Interview with Hisa Takuma, Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Menkyo Kaiden

The following interview with Takuma Hisa was conducted by Stanley Pranin on April 14th, 1979 at his home in Nishi Ogikubo, Tokyo. Hisa was a student of Ueshiba Morihei, and subsequently Takeda Sokaku1 in the 30s in Osaka. He received the menkyo kaiden2 in 1939 from Takeda and was promoted to the 8th dan Aikido by Ueshiba Morihei in 1956. Because Hisa passed away shortly after this interview, Pranin was unable to conduct a follow up. I decided to go back to the original Japanese version, which contained a number of supplemental materials, and included them here to help understand the context better. I have also added a number of notes to clarify some points and reflect the most up-to-date information that we have at our disposal regarding this key period in Aikido’s history.

Would you please describe how you first came to study aikijujutsu under Ueshiba Sensei?

Well, newspapers must reflect the society in which they exist. In the politics of those days there were many so-called political alliances and when these groups did things that were out-of-line, the newspapers would criticize them. Such an article was published in the Asahi journal3 and in response, several members of the Seiyukai4 went wild and attempted to burn the newspaper’s offices. Therefore, the newspaper had to protect itself. We put up defensive measures such as electrified wires5.

In 1932, I was in charge of tightening the security at the head offices of the Tokyo Asahi News. In recognition of my work, and despite my youth6, I was promoted to a top post at the Osaka office. Then, the top man in Tokyo, Mr. Mitsujiro Ishii7, who was chairman of the Physical Education Society, introduced me to Ueshiba Sensei and told me that I should study under him. So I was basically ordered to learn from Ueshiba Sensei and the company paid for it.

On March of Showa third (1928) when the Imperial princess Hisanomiya passed away, there was an incident occasioned by a serious slip of the pen due to the proofreader’s mistake. The government officials and people from the Seiyukai along with Right Wing men flocked to the office, threatened the guards with pistols, broke into the factory and poured  emery powder onto the printing machines. I was ordered by Chief Ishii to handle this situation and guard the place. In the end, the group of rioters left and the whole mess came to an end. It seems like the Asahi newspaper company in Osaka was having trouble dealing with the violent threats from the Seiyukai and the Right Wing too. In the spring of Showa 7th (1932), when Mr. Yasushige Naganoda from the general affairs retired, the important position was given to me, a mere 33-year-old man.
Hisa Takuma – « My curriculum vitae (私の履歴書より) »

Ishii Mitsujiro at the Kansai Aikido Club in 1962. Hisa is kneeling on the right.

How long did you study under Ueshiba Sensei?

Ueshiba Sensei came to Osaka around 1933, and we studied with him for about three years. He taught us seated techniques first, then seated techniques against standing attacks and finally, standing techniques8. I was young and very busy back then, so I would get up around five o’clock each morning and practice for two or three hours. After every practice we would take photographs of all the techniques. These were the photos that were collected in the Soden9.

The complete set of Soden

Who shot these photos?

We did it ourselves. After all, we were a newspaper so we had the means to do it. We took the film, too10.

Even in the busiest hours, I made sure to stay in good shape by practicing Sumo and Judo. Mr. Ishii had strongly recommended this type of Jujutsu called Aiki-jutsu, so I spent a good deal of time practicing this martial art which specialized in reverse-locking technique with Ueshiba Morihei. I was the type a person that went deep into things, so I went as far as inviting Mr. Ueshiba’s students to my house to eat, sleep, and train together. Simply training was not enough for me at that point and I was determined to pass this art on to the next generation, so I started taking photos of each techniques and adding captions to them. I also wanted to film the whole thing, so I asked for help from the photography club and was able to create a movie with me as the director.
Hisa Takuma – « My curriculum vitae (私の履歴書より) »

Were the photos of Ueshiba Sensei himself or of the students?

The students.

Do you recall any of their names?

Yes, I do. They were Yoshimura Yoshiteru, Kawazoe Kuniyoshi, and Nakatsu Heizaburo11. There are eleven volumes in the Soden. I compiled nine of them. Volumes 1-6 contain what we learned from Ueshiba Sensei, and the others are what we learned from Takeda Sensei. At the end of the lesson, Takeda Sensei used to take a bath12 and during this time, the students would return to the dojo and take all the pictures. I gathered them all and made them into a book of 11 volumes13.

Excerpt from Volume 6 showing Nakatsu Heizaburo performing the advanced techniques taught by Ueshiba Morihei.

Was Takeda Sensei aware that the students were taking photos?

I suppose not. But, he did say to me, “Bon-san14, I want you to pass this budo on to future generations.” That’s one reason why I made the photographic record and took films15. In his newsletter, Daito-ryu Aiki-budo, the headmaster16 said, “I am thankful for this record of Daito-ryu. My father, too, would no doubt be pleased.”

Even Sokaku who was known for his strong will and spirit was worried about the future of Daito-ryu, so he chose Hisa Takuma (who had full mastery in Daito-ryu) as his successor and assistant. The diploma and scroll given to Hisa were written by the calligrapher Ooiso Sesshu in front of Sokaku and Tokimune at Hasegawa Yoshiro’s house. Sokaku and Tokimune brought the diploma and the scroll and took a picture with Hisa’s Osaka Asahi News group.
Takeda Tokimune – Daito-kan Information Letter (April 1979)

Formal photo of Takeda Sokaku and Hisa Takuma (1939). The latter shows his diploma of menkyo kaiden.

Hisa wrote many books about Aikido starting with Kannagara no Budo in 1940, and 40 years later with the help of the Nippon Budokan, a film about Hisa’s martial arts demonstration was made at Osaka Asahi News company. Then Hisa made an appearance at a martial art event, demonstrating the Daito-ryu for the first time17. Forty years ago when Takeda Sokaku chose Hisa among thousands of his students as his successor, he had proven that he had the wisdom and power to see into the future. I believe this itself is the true essence of Aiki-budo. I am sure that the late Sokaku is indeed very proud and pleased with Hisa’s accomplishments.
Takeda Tokimune – Daito-kan Information Letter (April 1979)

A film directed by Nippon Budokan in the late 1970s featuring Daito-ryu, Hisa Takuma, and detailing some of Soden’s techniques.

You certainly possess quite a lot of resources!

This is a manuscript I put out called Kannagara no Budo. It shows arrest techniques for use by police officers. This one here is called “Self-Defense Techniques for Women.”18.

Excerpt from Soden chapter 11 with special techniques for women (tori: Tokunaga Chiyoko, uke: Yoshimura Yoshiteru).

Looking at those documents, I see that they have been published and are neatly organized. You are not just a teacher, you are also a historian, aren’t you?

I thank you for showing such appreciation for my work

Have you any idea what became of the film you took at the Asahi News in Osaka?

I don’t know. It didn’t have a title on it. For convenience we just referred to it as “Asahi-ryu.”19

Many things happened and I was quite busy, and to be honest I had forgotten about the films that were made, but then recently I was contacted by an American named Stanley Pranin, who was doing a lot of research about Ueshiba’s Aikido. He had found the film, and came to show it to me so I could take a look. I cannot explain the shock I felt when I saw the words “Filmed by Asahi News company, director Hisa Takuma” appear. Soon I saw myself as a much younger man on the screen, and as I was watching with another student, Mr. Yonekawa, the two of us, now old and gray, giggled together as we watched the movie. It felt as if we were riding a time machine.
Hisa Takuma – « My curriculum vitae (私の履歴書より) »

Demonstration of Ueshiba Morihei at the Asahi Newspaper in 1935. The film is titled Budo and is directed by Hisa Takuma.

What were the circumstances of Sokaku Sensei going to Osaka?

He suddenly appeared at the reception office of the Osaka Asahi News and said, “I have heard that you are learning Aiki-jujutsu from Ueshiba. I haven’t taught him much20, so if you really want to learn, I’ll teach you.”

You mean Sokaku Sensei went to Asahi News on his own, not having been invited by anyone?

Yes, Sensei suddenly appeared, walking up to the front door with his staff in hand. He came all the way from Hokkaido, you know21.

At that time, all the security personnel at the Asahi News were pretty tough fellows holding at least fifth dan ranks in Judo22 and kendo. They were enthusiastic about Aiki-jujutsu, too, and practiced hard, so they progressed rapidly. They naturally absorbed nearly all the jujutsu23 Ueshiba taught them in a space of about two years.

Just when we were trying to decide what to do from then on, Sokaku Dai Sensei suddenly appeared out of nowhere, without any previous notice or invitation. He had a small physique, but his eyes were sharp and glaring, and he wore a dagger at his waist. And he walked jangling an iron staff in his right hand, the kind of staff a mountain ascetic might carry.

He called out, “Hello in there! Send out the Director of General Affairs. I am Ueshiba Morihei’s Aiki-jujutsu teacher, and my name is Takeda Sokaku. I hear that despite his inexperience, Morihei has been teaching Aiki-jujutsu here. I regard it as a matter of great importance for the honor of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu if poor techniques are taught at the Asahi News, under the eyes of the whole world. So I’ve come from Hokkaido as quickly as I could.” And holding his sword high overhead he said emphatically, “We begin the lesson at once!” Of course, we had already heard from Ueshiba Sensei that he had learned techniques known as Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu from a teacher called Takeda Sokaku, but it was difficult to believe that this small old man24 was that person. In any case, we invited him into the dojo and treated him politely. Eventually we were able to find out more details and he demonstrated some Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu techniques on some of the strong fellows who had been training under Ueshiba Sensei.

Ueshiba Sensei was always accompanied by three or four of his personal students whom he would use as his practice partners when he demonstrated25. But Takeda Sensei didn’t have a single student with him and always demonstrated his techniques using anyone who was brave enough to step forward. He didn’t have anyone with him that time either, so the strong students scrambled one after another to attack him. He sent them flying like he was twisting the wrists of babies, pinning them so thoroughly that they couldn’t even cry out for mercy. Everyone had been absorbed in Ueshiba’s beautiful techniques, but right then we became completely fascinated by the strong techniques of this old master. Just as Benkei26 had done when he pledged his loyal service to Ushiwakamaru27, every person there immediately bowed low at Sensei’s feet and asked to become his student.
Excerpt from Hisa Takuma’s manuscript “From Aiki-jujutsu to Aikido (合気柔術から合気道へ)”

After that you learned directly from Takeda Sensei?

No matter how many times Sokaku Sensei said he would teach me, I couldn’t believe it was true. It was unbelievable. At the time I was the Director of the General Affairs section and leader of all those sturdy fellows. I didn’t mention my position to Takeda Sensei, however, and instead placed myself at the back of the line. What Sokaku taught was incomparably rougher than what we had learned from Ueshiba, and I thought, “This is the real thing.” But at that point it was too late to go up and tell him my name. So Takeda Sensei always called me “Bon-san” instead of using my name.

When you were learning Daito-ryu, did you practice using weapons such as the sword or staff?

Ueshiba Sensei did that sort of thing, but I never learned any of it. I only learned empty-handed techniques.

How about from Sokaku Takeda Sensei?

From him as well I only learned empty-handed arts. However, apart from that I also received instruction in the Aiki sword and Nito-ryu28.

Did Takeda Sensei ever use the sword or staff when he was teaching empty-handed techniques?

He was most skilled with the sword. As you may know, the Meiji Restoration created quite a surplus a swordsmen, so if they wanted to make money to live they had to switch to teaching empty-handed arts instead. Takeda Sensei was such a person.

Takeda Sokaku at the Asahi newspaper (c.1936)

How long did you study under Takeda Sensei?

About two or three years. However, he asked me how long I had studied with Ueshiba and when I answered, “Three years,” he said, “Well, in that case you can skip the beginning levels and I’ll start teaching you from the intermediate level.”29

One year later, you were certified as an instructor30 by Sokaku Sensei. That was fast, wasn’t it?

Well, I’m sure it was because I had spent those three years under Ueshiba Sensei developing a basic foundation. I learned from Morihei Sensei for over three years, but I didn’t get a license from him31.

Excerpt from Takeda Sokaku’s eimeiroku showing that Hisa Takuma received the title of kyoju dairi on October 1, 1936.

Three or four years later, Tomiki Kenji32 recommended me to receive a rank, saying that I was the best among all the aikidoka, so Ueshiba Sensei awarded me an eighth dan33.

Hisa Takuma receiving the 8th dan Aikido from the hands of Ueshiba Morihei at the Hombu Dojo, in 1956 in the presence of Ueshiba Kisshomaru.

How many students were there when Takeda Sensei was teaching?

Five or six.

What were his tuition fees like?

He didn’t really ask for much. There was a system for it. When you practiced you wrote your name in an enrollment book and put your seal on it34. He certainly didn’t charge an unreasonable amount. Actually, he was disinterested in such things.

Excerpt from Takeda Sokaku’s shareiroku dated December 4, 1936. The students are: Tonedate Masao (刀林館 正雄), Hisa Takuma (久 琢磨), Harada Jozaburo (原田 女三郎), Yoshimura Yoshiteru (吉村 義照), Nakatsu Heizaburo (中久 平三郎), Kono Tsuneo (河野 恒男), Akune Masayoshi (阿久 根政義), Kawazoe Kuniyoshi (河添 邦吉), Takahashi Jun’ichi (高橋 儀右衛門), Takahashi Koichi (高橋 顺一), and Kusumoto Koichiro (楠本 倖一郎).

When I met him in Osaka I took him to some of the more high-class restaurants, and he always insisted on tipping the waitress35. He said, “Bon-san, you can’t just use these girls for nothing, you know.” Also, he told me that whenever I visited someone else’s house I should always keep in mind some way to escape. He taught me a lot of things about the way of the warrior.

Later on, I had the chance to meet Takeda Sokaku, who is the true founder of this way, and I was extremely honored to become one of his last students. I received the menkyo kaiden in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu. I took all the teachings from Ueshiba Sensei and Takeda Sensei and recorded them in film, edited everything, separated them into 4 sections: shoden (初伝), chuden (中伝), okuden (奥伝), and hiden (秘伝), and created a total of 9 volumes of the Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu Soden Kyukan (大東流合気柔術総伝九巻) along with another volume called Hogi Hidden (捕技秘伝), which is geared towards police officers, and another additional volume named Josei Budo (女子武道), which shows techniques that can be used for womens’ self defense.
Hisa Takuma – « My curriculum vitae (私の履歴書より) »

Was there any sort of relationship between Takeda Sokaku and Kano Jigoro?

I’ve heard somewhere that they were both born in 186036. Takeda Sensei said at the time that Kano was turning Jujutsu into a “way.” He said that while doing that was fine, he had forgotten the old-style Jujutsu37.

As far as I can tell, just like Kano Sensei had decided to ban the traditional yet dangerous Jujitsu techniques such as the reverse locking technique and the atemi waza38, and introduce normal throwing techniques and groundwork/pinning techniques as part of a P.E curriculum for male students while applying educational sportsmanship, Ueshiba Sensei also decided to decrease the number of reverse locking techniques which is the quintessence of the Daito-ryu, making Aiki nage the main techniques, and modifying it in order to make it more suitable for the general public.
Excerpt from Hisa Takuma’s manuscript “From Aiki-jujutsu to Aikido (合気柔術から合気道へ)”

I did not have much information on this topic so far, so I really learned a lot today. Thank you so much.

After so much time, if you have someone who tells you the truth, it’s precious.

Footnotes

  1. Takeda Sokaku (武田 惣角, 1859 – 1943), the man who introduced Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu to the public, and Ueshiba Morihei’s own teacher.
  2. The menkyo kaiden (免許皆伝) is a document certifying that a teacher taught all of the knowledge of a particular school to his pupil.
  3. The Asahi Shinbun (朝日新聞), lit. Rising Sun Newspaper is one of the main newspapers in Japan, but its editorial line is historically a little more towards the political left than other comparable newspapers
  4. Rikken Seiyukai (立憲政友会, lit. Constitutional Association of Political Friendship) was one of the main conservative political parties of the pre-war Japanese Empire. It often opposed social reforms and supported bureaucratic control and militarism. The party became part of the Taisei Yokusankai (大政翼賛会, lit. Imperial Authority Support Association) in 1940, a political structure established to create a one-party, totalitarian party within the Empire of Japan.
  5. Indeed, the liberal position of the newspaper is said to have caused a vandalism incident on February 19, 1936, as well as repeated attacks from the right throughout this period. Note that the newspaper would however adopt a much more supportive line towards the government and its military action starting from the late 30s.
  6. Hisa was 37 years old in 1932.
  7. Ishii Mistujiro (石井 光次郎) was one of the Japanese politicians who founded the Liberal Democratic Party. He served as Deputy Prime Minister from May 20, 1957 to June 12, 1958.
  8. This is the classic progression system of Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutusu. In the text published in Japanese, it is interesting to note that Hisa refers to these stages in the progression with the terms usually employed in Aikido, i.e.: suwari waza (座技), hanmi handachi waza (半身半立技) and tachi waza (立技), rather than those generally used in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu, i.e.: idori (居捕), hanza handachi (半座半立), and tachiai (立合), respectively. I do not know whether those are the actual words he uttered or if it is an editorial decision made by Stanley Pranin to make it easier for aikidoka to understand. However, Hisa did use the same terminology in his book Kannagara No Budo, so I lean towards the first hypothesis.
  9. The Soden (総伝) is a photographic collection listing the techniques taught by Ueshiba Morihei and then Takeda Sokaku, at the Asahi News between 1933 and 1939. To learn more about Soden, you can read my article on the subject.
  10. Hisa refers to the famous demonstration of Ueshiba Morihei from 1935.
  11. Nakatsu Heizaburo (中久 平三郎, 1894 – 1960) went on to teach Daito-ryu in Shikoku. After his death, those joined Hisa’s students and created the Takumakai. You can learn more about Nakatsu Heizaburo here.
  12. It’s actually Hisa who took him there most of the times, which is probably te reason why he doesn’t appear in the photos.
  13. The menkyo kaiden scrolls that Hisa received in 1939 would have contained the exhaustive list of techniques taught by Takeda, but these were lost during the war, which makes these photos the only remaining vestige of the techniques taught at this time.
  14. Bon-san (ぼんさん) can be translated as “boy”.
  15. According to a story that circulates within the Takumakai, a video of Takeda Sokaku also exists.
  16. Hisa refers to Takeda Tokimune (武田 時宗, 1916 – 1993).
  17. Takeda Tokimune probably refers to the first time that Daito-ryu was included in the Nihon Kobudo Kyokai (日本古武道協会), which organizes a yearly demonstrations. Interestingly, it is at Hisa’s request that Tokimune’s group was also included, leading to an usual situation of two groups representing the same ryu-ha.
  18. Hisa is probably showing a set of diverse documents and photos to Pranin because in its final version, Kannagara no Budo does not contain the techniques for the police and women. Those are however found in volumes 10 and 11 of the Soden, respectively, as well as in a series of articles written by Hisa for Shin Budo magazine.
  19. The film was later found by Pranin, who was able to arrange a screening for Hisa before his death. The title was actually Budo.
  20. In fact, Takeda awarded the diploma of kyoju dairi (教授代理, lit. representative instructor) to Ueshiba in 1922, which was at the time the highest level sanctioned by him. At the time of Sokaku’s arrival in Osaka, the two men were in conflict because of the fact that Ueshiba taught independently, which his diploma did not allow. This may explain the critical connotation of Sokaku’s words towards his former student. This conflict is also the likely reason why Ueshiba left Osaka shortly after Takeda’s arrival, apparently without even having met him.
  21. This version is fundamentally different from the version Hisa gives in his article for Shin Budo published almost 40 years before this interview and where he suggests that it was actually he who decided to invite Morihei’s teacher to learn from him. I do not know whether Stanley Pranin was aware of this contradiction when he asked his question. Takeda Tokimune himself wrote a more complete version of the event in his biography of his father:

    The interest generated by the “Ima Bokuden” article reached as far as Osaka and in June, Sokaku received an invitation from the Osaka Asahi Newspaper. While he was staying upstairs in the house of his student Mr. Nagatani, some ten Judo and sword experts and Mr. Hisa Takuma, chief of the business section of the Asahi News came to visit him, having heard that the subject of the article in question had come to Osaka.”
    (No. 39 of the newsletter published by Daito-kan Dojo).

  22. For instance, Nakatsu Heizaburo was a 5th dan judoka from the Kodokan.
  23. Hisa refers here specifically to jujutsu, as if he wanted to emphasize the fact that Ueshiba taught them the basic levels of Daito-ryu, with Aiki-jujutsu being a higher level of practice.
  24. Sokaku was 77 years old when he arrived in Osaka, and he died just four years after the end of classes at the newspaper.
  25. These included Yonekawa Shigemi, Yukawa Tsutomu, Tomiki Kenji, Shirata Rinjiro, and Shioda Gozo. It should also be noted that the ukes in the 1935 video were all Tokyo students.
  26. Saito Musashibo Benkei (西塔武蔵坊弁慶, 1155 – 1189) was a warrior monk (sohei, 僧兵) who lived at the end of the Heian period (794–1185)
  27. Minamoto no Yoshitsune (源 義経, 1159 – 1189) was a military commander of the Japanese Minamoto clan at the end of the Heian period and the beginning of the Kamakura period. Benkei was defeated by Yoshitsune in a duel and as a result, he swore to serve him until death.
  28. This sentence is quite odd since the sword of Aiki (合気の剣, Aiki no Ken) is generally specifically attributed to Daito-ryu, and Ueshiba in particular. Nito-ryu (二刀流) could refer to Daito-ryu Aiki Nito-ryu Hiden (大東流合気二刀流), a part of the Daito-ryu curriculum that is specific to the Takumakai, but it  probably consists of empty-handed techniques performed as if one had two swords in hand, not of weapons techniques per se. The Takumakai does not emphasize the use of weapons and many of its senior instructors actually went to Hokkaido in order to learn the Ono-ha Itto-ryu techniques of Takeda Tokimune.
  29. This echoes what Hisa said about Ueshiba teaching jujutsu. It is likely that Takeda continued on the Daito-ryu the curriculum with Aiki-jujutsu (合気柔術) and Aiki No Jutsu (合気の術).
  30. This is the kyoju dairi, the same diploma that Ueshiba Morihei received in 1922. Hisa received his in October 1936.
  31. This is interesting because it is known that Morihei granted licenses of Daito-ryu before the war, such as the hiden mokuroku (秘傳奥儀目録) to Mochizuki Minoru in 1932. One may ask the question of whether he decided not to hand over diplomas to the Osaka group or if he just did not have time to do so before Sokaku’s arrival.
  32. The original English version of this interview is different because it mentions Tomita Kenji. I decided to restore the name as it was in the Japanese version because it seems more likely that it was Tomiki who was behind this recommendation since he had himself taught in Hisa’s group in Osaka as an assistant to Ueshiba.
  33. Hisa did receive the eighth dan from Ueshiba Morihei at the Hombu Dojo, but that was on May 23, 1956, only twenty years after Morihei’s departure from Osaka.
  34. This is the shareiroku (謝礼禄) a register listing the names of students, the times and places of training, and the amount paid.
  35. Tips are unusual in Japan.
  36. Actually, Takeda Sokaku was born on October 10, 1859 and Kano Jigoro (嘉納 治五郎) on October 28, 1860.
  37. This argument is echoed by Hisa himself in his 1942 article for Shin Budo, as well as in the excerpt of his manuscript below.
  38. Atemi waza (当身技) direct blows or strikes to the body.

Guillaume Erard

Guillaume Erard is a permanent resident of Japan. He trains at the Aikikai Headquarters in Tokyo, where he received the 5th Dan from Aikido Doshu Moriteru Ueshiba. Guillaume regularly gives Aikido seminars throughout Europe as well as lectures on its history. He studied with some of the world's leading Aikido instructors, including several direct students of O Sensei, and has produced a number of well regarded video interviews with them. Guillaume also holds the title of Kyoshi in Daito-ryu Aiki-jujutsu and serves as Deputy Secretary for International Affairs of the Shikoku Headquarters. He is passionate about science and education, and holds a PhD in Molecular Biology.

4 comments

  • Thanks Guillaume, fascinating material! I can now see how Ueshiba took this awesome system to create something more open and flowing.

    • Thanks Gerald. I agree. If anything, as my technical and historical knowledge of Daito-ryu has increased over time, it has comforted in the idea that what made Aikido special is that it was indeed designed to be flexible and adapted to its time. The numerous interpretations of Aikido that are around, regardless whether we like some more than others, are a good thing for the art.