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Before starting budo, I did some athletics, when I was in high school. I became pretty good at it. Since I was about 12, I used to attend summer courses with Nakamura Tempu, which used to take place in Osaka for 14 days. In 1961, Hisa Takuma Sensei did a demonstration at the end of those of those course. Actually, he didn’t do it himself but he had people who did Judo come on stage, as well as young girls. He taught them things like nikajo shuto zume. I thought that if young girls could make it work, I should be able to do it too in spite of my small stature. That said, I didn’t participate in the exercise on that particular day but I wanted to, so I joined Hisa’s club, which was called the Kansai Aikido Club1.
Hisa Sensei had re-opened a dojo in 1959. There was a long time between the time he received the menkyo kaiden2 and the end of the war. That said, I think that he was often invited to teach during a number of events here and there. That’s how it started, but Hisa had never really stopped teaching.
The first thing that you saw when entering was a sign that said: “Daito-ryu Aikido”. The sign said: “Aikido Club” In reality, perhaps it should have been: “Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu” but the general public would not have understood so he had it written “Kansai Aikido Club”. A week or two before I joined in October 1961, he suffered from a stroke. I visited his house to see him, but he had hemiplegia. After a while though, he did return to the dojo, although he walked with a cane. I was a student so I took most of the ukemi for him during practice so I could understand roughly the techniques he taught from experience. That’s the way I learnt. Most of his techniques were Ueshiba Sensei’s techniques, that’s why in spite of being called Daito-ryu, the influence of Ueshiba Morihei Sensei’s teachings was huge.
Guillaume Erard: So if Hisa Sensei taught Daito-ryu, could you explain us a bit why he called his dojo “Aikido Club” instead of “Daito-ryu Club”?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: This is Ueshiba Sensei’s influence. If it had said “Aiki-jujutsu”, there probably wouldn’t have been anyone who joined. You probably don’t know this but the Osaka Gas company was located across the street from the dojo. It was a first-rate location. It was right there, so white collar workers would see the sign and come since it was located in the same building as many different businesses such as the Saitama Bank, and they would watch. If it had been jujutsu, no one would have come.
Guillaume Erard: Is it because jujutsu sounded strict or old-fashioned?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, so I guess that’s how it became Aikido. Well, I never really asked for confirmation but that’s what I think.
Guillaume Erard: Hisa Sensei received the 8th dan from Ueshiba Sensei, which suggests that he kept ties with Aikido and with his former teacher…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Hmm, it was in 1956. That’s when Hisa Sensei went to Tokyo. I’ll give you some reference materials next time. I have a document that I wrote based on my research. I believe it was 1956. When he went to Tokyo, he received a dan grade. He said it was the first and last time he ever received one. He said he got an 8th dan unexpectedly without ever getting either lower kyu or dan grades. That certificate was hanged up at the dojo.
Guillaume Erard: Could you talk to us about the university club that you founded?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I founded a Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu club when I was a student at Momoyama Gakuin University3.
Guillaume Erard: It was separate from the Kansai Aikido Club…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, yes, it was separate. I started the club in order to practice Daito-ryu, but there was nothing like that in other universities. I didn’t feel confident doing it myself but Hisa Sensei had no successor. When it came to who should be the instructor, it would have been the best if Hisa had done it, but once he was gone, it wouldn’t have worked out. Also, he couldn’t come all the way to Izumi anyway because he had difficulties walking with his cane. So instead of being part of the Kansai Aikido Club, our club was made part of the Kansai Student Aikido Federation. Nowadays there are others like the Kanto Student Aikido Federation, there are many federations, and there is the National Student Aikido Federation. When I found out about it, I realized that we should affiliate with them.
Guillaume Erard: This is when Kobayashi Hirokazu was put in charge by Ueshiba Kisshomaru Doshu, isn’t it?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: It’s at that time that I met Kobayashi Hirokazu Sensei. I was introduced to him by a student of Kwansei Gakuin University4.
Guillaume Erard: From that point you did only Aikido at the University Club…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: From that point I did both Aikido and Daito-ryu. During my college years, I did Aikido at the university during the day because Kobayashi Sensei would come to teach and in the evening, I trained in Daito-ryu at the Kansai Aikido Club. At lunchtime too. So my technique is quite original. There was no leader at that time. There should have been one but everyone was too busy.
Guillaume Erard: How old were you at that time?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I was about 20. Kobayashi Sensei told me that since I practiced very seriously, I should become a professional and teach Daito-ryu, and that he would support me. But who knows if I would have been able to make a decent living with it. It was definitely not possible. Later, in 1974, the Asahi Culture Center was created at Senri Kaikan. They built it on the spot where the old Asahi Newspaper was, so I guess that’s why they decided to build it for budo purposes. Someone there called Yamada Saburo, who was a former student of Hisa Sensei, asked me if I would like to teach. It was a major assignment but I decided to take the offer and teach. Slowly we institutionalized it. Then the students started creating their own branches.
Guillaume Erard: Let’s go back to Kobayashi Hirokazu Sensei for a moment, did he learn Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu from Hisa Sensei?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: He learned some, but it was only for a brief period though. He became a deshi at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo after the war and came back to Osaka only afterwards. Actually, there was already a branch in Osaka led by Tanaka Bansen, so then there were two. In the past, there would have been only one branch per prefecture. Ueshiba Sensei started to visit Mr Kobayashi instead of Mr Tanaka, once every two months or so, and there usually was time for a demonstration. He would come to teach us and during those times, we would have combined training with both students and adults at the Fukushima Station gymnasium.
Guillaume Erard: In addition to that, you actually went to study under Ueshiba Morihei for a while didn’t you?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I got a reference letter from Hisa Sensei in 1965 to go and train under Ueshiba Sensei.
Guillaume Erard: Was it in Tokyo?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, it was at the old Tokyo Hombu Dojo. I believe O Sensei’s classes were on Mondays. I think it’s still the same nowadays. All the uchi deshi were gathering there and practice was intense. The other days were taught by the Dojo-cho Kisshomaru Sensei. Well, there was no Dojo-cho at the time…
Guillaume Erard: Wasn’t it Osawa Sensei?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: No, actually, it was Tohei Sensei. Tohei Sensei used to come and teach during the second morning class.
Guillaume Erard: The one at 8 a.m.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Fujita Sensei also taught some of the second morning classes on Mondays. Tohei Sensei taught on the other days. They had a rotation schedule. After the two morning classes, I would go back briefly to rest, and around 3 or 4 o’clock, I would go to the Yoshinkan5. After that, I would go back to the Hombu Dojo to train in the evening. I did this routine for about a month.
Guillaume Erard: The Yoshinkan headquarters were in Iidabashi, right?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, it was in Iidabashi, it was the oldest training place. It’s not there anymore because they moved.
Guillaume Erard: How did the techniques you learned at Hombu compare to that of Daito-ryu?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: The sensei of the Hombu Dojo had different styles. Techniques that are common nowadays were common then, too. Not much has changed ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, yonkyo, shiho nage, irimi nage… on strikes and grabs. There was no hanza handachi6, nor ushiro dori at the Hombu Dojo. Actualy, there was ushiro ryote dori, but other than that, there wasn’t much.
Guillaume Erard: Did you know Arikawa Sadateru Sensei?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Not very well, but Arikawa sensei was a big fan of the Takumakai7. Whenever there was a demonstration, he would always come to watch. I don’t not too much about it, but apparently, someone called Kobayashi, who was a student of Takeda Tokimune Sensei from Kobe, was in contact with him. Personally, I didn’t have much contact with him. Arikawa Sensei was very passionate about Aiki.
Guillaume Erard: When I watch Arikawa Sensei’s demonstrations, I’m often reminded of Daito-ryu.
Arikawa Sadateru, 8th Dan Aikido
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I can’t say whether it was an influence. There was a handout made by Makita Sensei that listed the first 118 Daito-ryu techniques. It was given as a reference. There was also a handwritten book published by Ueshiba Sensei.
Guillaume Erard: Yes, it’s the book called “Budo Renshu” [read more about the significance of the book Budo Renshu here].
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, the really thick one. I received a copy.
Guillaume Erard: The one without photographs…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: That’s right, without photos. I’m still taking a good care of it since there probably isn’t anything like that now. There were also stories about the pictures and films taken at the Asahi Journal. It showed the techniques taught by Ueshiba Sensei. Stanley Pranin found the film shot at the Osaka Asahi Newspaper and organized a projection. During the projection, Takeda Tokimune Sensei got angry and said: “Ah! This is Daito-ryu isn’t it?”
Ueshiba Morihei demonstrating Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu at the Asahi Newspaper in 1935
I don’t know what the difference is. Ueshiba Sensei learned many techniques from Takeda Sensei, but he modified and unified them to facilitate the movements. Well, of course the origin is Daito-ryu, and it must have had a great influence. Many teachers have different backgrounds like Yagyu shinkage-ryu and Kito-ryu for example, so obviously it’s very difficult to tell which techniques come from which school. It may also be connected to the sword of Ono-ha Itto-ryu. Daito-ryu puts a lot of emphasis on the sword from Ono-ha during training.
Guillaume Erard: While we are on the topic of weapons, people often wonder where do the weapons of Aikido come from. Ueshiba Sensei did not study Ono-ha Itto-ryu, did he?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: The sword of Aikido is the sword of Ueshiba Sensei isn’t it? It’s about Ueshiba Sensei’s sword where it came from. It doesn’t look like he was influenced much by Ono-ha. For instance, his bokken was thin.
Guillaume Erard: It looked like that of Shinkage-ryu…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes it was a bit different. It is said that jujutsu came from the sword. So when one became disarmed, one used it to prevent getting immobilized. I’m not sure about how ancient jujutsu is but there are some stories that say that Shinra Saburo8 is the founder of Daito-ryu. In reality, it seems more likely that everything started from the Sengoku era [c. 1467 – c. 1600]. The struggle for life or death during battles with either long spear, a short sword, or even unarmed to get opponent’s head. During Tokugawa Ieyasu9‘s reign, those battles seized, and traditional swords were confiscated, allowing only short swords to be kept. This may have led to the development of jujutsu. The hakama was not used back in the old days, and the tradition of wearing hakama started from Takeda Sensei’s pride for being a bushi10. By wearing a hakama and a haori during training, he emphasized the fact that he was a bushi, not a commoner.
Guillaume Erard: Regarding Ono-ha Itto-ryu, unlike in Hokkaido, the Takumakai doesn’t practice it, why?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I’m not sure why Hisa Sensei didn’t learn it.
Guillaume Erard: But he received the menkyo kaiden…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: He received the menkyo kaiden in jujutsu. He received it in “Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu”, not in “Daito-ryu Aiki-do”. There was no link with sword practice, he didn’t receive it in Ono-ha.
Guillaume Erard: Is that why in Hokkaido, they refer to their technique as “Daito-ryu Aiki-budo”, so as to unite jujutsu and weapons?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: It’s a little complicated. Takeda Tokimune united the jujutsu and the Ono-ha and called it: “Daito-ryu Aiki-budo”. So on their training went under the name: “Daito-ryu Aiki-budo”. However, during demonstrations, they would only do Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, there was no sword during the embu. The reason is that there would have been some Ono-ha teachers present in the assembly, so they didn’t want to be disrespectful. I have been told that Sokaku used used to often say: “Swing the sword, swing the sword.”
At that time, I had nobody to teach me sword in Osaka. Now however, there are teachers who went to Hokkaido and brought back this knowledge. Teachers like Araki Sensei brought that back with them so Ono-ha became established here. Okabayashi did the same thing. I guess you know about that. Okabayashi Ryoichi Sensei did it, even if it is in his own Hakuhokai group. He did Ono-ha when he practiced for a year under the tutelage of the Soke Takeda Tokimune. He wasn’t working at the time, so he moved in the apartment of a relative. While he was there, he practiced Ono-ha, brought it back to Osaka and wanted to disseminate it, so the number of teachers doing Ono-ha increased. At the Hakohokai, they still practice Ono-ha.
As for me, I don’t know it well. I can only do some of it because it’s similar to Kendo kata.
Guillaume Erard: As you mentioned, I often read that Aiki-jujutsu comes from the sword and yet, Hisa Takuma did not study sword. How is it possible?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I don’t do kenjutsu, so I don’t know, but when it comes to Aikido, I think it originated from Sokaku. Sokaku probably invented it from kenjutsu and from training in Shingon Esoteric Buddhism. There is someone from Aizu, well not exactly Aizu, but in the region of Aizu, and apparently Sokaku learned from him. I always wonder how he managed to learn everything, techniques from 1st to 118th, the goshin’yo no te, etc. and when he had the time to learn all that. When you read his books about Takeda, until that time, all they mention is Kendo. It seems like he learned from Sakakibara Kenkichi11. He learned Kendo when he was 15 or 16. But all of a sudden, from 189912, he started teaching jujutsu. I wonder since when he trained and when he switched to jujutsu, and what happened during that blank period.
Guillaume Erard: You mentioned Takeda Tokimune. You also studied with him for a while didn’t you?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I went to Abashiri to train under Takeda Tokimune Sensei, as part of a training camp.
Guillaume Erard: It was around 1968, right? I found your name in the eimeiroku13 of the Takeda family.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Oh such thing exist somewhere?
Guillaume Erard: Yes, in the eimeiroku of the Takeda family.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Did they write it? I didn’t really know14. Do you have this eimeiroku from Hokkaido?
Guillaume Erard: Yes, I do, I’ll make you a copy of the entry with your name. Have you ever seen this quote before?
The goal of Daito-ryu is the spread of “harmony and love”. Keeping this to heart helps maintain and achieve social justice. This is the desire of Takeda Sokaku.
Takeda Tokimune – Speech reported by Ishibashi Yoshihisa in 武田惣角伝 大東流合気武道百十八ヵ条 (p. 51)
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Tokimune Sensei used to say it often. It was written in his brochure. It must have been quoted from it.
Guillaume Erard: Did Hisa talk about those things?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: No, he didn’t talk much about such things as “Budo of peace” or “Budo of harmony”. The one who talked about ethics the most was Ueshiba Sensei, but Tokimune Sensei also did it.
Guillaume Erard: About ningen keisei no michi15
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, yes. It was written and hanged up on the wall at his dojo.
Guillaume Erard: But it wasn’t in Hisa’s dojo?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I can’t quite recall. Do you know the book “Kannagara no Budo”? It could have been written on the first page. If it’s not on the first page, then you probably won’t find it anywhere else16.
Guillaume Erard: You said that Tokimune came up with the idea of using the term “Aiki-budo”. The term also appears in the Soden, especially along pictures of middle-school girls practicing. I believe that only budo registered at the Dai Nippon Butokukai, not the Kobudo Kyokai, could be taught in schools right, right?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I believe that this compilation of pictures was made in 1939 or 1940. The self-defense techniques for women and the arrest techniques for policemen made up the 7th and 8th volumes17. This happened before the war and therefore, the enthusiasm for martial arts was at its highest. It wasn’t aimed at waging war, but some people thought that way.
Well, the person doing it is a Naginata teacher called Tokunaga. That person is already deceased of course. But because of her, today’s Naginata exists18. It was made at that time.
Guillaume Erard: It’s written “Aiki-budo” in the legend near the picture
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I do not remember the name for it right now unless I look it up on the book. I do not not how the title went. I think that it was Aiki-jujutsu and not Aikido, but I am not certain.
Guillaume Erard: Did Hisa Sensei teach using the Soden?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: From time to time, Hisa Sensei deconstructed the techniques and explained them step by step but he had difficulties moving his legs. So for a two years period, we used the Soden book in the dojo.
Guillaume Erard: How was his teaching style like?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: At that time, he taught by talking “do this, do that”. But he only taught through katageiko, forms and poses. Mori Sensei19 does the same. Now that I think back, I feel that Hisa Sensei was forgetting how to put Aiki in action against a resisting opponent. Of course at that time, I was too focused on remembering the techniques so I had no time to worry about such things. But now that I think of it, yes.
Guillaume Erard: Hisa Sensei eventually stopped teaching in Osaka, what was the reason?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Oh yes, Hisa Sensei retired and moved to Tokyo. He closed the dojo in 1968. Before that, in 1965 I believe, 1965 or 1964, his wife passed away. When she passed away, he was living in his wife’s house. Sensei and his wife had quite a big age difference. I guess he felt uneasy staying there, so he left the house to his daughter. He spent the nights at the dojo.
Guillaume Erard: At some point, the Takumakai started using Tokimune Sensei’s hiden mokuroku20. Why is that and what is its origin?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: About the mokuroku, if I tell you the truth, Mr Tsuruyama is writing lies21. He wrote an Aikido book called “Jujutsu and Aikido”. It’s a short book published by Sports Journal. Hisa Sensei told me what was written in this book is all a lie, for example things like the fact that he knew the “Big Three Techniques”22 Well those people have to exaggerate, otherwise, they wouldn’t make any money off of it.
I was told by his daughter who lived in Tokyo that Hisa Sensei did indeed have something like that. Personally, I was familiar with the 118 techniques kata. Hisa was working at a publishing company so it turned out to be very valuable thing. He brought his menkyo kaiden23 with him from Kochi during the evacuation24. He had it in his luggage, which he asked to take on the ship when relocating. Unfortunately, that and all of his belongings subsequently burnt during an air raid in Osaka. However, in his home in Shikoku, he still had the original pictures that were used to make the Soden. Luckily, he couldn’t take all that with him during the evacuation due to baggage restrictions, so they stayed safe in his home, and were not destroyed by the air raids. So evidence of this knowledge remained as photographs. However, the scroll itself no longer exists so I’ve never seen it.
I don’t know who made a copy of it, maybe Nakatsu Heizaburo, because Chiba Tsugutaka Sensei got something like that from Nakatsu Sensei. He showed you his scroll didn’t he?
Guillaume Erard: Yes he did.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yeah right? So indeed, I presume that Nakatsu Heizaburo Sensei transcribed a copy. He was not qualified to have it, right? He only received the kyoju dairi25, that was around 1937. People who got the kyoju dairi were Mr Yoshimura, Mr Tonedate, Mr Kawazoe, Nakatsu Heizaburo. Five or six people were promoted to kyoju dairi.
Guillaume Erard: We have Nakatsu Sensei’s hiden ogi no koto26 diploma but we don’t have any scroll. Do you know whether they received scrolls along with their certificates?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: At that time, the scroll was about the daiichi jyo. The kajo were listed from the right to the left.
Guillaume Erard: Chiba Sensei told me that the usage was that they would write those by themselves…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I don’t know who wrote them. Rumor has it that someone like a calligrapher wrote it, an acquaintance of Hisa Sensei from the Asahi Newspaper.
Guillaume Erard: Chiba Sensei also told me that even in Takeda Tokimune’s dojo in Hokkaido, they didn’t have those scrolls.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I didn’t see or hear about it. It wasn’t that easy. Takeda Sensei was a cautious and prudent person. He was careful not give information to other schools. This thinking influenced Mr Kondo27. Mr Kondo is very cautious about presenting the information to outside. Tokimune Sensei was like that too. But that’s not something one should be worried about nowadays, and in fact, Mr Kondo is actually contradicting his words with his actions, he is publishing books and videos. What does it all mean? Is he not obedient to Tokimune Sensei’s words?
Highlights of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu instructional video by Kondo Katsuyuki
Well, it’s no longer that kind of time. More importantly, the Nippon Budokan published books about the hiden mokuroku of Daito-ryu. They already have a book published based on films featuring them. All of the techniques are now publicly available so there is no point trying to hide anything anymore.
What makes a difference is practice. Training teaches you how to control the forces and the subtitle details in the movements. Those can only be taught through repeated training. I strongly believe that there are things that cannot be learnt only by looking at books. I am currently writing a book on how you can do that. It should be coming out at the latest by the end of the year. Well, it will be available only to the members, to be used as a training note, like the Keiko Techo28. Well, maybe not like Keiko Techo because it is normally very thin, and my book will be around 300 pages long.
So basic movements are square forms and if done in a different way, it’s called variations. And beyond those movements, there are also application techniques. It changes from form, to variation, to application. Things like pins. Basics are set. There are strikes too. When you are told to strike, do you know how to?
Guillaume Erard: By closing the hand like that, isn’t it? Or like that? [mimicking a typical one-knuckle Daito-ryu atemi]
Kobayahsi Kiyohiro: According to the circumstances, you’ll use suigetzuki 29 or hiratzuki 30. If it says to strike under both arms, instead of doing like this, you should do ipponken, a one knuckle strike. How to do that is actually written fairly in detail. Tokimune Sensei used to say do this. He said it wouldn’t penetrate if you hit with a fully closed fist. When you are hitting the flank area, he said to do this. Well, of course, if you actually hit, that’s dangerous, so we did it as kata training. So we learned to not to make physical contact, but instead, to use precise force.
Guillaume Erard: The fact that both Aikido and Daito-ryu follow a five-principle structure suggests that it existed before Tokimune, right?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I guess such structure existed from before but I don’t think it consisted of 118 techniques. It’s just my personal opinion, but I feel like there were only around 110. Maybe 108. Then it comes down to the question, who created the remaining 10. I think it’s Tokimune Sensei. Techniques included in those 10 are the techniques against jutte, against sword, and against bo and jo, and techniques against two or more opponents. That makes up to 118. 108 used to be known as a lucky number in Japan, like on new year’s eve when they hit a kane, a bell, 108 times. It probably comes from that.31.
Guillaume Erard: Very few people have as much experience as you in Daito-ryu, in Aikikai Aikido, and in Yoshinkan Aikido. Do you feel the need to transmit more than Daito-ryu?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Well, nowadays I do only Daito-ryu. In Daito-ryu, many sensei practice variety of techniques and styles, but it has to be doable by females, without the requirement of force and strength. Regardless of the opponents’ body size, you must land your techniques smoothly without choosing the people. Females must be able to practice, otherwise it would not be a bujutsu and not a jujutsu either. I am doing what I am right now with that in mind.
Many teachers like Horikawa Sensei went to Yubetsu to learn32. I do not want those techniques to be buried and lost over time, so I am putting in my efforts to keep them in record. From time to time, I forget the techniques or talk about something incorrectly, so in order to have them organized, I am putting them together into a single book. I’d like to have them in a written form to hand it out to everyone.
It’s like Daito-ryu’s hiden. I am not sure if I should release it to public so openly. But unless I keep it in record somehow, it’s values cannot be appreciated fully, like that of the Soden photo collection. The value will be maintained because it’s existence and form is preserved. In the future, people might say “Mr Kobayashi is making mistakes. He doesn’t get left and right correct.” There may be various things ahead. But I hope to get it finished within this year. It’s very close to the finish. I am just making final review and finishing touches.
Guillaume Erard: I was very lucky to start Daito-ryu with you because you understood well where I came from as an Aikidoka and your explanations were easy for me to understand.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes I know Aikido somewhat, so it makes it easier for me to teach even the beginners who used to practice Aikido. I must say, their movements are good. Daito-ryu people don’t move that swiftly. It’s easy to teach people like that. People in the Tokyo group are easy to teach because everyone has Aikido experience.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro teaching in Tokyo (2011)
Guillaume Erard: Aikido is simple.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I think what’s good about Aikido is not its simplicity, but its ability to pull out talent and unique individuality of each teacher. Each sensei has those, so their uke, reception, applicability and capacity is very extensive in such scope. Each sensei has slightly different techniques, forms and styles. Even if they publish the same book, they differ from one another. Aikido sensei like Mr. Okumura and a few others have published, right? But again their techniques are slightly different. I think what’s interesting is that they have a broad range of tolerance and capacity.
I think that if they keep saying this has to be this and that has to be that, there would only be a minimal development and improvement. What I hope to see is a teaching style that encourages learners to polish what they have learned in their own ways. We should leave some space for self-development. Is that not the way of proper guidance? When you pay attention and observe carefully, the teaching styles differ among sensei.
Guillaume Erard: People often think that Daito-ryu is very rough and painful compared to Aikido
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: It is true that from the outside, it must look painful. Also, the technique tends to work pretty well when it is painful. But you don’t feel much pain or strength when you are practicing with me right? Especially no tension. Aikido supposedly puts even less force, that’s why people go to practice it. It’s supposed to avoid using unnecessary force. That’s the key difference, just because it looks painful.
Guillaume Erard: There are also levels of practice, from the harsher jujutsu to aiki no jutsu…
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: The Daito-ryu basics start with painful techniques.
Guillaume Erard: So would that difference in perception be due to the fact that Ueshiba didn’t the basics?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I think Ueshiba Sensei was a genius and I am just stunned. It might sound wrong if I put it this way, but I feel like he just took all the good parts of Daito-ryu and polished them very well. He was an astonishing person. If you compare it to the Aiki part in Daito-ryu, it is the finishing touch.
Guillaume Erard: When I look at Ueshiba Sensei’s 1935 Asahi Shinbun demonstration, I do not see as much Daito-ryu as I see modern Aikido.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I think, at that time, he was in midst of making up his mind. Because Ueshiba Sensei taught at the Asahi newspaper, it became known as Dai Nippon Asahi-ryu Jujutsu. Asahi-ryu is written with the character nine and sun33, but it was taught at Asahi Newspaper34. It was after the establishment of the Kobukai that the name Aikido was claimed, it was in 1941 or 1942. After the death of Takeda Sokaku in 1943, there was no longer a sensei above him so he could become independent. Until then, it was still Daito-ryu.
When teaching at the Omoto-kyo [in Ayabe in 1922], the sign was still Daito-ryu. It was hidden from the picture but the sign Daito-ryu itself was there, many people saw it. Takeda Sokaku went to Ayabe and brought his wife and son Tokimune and took on the lead of the training. He did so because Ueshiba had not been doing Daito-ryu for a long time. For instance, Deguchi Onisaburo had a large body size. It was hard to do techniques on him. So, he had to call Takeda Sensei to teach them how to do it.
Guillaume Erard: The Soden Volumes 1 through 6 show the techniques taught at the Asahi Journal by Ueshiba Morihei.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: That’s right, from Volumes 1 to 6, it is Ueshiba Sensei’s technique.
Guillaume Erard: What they do on these pictures is 100% Daito-ryu, isn’t it?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: What’s on there is Daito-ryu. It was before Tokimune Sensei had organized the various techniques. There were a lot of different techniques. They were like: “Oh, this too is Daito-ryu.” So Ueshiba Sensei was also doing Daito-ryu. I believe that instead of putting all these techniques into today’s Aikido,, he neatly organized the overlapping parts to develop the current system from ikkyo to gokyo.
Guillaume Erard: It is often said that Aikido’s ikkyo is equivalent to ikkajo‘s ippondori. Yet Ueshiba Sensei’s ikkyo does not look like basic ippondori, for instance the arm bar is absent.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: In Ueshiba Sensei’s techniques, you see that he is constantly moving: he puts his hand out, jumps out, and he’s already in. Because he keeps moving, there is no chance for counterattack and the opponent will be held down. That’s Aikido.
In our case, we perform our technique, stop, give an atemi. Because we do all these kinds of steps with pauses, it gives the opponents chance to fight back. That is the difference. Jujutsu and Ueshiba Sensei’s technique are different. That’s why it’s called Aikido.
Guillaume Erard: It looks like there is more than timing though, the angles are different too.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Ippondori of ikkajo? Well Ueshiba Sensei normally does ikkyo facing the front. On yokomenuchi you do ude osae, so it’s ikkyo. Well, ikkyo can be done from yokomenuchi too. I believe it’s done in all kinds of way now.
Guillaume Erard: When you look at Aikido, whether it’s on shomenuchi, yokomenuchi, aihanmi katatedori, it’s all called ikkyo.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: When getting the hit, restrain all and flip turn and make ikkyo. That is how Ueshiba Sensei taught. So it’s simple. The number of techniques is small. Whether you get punched, hit, or grabbed, you can restrain the opponent with the same form. That’s Aikido. In such case, Aikido is easy to understand and memorize, which allowed its wide spread. That said, the existence of Aiki matters too. You can probably only work with full power like “baam” during practice. In reality, when beginners try on the street, they probably cannot move that well.
Guillaume Erard: The terminology of the techniques itself is confusing. In ikkajo, there are three techniques that Aikidoka would identify as shihonage but they all have different names.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: In hanminage, you place yourself in hanza handachi position and throw with half of your body. You do not stand up. Because you throw in a hanmi posture, it is a hanmi nage. If you stand, the meaty part of the technique will be lost. The standing technique would be called shihonage instead. Iriminage is when you enter from the opposite side from shihonage. Like Aikido, it is called irimi because you place your body in. Shihonage is another technique under irimi, But because of its distinctness, it gets its own name. Kotegaeshi also has its own name.
Guillaume Erard: Aikidoka often mistake gyaku ude dori for nikyo.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: When you do this, it is kotegaeshi. If you turn the other way around, it would be the opposite: gyaku. That’s how it got the name of gyaku ude dori, reverse hand.
That’s why it is in ikkajo instead of nikajo. Ueshiba Sensei’s nikyo is a vertical spin instead of like this. Vertically like this. That is why it is in nikyo. Daitoiryu calls this kotezume or shutozume. Because you do it like this, vertical rotation is shutozume. There is a commonality. It may sound strange to see the reverse techniques in ikkajo, but it’s like the opposite of kotegaeshi, so reverse twist.
Guillaume Erard: And after all that, you have to understand the overarching ideas behind the ensemble of techniques contained in each kajo.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes. The technique is different but it has the same name. It says what is different between ikkajo and sankajo. It’s written in my book, please look it up.
Guillaume Erard: As you said, one can’t really understand those things just out of a book! (laughs)
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: So let’s practice, I’ll explain it to you! (laughs) After all it is the use your body. Everyone throws like this, and that is why they cannot get it right. If you do this, the style remains like this. If you face this way, the other side will fall down like this.
Do you know shot put? You throw like boom.You throw like this, and then you follow with a pull like this. You throw like this too. That should be the real way of throwing. Beginners normally suppress their force because they start with tori osae. Since we don’t normally just finish with a throw, you hold like this and deliver the finishing hit. It marks the end of one technique.
Guillaume Erard: At the Yoshinkan, they still use the kajo terminology don’t they?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: When Shioda Gozo taught at the Yoshinkan, or Ueshiba Sensei taught at Asahi Shimbun, they used ikajo, nikajo, sankajo, and yonkajo. Shioda Snsei kept using it after the war. Hombu somehow branched to ikkyo, nikyo, sanyo, yonkyo, but at the Yoshinkan, the names just remained that way. The techniques are the same. Ueshiba Sensei’s and Shioda Sensei’s techniques are the same.
Guillaume Erard: Some Aikido teachers talk about rokkajo, do you know what it is?
Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I do not know about rokkajo. I did not learn that from Takeda Sensei. Seeing other people writing about Daitoiryu with rokkajo, I wonder what rokkajo even means. I’ve never encountered it before, so I am not quite sure. Well, I do know of gokyo. So, maybe it means gokajo? I guess you could put it that way. I would have wanted to ask if gokyo is gokajo, but we no longer have the source of information, the sensei who could possible have told us. Since Chiba Sensei passed away, another thing became lost.
- The Kansai Aikido Club was established by Hisa Takuma in Osaka in 1959. There he taught Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu.
- Menkyo kaiden (免許皆伝): Certificate of full transmission that Hisa received from Takeda Sokaku in 1939
- Momoyama Gakuin Daigaku (桃山学院大学), also called Saint Andrew’s University, is a private Japanese university founded in 1959 and whose campus is located in Izumi, Osaka Prefecture.
- Kansei Gakuin Daigaku (関西学院大学) is a private Japanese university founded in 1932 and located in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture.
- Yoshinkan (養神館 ) is a school of Aikido founded by Shioda Gozo in 1955 with the authorization of Ueshiba Morihei.
- Kobayashi Sensei is using the Daito-ryu terminology of hanza handachi (半座半立), which would be called hanmi handachi waza in Aikido, where tori seating, uke standing
- The Takumakai (琢磨会) is a martial arts association founded in 1975 by the students of Hisa Takuma and Nakatsu Heizaburo, who both studied Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu under Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei
- Shinra Saburo (新羅 三郎), also known as Minamoto no Yoshimitsu (源 義光, 1045 – 1127 )
- Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康, 1543 – 1616 ) was the first Shogun to unify Japan under his reign.
- Bushi (武士), a warrior
- Sakakibara Kenkichi (榊原鍵吉, 1830 – 1894) was the 14th Soke of Jikishinkage-ryu and one of the creators of modern Kendo.
- Sokaku would be 40 at that time
- Eimeiroku (英名録) is a registry that contains the names of the each student that either Sokaku or Tokimune taught, as well as the training date and location.
- Interestingly, Kobayashi Sensei’s seal (which is used in Japan in lieu of a signature) was not stamped after his name so it is likely that he never saw the record
- Ningen keisei no michi (人間形成の道): The way to human perfection.
- I did check after we spoke, and indeed, it wasn’t written anywhere in the book
- In reality, they appear as volumes 11 and 10, respectively.
- Tokunaga Chiyoko (徳永 千代子) was directly involved in negotiating with the Japanese Ministry of Education for the reinstatement of Naginata in schools in the 1950s. The ministry was still wary of perceived militaristic connotations associated with the kanji, especially since it included the the character for “katana”.
- Mori Hakaru (森 恕), the director of the Takumakai
- Hiden mokuroku (秘伝目録), lit. “The Secret Scroll”, is a list of 118 techniques that a Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu practitioners learns to master from the 1st to the 5th dan.
- Tsuruyama Kozui (鶴山 晃瑞著) was a student of Hisa Takuma who claimed having received the menkyo kaiden from him, which was denied by Hisa.
- The sandaigiho (三大技法) is a set of three technical levels allegedly based on Hisa’s teachings. Thes include Daito-ryu Ju-jutsu (大東流柔術) Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu (大東流合気柔術) Daito-ryu Aiki-no-Jutsu (大東流合気之術).
- The exhaustive list of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu techniques would have been written in the menkyo kaiden that Hisa received from Takeda in 1939
- Towards the end of World War II, the American bombings on the island of Shikoku forced people to relocate to Honshu, and Hisa was one of those people.
- Kyoju dairi (教授代理), certificate of representative instructor.
- Hiden ogi no koto (秘傳奥儀之事), lit. transmission scroll of inner mysteries, is the third level of techniques in the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu curriculum.
- Kondo Katsuyuki (近藤 勝之), the current headmaster of the mainline of Daito-ryu Aiki-budo.
- Keiko Techo (稽古手帳), a short training manual given to members of the Takumakai.
- Suigetzuki (水月突き), a strike towards the ground with the hand like a hammer.
- Hiratzuki (平突き), a straight punch with the palm towards the ground.
- Joya no kane (除夜の鐘), a traditional Japanese ceremony where temples ring a bell 108 times before the change of year
- Kobayashi Sensei refers to Horikawa Taiso (堀川 泰宗), who studied with Takeda Sokaku in Yubetsu, Northern Hokkaido in 1912.
- Asahi-ryu (旭流). The kanji used for “Asahi” are different compared to that of the newspaper’s name.
- Asahi Shinbun (朝日新聞)