Interview with Kobayashi Kiyohiro, Manager of the Takumakai

Kobayashi Kiyohiro Sensei is the manager of the Takumakai. He is one of the most senior instructors of that school and he has been learning Aikido in the early days at the Aikikai but also at the Yoshinkan dojo. He is a long time student of Takuma Hisa Sensei and he currently runs a dojo in Osaka. Kobayashi Sensei travels extensively to teach Daito-ryu in Japan and abroad. This interview was conducted by Olivier Gaurin during one of the monthly Daito-ryu Aiki-jujtusu seminars led in Tokyo by Kobayashi Kiyohiro Sensei.

Olivier Gaurin: Kobayashi Sensei, could you talk to us about the origins of the Takumakai Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu?

I got that letter of introduction from Takuma Sensei around March 1966 so that I could meet Ueshiba Sensei, Takuma Sensei's former teacher.

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I think we should start by talking about Takuma Sensei. Hisa Takuma Sensei was a student of Ueshiba Sensei and Takeda Sensei. That being said, Takuma Sensei started training under Ueshiba Sensei in a discipline that corresponds to today's to Yoshinkan Aikido. So he started like that as a student of Ueshiba Sensei and trained with him at the Dojo of the Asahi Newspaper. What he taught was not called "Ueshiba-ryu" but nor was it called "Daito-ryu" [Editor's note: Ueshiba Sensei called it Asahi-ryu Jujutsu]. It was in 1938, maybe before.

Olivier Gaurin: Impressive!

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, perhaps it was even in 1936 or 1937 [Editor's note: Ueshiba started teaching at the Asahi Shinbun in 1933], I am not too sure. Either ways, Takuma Sensei received his Menkyo-kaiden in 1939 from Sokaku Takeda. It is while Takuma was studying with Ueshiba Sensei that Takeda Sensei came over to Osaka to visit. It seems that he came in order to improve the level of what was taught by Ueshiba Sensei during the morning and noon classes. But when Ueshiba Sensei heard that Takeda Sokaku was in town, he left in haste for Tokyo without even greeting him. Hisa Sensei therefore stared to train under Sokaku Takeda from that point on.

Kobayashi Kiyohiro demonstrating on Guillaume Erard

At that time, the techniques taught daily were showned only once and they had to remember them nonetheless. It was quite hard to memorize so they started to keep a photographic record in order to remember them. This became the series of technical snapshots called "Soden" which can still be studied today. Actually, Daito-ryu was quite disordered so Takeda Tokimune Senseï [Editor's note: Takeda Sokaku's son] told to his father: "We should classify the techniques a bit better". Ueshiba Sensei for example had indeed been teaching using the syllabus that we know today: "Ikkyo, Nikkyo, Sankyo, Yonkyo..." and if we look at Yoshinkan, it was also these four techniques built and organized in a vertical manner. But Ueshiba's techniques were a bit different so Tokimune said to his father: "Father, we should give back Ikkajo, its essence, and resume the 118 kihon. Wouldn't it be beneficial? What do you think?" His father answered: "Some of my students have already obtained the Kyoju-dairi [Editor's note: teaching certification], I don't have much more to teach them, isn't it enough? Don't they know enough?" Nevertheless, changes were adopted in the Takumakai and this began the next stage of teaching.

thanks to a letter of introduction from Hisa Sensei, I could meet Tokimune Sensei and go to his seminars

Olivier Gaurin: Sensei, you learned Aikido at the Aikikai Honbu Dojo right? When was it?

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I became the student of Hisa Takuma Sensei. And while I was training regularly, I was also a university student so I had the opportunity to open an Aikido club. I gathered some students, and thanks to a letter of introduction from Hisa Sensei, I could meet Tokimune Sensei and go to his seminars. From that I also went to follow classes at the Yoshinkan and at the Aikikai. I got that letter of introduction from Takuma Sensei around March 1966 so that I could meet Ueshiba Sensei, Takuma Sensei's former teacher.

eimeiroku kobayashiExcerpt from the Takeda Eimeiroku [kindly provided to me by Aikido Journal editor Josh Gold] showing the name of Kobayashi Kiyohiro for a period of practice from August 19th to 21st, 1968. It states that the training took place at the Daitokan, the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Headquarters in Hokkaido.

Olivier Gaurin: Was Morihei Ueshiba Sensei still teaching at the time?

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, he taught the first morning class, but I can't remember which days. And then it was Kisshomaru Sensei. Kisshomaru Sensei was teaching the morning and evening classes while the rest of the classes were taught by the Uchi-deshi, so I could train every day.

Olivier Gaurin: And now in your classes in Tokyo, a lot of students come from an Aikido background to study Daito-ryu isn't it? What do you think about people coming from Aikido to study Daito-ryu?

Hisa Sensei started to learn from Ueshiba Sensei and he later became a student of Takeda Sensei. There is no incompatibility.

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: Yes, as I said before, Hisa Sensei started to learn from Ueshiba Sensei and he later became a student of Takeda Sensei. There is no incompatibility. Whether they are Ueshiba's or Takeda's techniques, there is no profound disagreement because very naturally, Daito-ryu techniques evolve into Aikido techniques. For these Sensei, there is no doubt that Daito-ryu led to Aikido. For me it was the same, in Tokyo, because I had obtained an introduction letter to train with Ueshiba Sensei and Shioda Sensei, I could train both morning classes and the evening class at the Honbu Dojo, and the the lunch class at the Yoshinkan.

Kobayashi Kiyohiro performing Obi-otoshi on Guillaume Erard

Olivier Gaurin: Really ? Who was teaching at the Yoshinkan ?

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: It was Shioda Sensei's students, mister Kushida and Inoue. But Shioda Sensei did not teach any-more, I was too important. There were also other black belt instructors whose names I have forgotten. This is where I learnt. In fact, Yoshinkan techniques really looked like Hisa Takuma Sensei's techniques. The techniques taught at the Asahi newspaper were conform to those taught in Tokyo at the Yoshinkan Iidabashi dojo. At the Aikikai however, it was a bit different.

While I was a student in Osaka, I had set-up an Aikido club, part of an organization which was in fact a grouping of several universities of Osaka. So these Kansai universities called us to meet us as they wanted to get introduced to a permanent Sensei. Takuma Hisa had been a sumotori and his knees were bad so he could not take that function. I also thought that once I graduated, Daito-ryu might disappear from the university, so I thought that perhaps it was best to affiliate the club with Ueshiba since there was already an Aikido federation at that time. So I suggested that to Takuma Hisa Sensei and he accepted.

Kobayashi Kiyohiro teaching fine technical details to Guillaume Erard and Olivier Gaurin

The technical director for Kansai was Kisshomaru Sensei but the club was still under the supervision of Takuma Sensei. It is Takuma Sensei who asked Kobayashi Hirokazu Sensei to be the Aikikai person in charge of the club since in the past, Kobayashi had occasionally studied with Takuma Sensei [Note : Following the publication of this interview, some slightly excessive interpretations of this sentence have been made. We therefore asked Kobayashi Kiyohiro Sensei to explain what he meant and he replied that Kobayashi Hirokazu never taught Daito-ryu since he was a representative of the Aikikai and that the extent of his knowledge in Daito-ryu was probably restricted due to limited exposure he got from Takuma Hisa. Moreover, starting from the time Kobayashi Hirokazu took over, the Aikido and Daito-ryu stuy groups became separate]. So that is how everything got sorted. The club became an Aikido club and everybody switched from Daito-ryu to Aikido.

Personally, I was not too happy about only doing Aikido and that is why I continued to do both Daito-ryu and Aikido at the dojos which I mentioned earlier.

Olivier Gaurin: Kobayashi Sensei, you now come every month from Osaka to teach in Tokyo, how did you start teaching Daito-ryu there?

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: I have former students there, including Kawabe Takeshi Sensei, he wanted to practice Daito-ryu in Tokyo so he asked me if I wanted to help. In fact, he only taught three or four times, I was really busy so I took over from that point.

Olivier Gaurin: What do you think about the Tokyo group?

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: It is quite easy in Tokyo. Once students grasp the meaning I want to give to my techniques, it becomes easier. And because I am not very good, although I did learn a lot in Hokkaïdo, it is good to think about passing on to future generations.

Olivier Gaurin: Thank you very much Sensei.

Kobayashi Kiyohiro: You are welcome.

Guillaume Erard
Author: Guillaume Erard
A resident of Japan for nearly a decade, Guillaume Erard trains at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo and he received the 5th Dan from Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. He is also 3rd Dan in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, the secretive art that Morihei Ueshiba learned from Sokaku Takeda. Erard is the Information Director of the International Aikido Federation and the Deputy Secretary of International Affairs of the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Shikoku Headquarters. He is also passionate about science and education and holds a PhD in Molecular Biology.
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