Aikido Journal has been a leading source for historical information on the martial art of aikido for over 40 years. Stanley Pranin, our founder, dedicated much of his life to researching and documenting the story of aikido.
As the new executive editor of the journal, I don’t bring the historical knowledge to the community that Stanley did. In light of this, after taking the helm at Aikido Journal, we developed partnerships and worked on projects in collaboration with other leaders in the community who have high levels of domain expertise in the history of the art.
I’m pleased to publish this new research piece on the connection between Hisa Takuma and Kobayashi Hirokazu, by Guillaume Erard. This new research clarifies and expands on prior reporting published by Aikido Journal. I’m impressed with Guillaume extensive research on this topic and I’m very proud of André Cognard’s example of leadership by openly acknowledging prior errors in older communications, contributing new information to the story, and expressing gratitude for Guillaume’s research efforts.
I’m pleased to see how leaders in disparate parts of the aikido community can come together to tell the story of our Budo arts in the most complete and accurate way as possible to serve future generations.
If you’d like to read an expanded version of Guillaume’s research on this topic, you can do so here.
Executive Editor, Aikido Journal
“I salute Mr. Erard’s investigative work on this project. One can only bow in the face of such evidence. I thank him for opening this door to dialogue.” – André Cognard
Some time ago, Aikido Journal published excerpts from an email exchange between the late Stanley Pranin and André Cognard, who leads an independent Aikido group in Europe. The article highlights an unknown connection between Mr Cognard’s teacher, Kobayashi Hirokazu, who was a post-war Aikido student of Ueshiba Morihei, and Hisa Takuma, who learned Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu from Ueshiba at the Osaka Asahi Newspaper in the early thirties. This publication caught my attention because I am a student of both Aikido at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo and of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu in a line that carries on the Asahi Newspaper’s teachings. In this article, I would like to offer additional background on this connection and examine the conclusions that can reasonably be drawn from the facts at our disposal, some of which may differ slightly from what has been published here so far.
First, this post-war connection is true and it is in fact pretty common knowledge among the Daito-ryu practitioners of the Kansai area. So though not novel, it is very valuable to bring its existence to the attention of the public since it shows that Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu and Aikido share extensive common history, and that some of their respective groups stayed in active contact well after the end of practice at the Asahi Journal in the late thirties, and the more or less formal split between Ueshiba Morihei and his teacher Takeda Sokaku.
One instance where my conclusions might differ slightly from what has been published so far lies in Kobayashi Hirokazu’s actual role as an instructor. Mr. Cognard previously suggested that his teacher was a Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Shihan in charge of Daito-ryu in the Kansai area. The point was also referenced in the letter he wrote to Stanley, and interestingly, he cited as converging evidence an article that I had published on my own website – an interview that Olivier Gaurin and I had previously made with our own Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu instructor, Kobayashi Kiyohiro, who is an 8th Dan Kyoju Dairi instructor and one of the top students of Hisa Takuma. I remember that at the time we did this interview, the mentioning of Kobayashi Hirokazu peaked my curiosity and I can see how Mr. Cognard would too have been particularly interested to hear about his teacher when he read this interview. However, based on the interview text alone, I don’t think we can conclude that Kobayashi Hirokazu had been a Daito-ryu Shihan:
The technical director [of Aikido] for Kansai was [Ueshiba] Kisshomaru Sensei but the club was still under the supervision of Hisa Takuma Sensei. It is Hisa Sensei who asked Kobayashi Hirokazu Sensei to be the Aikikai person in charge of the club since in the past, Kobayashi had studied with Takuma Sensei. So that is how everything got arranged. The club became an Aikido club and everybody switched from Daito-ryu to Aikido.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro – Interview with Kobayashi Kiyohiro, Manager of the Takumakai by Guillaume Erard and Olivier Gaurin , October 2011
After the war, Kobayashi Hirokazu spent several years in Tokyo studying Aikido at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo while working as a lacquerer. After returning to Osaka in 1954, he set himself up as a professional Aikido instructor and he even received the visit of Ueshiba Morihei on several occasions. As an official representative of the Aikikai in Osaka, he was under the tutelage of Ueshiba Kisshomaru, who was Director of the Aikido World Headquarters. Kobayashi Hirokazu was subsequently asked by Hisa to turn the Momoyama Gakuin University Club into an Aikido club so that it could be incorporated to the Kansai Student Aikido Federation, since no such thing existed for Daito-ryu.
Therefore, the club became totally separated both technically and administratively from Hisa’s Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu group. In the same interview, Kobayashi Kiyohiro states the following:
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 [i.e. Hisa Takuma’s dojo, and the Momoyama Gakuin University Aikido Club, respectively].
Kobayashi Kiyohiro – Interview with Kobayashi Kiyohiro, Manager of the Takumakai by Guillaume Erard and Olivier Gaurin, October 2011
This confirms that the practice under Kobayashi Hirokazu at Momoyama Gakuin University was totally distinct from that of Hisa Takuma at the Kansai Aikido Club. I must mention that though the name suggests that Hisa’s club was an Aikido club, it actually held Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu classes. Hisa likely chose that name because the name Aiki-jujutsu was not well known and would not have drawn many students in. As a holder of a Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Menkyo Kaiden (certificate of full transmission) from Takeda Sokaku, Hisa was in fact only entitled to award Daito-ryu ranks, not Aikido.
It is also important to note that the Japanese are sometimes a little inconsistent in their use of terminology. For instance, Daito-ryu practitioner in Kansai do often use the term Aikido to refer to their practice, but it is in no way to refer to Ueshiba’s Aikido. This loose use of terms is of course often quite confusing and it could have been one of the elements that led Mr. Cognard to assume that his teacher was in charge of Daito-ryu in Kansai.
In order to really find out what Kobayashi Kiyohiro had in mind when he said that Kobayashi Hirokazu learned from Hisa, I went back to ask him to clarify. He replied the following:
He [Kobayashi Hirokazu] learned some [Daito-ryu from Hisa] but it was only for a brief period though.
Kobayashi Kiyohiro – Interview with Kobayashi Kiyohiro by Guillaume Erard, August 2018
Kobayashi Kiyohiro made it clear once again that technically, the Daito-ryu of Hisa and the Aikido of Kobayashi Hirokazu were different. In fact, as far as similarities that exist between Daito-ryu and Aikido, Kobayashi Kiyohiro often tends to mention Shioda Gozo’s Yoshinkan as the closest thing to what he did with Hisa.
In order to get the most complete picture possible, I decided to get further information from the Aikido side, via people who had been actual students of Kobayashi Hirokazu in Kansai at the time. I talked to Kimura Jiro Shihan, who is an 8th Dan Aikido instructor based in Osaka, and the successor of Kobayashi Hirokazu in Japan. Here is what Kimura Sensei told me when I asked him whether his teacher learned formally from Hisa:
Rather than learning from him he must have seen some techniques and used them as reference.
Kimura Jiro – Interview with Kimura Jiro part 2 by Guillaume Erard, August 2018
During our conversation, Kimura Sensei went on to confirm that there was no evidence to suggest that Kobayashi Hirokazu ever took part in the training at the Kansai Aikido Club, let alone that he was a Shihan in the art, or in charge of Daito-ryu in the Kansai area or anywhere else. Interestingly, when I visited Kimura Shihan’s office, I noticed that he had in his bookshelf a copy of the Soden, which is a technical book compiled by Hisa to document the Daito-ryu techniques that he learned from Ueshiba Morihei and Takeda Sokaku at the Asahi Newspaper. I asked Kimura Sensei whether he was familiar with the material contained in the book and he replied that he had never studied it, and that all he knew were the parts of it that were performed by Mori Hakaru Sensei (the current director of the Takumakai) and others senor instructors during demonstrations. Interestingly, he kept referring to the fact that he saw many demonstrations of Daito-ryu, but never mentioned taking part in any class.
We see that there seems to be a consensus between authorities from both Daito-ryu and Aikido, but just in case, I decided to inquire to two other direct students of Hisa from the Kansai Aikido Club era and they respectively stated the following:
Hirokazu Kobayashi is not a student of Hisa. He isn’t Takumakai.
Personal communication with one of the Hisa Takuma’s senior students of the Kansai Aikido Club, August 2018
I can’t imagine that Hirokazu Kobayashi was exposed enough to Daito ryu. He just took care of Kiyohiro Kobayashi and Takeshi Kawabe’s Aikido club as one of his Aikido branch dojo and taught them Aikido.
Personal communication with another of the Hisa Takuma’s senior students of the Kansai Aikido Club, August 2018
The story so far
To summarize, yes, Kobayashi Hirokazu may have picked up some techniques from Hisa Sensei at some point, but it was for a short period and probably rather informally. Considering the extensiveness of the Daito-ryu curriculum, and the time that it takes to master it, it is unlikely that Kobayashi Hirokazu would have learned sufficiently to be allowed to teach. On the other hand, Hisa was actually well known for his tendency to teach either “Aikido style” or “Daito-ryu style”, depending on the context and the audience. Kobayashi Hirokazu being a student of O-Sensei and an official representative of the Aikikai, one can suspect that Hisa might have showed him material that was concurrent with that of O-Sensei. This way of adapting the material taught to each student is actually quite common with Daito-ryu teachers.
From my point of view as a student of both Aikido and Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, I personally see much more post-war Aikido than Daito-ryu in the techniques of Kobayashi Hirokazu available on video. Several instructors from different Daito-ryu schools have told me the same. Of course, it is of rather limited value to judge such things based on videos, but I was recently invited to teach in a European dojo founded by senior students of Kobayashi Hirokazu and I got the same impression when I practiced with them. This feeling was reinforced when I participated in training in Osaka under Kimura Shihan. It is undeniable however that there are quite interesting, but discrete elements in the practice of Kobayashi Hirokazu and his students, and some of those are reminiscent of Daito-ryu. All of this of course makes sense given that the connection did exist, but those elements only make a small part of their practice and as far as I can tell, they do not seem to be organized and interconnected in the way they are in Daito-ryu techniques.
As someone with an interest for Aikido history, and especially the Asahi Shinbun period, I feel that it is important to paint the most accurate picture possible in the light of the evidence at our disposal. It is a truly essential period for the development of Aikido and it deserves careful study and measured interpretation of the facts. I would like to make it clear that this article is not meant as an attack on Mr. Cognard, nor a criticism of his legitimacy as a teacher. By all accounts, he is a very competent instructor and his school is well regarded. I would in fact like to thank him for providing feedback on this topic (below) and helping to further clarify some of the details. Indeed, I feel that Mr. Cognard’s particular lineage might bear some additional elements of answer to the question of what makes Aikido its own thing, and what are the key elements of distinction from Daito-ryu.
I have described here the evidence that I had, and provided my own interpretations. I will be happy to reconsider my own conclusions and stand corrected if any new or contradictory evidence is brought forward. I will edit this article accordingly as further evidence is made available, feel free to point to it or discuss it in the comment section below.
A Note from André Cognard
“I can only recognize that the research conducted by Mr. Erard demonstrates that the relations between Kobayashi Hirokazu sensei and Daito-ryu were relatively superficial. His demonstration has convinced me. However, I wish to say that what I said was based on what Kobayashi sensei directly told me. Kobayashi sensei often told me that he held Daito-ryu in high esteem and that, as an Aikidoka, it was fitting that we ‘look to them as well’.
On the assumption that Master Kobayashi was an expert and Shihan of Daito-ryu, I might have extrapolated from the meeting I mentioned in the interview with Stanley Pranin. At an event with Master Tokimune Takeda, he told me aside, Sensei having left us for a few minutes while we were having diner together, that he was a great expert of Daito-ryu. Regarding Kobayashi sensei’s supposed “expertise”, judging from Mr. Erard’s evidence, it was probably a eulogy on the qualities of my master to the young student I was. My enthusiasm at that time probably made me take for face value what was actually just a courtesy from master Tokimune Takeda.
Regarding the fact that Kobayashi sensei learned from Takuma Hisa and the intensity of this study, I must say this: Kobayashi sensei was a man with a superior intelligence and his psychomotor skills were out of the ordinary. Maybe he did not study Daito-ryu extensively, but he had an exceptional ability to understand and assimilate with ease what he saw. I can only conclude that he turned to a great advantage the little he saw.
Concerning the fact that nothing in Kimura Shihan’s aikido shows traces suggesting links with Daito-ryu. Kimura Shihan is a friend. We communicate regularly and I hold him in high regard, especially for his integrity. Very often, he tells me that he does not practice Kobayashi sensei’s aikido, that is not suited to his morphology. He practices his own aikido. You just need to watch videos of both of them to see this. So, if we look for some traces of Daito-ryu in Kobayashi sensei’s pupils, we have to look somewhere else.
I salute Mr. Erard’s investigative work.One can only bow in the face of such evidence. I thank him for opening this door to dialogue.”
– André Cognard