“A doctored photo? What do you think?”
Take a look at this highly unusual photo of Sokaku Takeda, disseminator of Daito-ryu jujutsu and teacher of Morihei Ueshiba. First, allow me to provide some background information. This photo was taken about 1939 in Osaka, probably at the Asahi News dojo, during the period when Sokaku was teaching Daito-ryu to employees of the newspaper.
The Asahi dojo had an interesting background. Its first instructor was none other than Morihei Ueshiba from 1933-1936, and then Sokaku Takeda from 1936-1939. Sokaku took over instruction duties at the Asahi dojo under rather strange circumstances which you can read more about here. Several of the few surviving photos of Sokaku were taken in Osaka because the trainees had access to the facilities and equipment of the newspaper, one of Japan’s largest.
Now let’s examine the photo itself. Sokaku has raised a student onto his shoulders prior to executing a twisting throw characteristic to Daito-ryu. The photo appears posed as Sokaku is stiff-legged and standing still. Also, notice that the body of the student appears to be supported by Sokaku’s outstretched arms. Sokaku’s extended right arm is clearly visible while his left hand seems to be supporting the student’s right leg. But perhaps the most condemning detail is the fact that the student is gazing leisurely into the camera and seems quite undistressed in this position. Believe me, if Sokaku were actually applying the technique, uke would be in extreme pain!
The odd part of the photo is that the student’s body appears rigid as if supported by something beneath him other than Sokaku’s extended arms. Is there a platform of some sort being used to allow Sokaku to hold this position for the time necessary to frame and shoot the photo? Is Sokaku aware of all that is going on and cooperating in a staged event? It seems out of character for this to be the case. It’s certainly a tantalizing subject and probably one we’ll never find an answer to.
Realize, too, that at this point in time Sokaku has given out the only two Daito-ryu Menkyo Kaiden to two Asahi News dojo members: Takuma Hisa and Masao Tonedate. This represents a break from historical precedent within this famous jujutsu school. It seems that the Menkyo Kaiden certification did not exist in the Daito-ryu tradition prior to this time.
We know that Sokaku considered the Asahi dojo to be important and an excellent means of extending his reach to a larger audience due to the considerable means and influence of the newspaper. Was he perhaps convinced of the desirability of awarding such a diploma to Asahi members to benefit the art, or perhaps in some way rewarded?
In any event, let me invite Aikido Journal readers to have a close look at the photo and give us your take on what may have actually transpired at the time this rare image was taken.