Interview with Katsuyuki Kondo (2) by Stanley Pranin

Katsuyuki Kondo Shihan is the only person to have received kyoju dairi and menkyo kaiden certification from the present Daito-ryu headmaster, Tokimune Takeda. Kondo Shihan, often introduced by Headmaster Tokimune Takeda by his well-known nickname “Devil Kondo,” has assumed the heavy responsibility of Soke Dairi and has devoted himself to Daito-ryu.

Katsuyuki Kondo Shihan is the only person to have received kyoju dairi and menkyo kaiden certification from the present Daito-ryu headmaster, Tokimune Takeda. Kondo Shihan, often introduced by Headmaster Tokimune Takeda by his well-known nickname “Devil Kondo,” has assumed the heavy responsibility of Soke Dairi and has devoted himself to Daito-ryu. The mainline school of Daito-ryu has recently announced the next headmaster and is now in a transitional phase. Kondo Sensei shares with Aiki News his thoughts on the future path of Daito-ryu and its dissemination overseas.

This is part two of a two part interview. Part one is here.

Daito-Ryu Organization Meaning Of Soke Dairi

Aiki News: First of all, I would like to ask you about the current situation of the Daitokan, headquarters of Daito-ryu Aiki Budo. I understand that since Headmaster Tokimune Takeda is currently in poor health the question of his successor has come up. This puts the Daitokan in a transitional phase. Would you tell us about the present situation?

Kondo Sensei: A meeting of dojo heads was held in Abashiri, Hokkaido on September 7, 1991. On that occasion it was formally announced that the headmaster is undergoing medical treatment. This was understood to mean that it was no longer possible for him to travel around the country to train and teach.

Sensei, what is your role as Soke Kyoju Dairi, Soke Dairi, and a holder of the menkyo kaiden?

Since I was designated as Soke Dairi by the headmaster on May 15, 1988, my role is to act on his behalf while he is undergoing medical treatment. There is a difference between soke dairi and soke kyoju dairi; the latter may give instruction and travel to teach as a representative of the headmaster. The soke dairi, of course, teaches, but also acts as representative of the headmaster in administrative matters. My idea is to do my best in consultation with Headmaster Tokimune Takeda and his designated successor.

Who will succeed the present headmaster?

At the meeting of the dojo heads held last September, the future headmaster was announced. Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama, the second daughter of the present headmaster, who lives with him, was selected. This decision was not made at the meeting of the dojo heads, but rather was announced on that occasion by the Takeda family. Since I am serving the head family I cannot interfere in this matter. The head family has announced the next headmaster and my duty is to abide by its decision.

Sensei, you mentioned the designations kyoju dairi and soke dairi. Historically, what do the kyoju dairi and menkyo kaiden qualifications mean and who has been awarded these certifications thus far?

There are quite a few people who received the kyoju dairi during Sokaku Takeda’s time. Morihei Ueshiba Sensei was one of them. Also, there were Kotaro Yoshida Sensei, Kodo Horikawa Sensei, Toshimi Matsuda Sensei, Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei; altogether a total of 18 people received the kyoju dairi from Sokaku Sensei. The kyoju dairi qualification is solely concerned with being able to teach on behalf of the headmaster. Therefore, receiving the kyoju dairi qualification means that a person may begin giving instruction as the representative of Sokaku Sensei or Tokimune Sensei.

The shibucho or branch dojo heads are qualified to teach only within their branch dojos under the umbrella of the Hombu-cho (headquarters director), who is the headmaster. For example, the head of the Yokohama branch dojo cannot go to Saitama and teach. However, a holder of the kyoju dairi certification may do so. One can teach anywhere in Japan if he has received the kyoju dairi certification. The organization today is the same as in the past and one can instruct in place of the headmaster, currently Tokimune Sensei. This qualification is called either kyoju dairi or dairi kyoju.

Mastering The *Goshinyo No Te* To Become Kyoju Dairi

So if a person has received the kyoju dairi certification it means he has trained a great deal. What are the training requirements for receiving this qualification?

One of the standards for receiving this certification is a knowledge of the goshinyo no te (self-defense) techniques. If a person has been taught through the goshinyo no te techniques, he may be awarded the kyoju dairi certification. In my case, I was taught the goshinyo no te techniques and received the kyoju dairi in 1974.

I believe there are several steps before reaching the goshinyo no te, so I would imagine that the goshinyo no te techniques are of a fairly high level.

Yes. The first techniques one learns are the 118 techniques of the hiden mokuroku (secret transmission scroll), and the next level includes the 53 aiki no jutsu techniques (omote and ura), the 36 hiden ogi techniques (omote and ura), the Daito-ryu Aiki Nito-ryu Hiden techniques, and finally the 84 techniques of goshinyo no te (jo, chu, ge/upper, middle, and lower). Kyoju dairi certifications were usually awarded after these techniques had been learned, but some of the teachers who received the kyoju dairi did not learn them all.

“There are quite a few people who received the kyoju dairi during Sokaku Takeda’s time. Morihei Ueshiba Sensei was one of them. Also, there were Kotaro Yoshida Sensei, Kodo Horikawa Sensei, Toshimi Matsuda Sensei, Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei; altogether a total of 18 people received the kyoju dairi from Sokaku Sensei. The kyoju dairi qualification is solely concerned with being able to teach on behalf of the headmaster. Therefore, receiving the kyoju dairi qualification means that a person may begin giving instruction as the representative of Sokaku Sensei or Tokimune Sensei.”

The Highest Level: Menkyo Kaiden

What about the menkyo kaiden? Is it a much higher level than kyoju dairi?

The menkyo kaiden means, as is indicated by the characters used, that all of the knowledge has been transmitted to the receiver, that everything [in the system] has been taught. In Daito-ryu, we have the kaishaku soden level which includes 477 techniques. After that one learns the menkyo kaiden techniques. There are 88 menkyo kaiden techniques.

People may think there are only two levels from the goshinyo no te to the kaishaku soden and then the menkyo kaiden techniques. However, in addition, there is another important body of knowledge in Daito-ryu — all of the Daito-ryu secrets. I can’t express these in a few words, but they are something fundamentally important to Daito-ryu. In my case, it took 14 years to go the two steps from goshinyo no te to kaiden.

Who received the menkyo kaiden from Sokaku Takeda?

Two people, Masao Tonedate and Takuma Hisa, received the menkyo kaiden from Sokaku Takeda.

And you are the only person to have received the menkyo kaiden from Tokimune Takeda Sensei?

Yes. I was awarded the kyoju dairi in 1974, but there was a man named Shimpachi Suzuki who received the kyoju dairi earlier. Since Shimpachi Suzuki Sensei’s death I have been the only person to hold the kyoju dairi certification. Consequently, I am the only one to currently have been awarded the kyoju dairi and menkyo kaiden.

The Next Headmaster

I mentioned this earlier, but I believe that this is an important transitional phase for the Daitokan. This is due to the status of the headmaster’s health and I believe a number of things have been misunderstood.

Munemitsu Takeda, the younger brother and student of the headmaster, sent a notice this April to the heads of branch dojos and people connected with Daito-ryu to the effect that he had become headmaster. In response to this, the Daitokan published an announcement indicating that Mr. Takeda had acted on his own and did not represent the Daitokan in the Japanese-language edition of * Aiki News 89*. Has the Daitokan taken any other measures in this regard?

I am one of the directors of the Daito-ryu headquarters and if I may be permitted to speak on its behalf, it is not necessary for it to respond or deal with this matter in any way. Mr. Takeda has unilaterally declared himself the headmaster. The Daito-ryu headmaster preserves the techniques perfected by both Sokaku Takeda and Tokimune Takeda, and both of Tokimune’s children Nobuko Yokoyama and Kyoko Oshima and their children should succeed Sokaku Sensei, who was the inheritor of the Takeda family tradition of Daito-ryu. So we have no further comment on this matter and we don’t consider it to be a particular problem.

Did Munemitsu Takeda learn Daito-ryu from Sokaku Takeda?

I don’t know about that since I wasn’t there, but according to the headmaster, Mr. Takeda learned a little from Tokimune Sensei and merely observed Sokaku Sensei’s techniques. From what I understand he didn’t actually train with Sokaku Sensei.

To go back a little, when the problem of the selection of the next headmaster emerged, there was a rumor that you yourself wished to become the next headmaster.

It seems that there were quite a few rumors! One of the rumors was that I would become the next headmaster and I also heard a rumor circulating that I had purchased the right to become the next headmaster. I think that this misunderstanding arose when I became the soke dairi as a result of the mistaken idea that being soke dairi was equal to becoming the next headmaster. The role of soke dairi is strictly to act on behalf of the headmaster and therefore he cannot become a successor.

I don’t want there to be any mistake about this point, but when I became the kyoju dairi of the headmaster, it was my intention to serve as his protector. In other words, it was all right for me to become the villain and I took on the role of scapegoat. As a result, I think some people came to fear me. My intention was to improve the Daito-ryu organization and Daito-ryu itself.

Therefore, while continuing to be a kyoju dairi and now that I have been selected to serve as soke dairi, the thankless role I have played so far will change due to the fact that the headmaster is in poor health. I don’t think that the Daito-ryu organization in Japan can unite if I continue to act as a scapegoat. Up until now everyone has called me “Devil Kondo,” but I would like to exert myself to the point that people will one day call me “Buddha Kondo” [laughter].

I think that I am entirely to blame for the fact that people have believed that I will become the next headmaster. However, since I would like to discharge my duties as soke dairi out of loyalty to the headmaster and in return for his kindnesses, I would like to ask for everyone’s cooperation.

“The menkyo kaiden means, as is indicated by the characters used, that all of the knowledge has been transmitted to the receiver, that everything [in the system] has been taught. In Daito-ryu, we have the kaishaku soden level which includes 477 techniques. After that one learns the menkyo kaiden techniques. There are 88 menkyo kaiden techniques. Two people, Masao Tonedate and Takuma Hisa, received the menkyo kaiden from Sokaku Takeda.”

Saigo-Ha Editorial

I wrote an editorial critical of Saigo-ha Daito-ryu Aikibujutsu group in Kyushu in the Japanese-language edition Aiki News 89. The most problematic point for me as a historian was the chart which appeared in a magazine article tracing a continuous Daito-ryu lineage in the Aizu clan from Tanomo Saigo, through Shiro Saigo, to a certain Yamashita Shihan and finally up to the present Sogawa Shihan. The reason I published this critical essay was that the chart was unconvincing to me as a researcher of Daito-ryu history. Would you give us your opinion on this subject as the soke dairi of the main school of Daito-ryu?

Your comments criticizing the Saigo-ha school in Aiki News 89 are correct. I was impressed with your research into the subject.

Properly speaking, there is no connection whatever between the Saigo-ha and Daito-ryu schools. They should not call themselves Daito-ryu because there is no relationship at all between Daito-ryu and the version of history they are offering.

In the article at the center of the controversy there is a photo of Sogawa Sensei together with Tokimune Takeda Sensei. Was there some relationship in the past between him and Tokimune Sensei?

Mr. Sogawa, whose group has been using the name Daito-ryu, was asked why he was doing this when the headmaster went to Kyushu. At that time he told the headmaster he wanted to enroll as a student. The headmaster taught him one or two techniques with the idea that it would be all right for him to use the name if he enrolled. A photo was taken at that time which I believe was when the headmaster taught at Yahata University in 1984.

Future Direction Of Daito-Ryu

Please tell us about your future hopes for Daito-ryu, which has a continuous tradition extending from Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu to the present, and the direction in which Daito-ryu should move forward as you see it from your position as soke dairi.

That’s a really difficult question. I would have to consult with the headmaster too, so please consider what I say as my personal thoughts.

Naturally, I would like to hand down the original Daito-ryu to posterity. For example, I think that one way of approaching this is to spread the art to many people, while another is to stress quality and limit the number of people having access to the art. I think the headmaster prefers the latter approach.

I am now building a dojo for uchideshi in Koshimoda, in the Toi region of Shizuoka from which Mt. Fuji is clearly visible. My idea is to hand down authentic Daito-ryu by adopting the uchideshi system in a healthy environment. Based on my experience so far I don’t think the authentic art will survive unless I do this. Foreigners will be welcome there too.

So far Daito-ryu is not particularly well-known abroad, but Daito-ryu instructors from schools other than the Daitokan have been active in various places. What are your ideas about future activities of the Daitokan abroad?

There is something that concerns me about this question. It sounds like the Daitokan is one school within Daito-ryu. But the Daitokan is the name of the headquarters dojo of the Daito-ryu organization, so I hope there will be no misunderstanding on this point.

The headmaster Tokimune Takeda appointed Yoshimi Tomabechi as the director of the overseas instruction staff on September 10, 1988 and on the same day I was appointed director of the overseas headquarters. The headmaster wanted Mr. Tomabechi and me to organize our overseas activities.

Naturally, it is possible that Daito-ryu will be spread abroad in the future. Requests are now coming in from many foreign countries. At the present time, a number of foreigners are training at Daito-ryu branch dojos and I think it is no longer possible to ignore overseas affairs.

The headmaster’s policy is to grant authorization to open branch dojos to persons who have been awarded a minimum of 3rd dan.

Are there any foreign practitioners who have reached that rank?

The headmaster has awarded a 3rd dan to Mr. Alain Floquet of France. There are also many foreigners training at branch dojos, and there are people from the United States, Australia, Canada, and other countries training at my dojo. I look forward to the future.

Katsuyuki Kondo Profile

Born in Tokyo in 1945. First learned Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu from Tsunejiro Hosono and Kotaro Yoshida. Later studied under current headmaster Tokimune Takeda. Awarded the kyoju dairi certification in 1974, and appointed soke dairi in 1988. An authority on swordsman calligrapher Tesshu Yamaoka. Currently operates Shimbukan dojo in Tokyo.

Watch Katsuyuki Kondo’s comprehensive Daito-ryu instructional series on Aikido Journal TV now.

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