Daito-ryu aikijutsu: historical origin issues...

exile

To him unconquered.
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 7, 2006
Messages
10,665
Reaction score
251
Location
Columbus, Ohio
I'm increasingly curious about daito-ryu aikijutsu because, in a nutshell, it might be a crucial component of the MA mix that gave rise to karate, and therefore, ultimately, to TKD/TSD, which are the Korean expression of karate. Whew... that didn't take as long as I thought it would....

What I'm wondering is, what is the current best-guess evaluation of the antiquity of daito-ryu aikijutsu, and the likelihood that it was a core element of later Minamoto bujutsu. There's excellent reason to believe, as Iain Abernethy argues at some length in his Bunkai- Jutsu: the Practical Application of Karate Kata, that when the Satsuma clan came to Okinawa to (in effect) colonize it for the Japanese shogunate, they intermarried extensively with the Okinawan upper classes and contributed their jutsu techiques to the evolving mix of combat system elements in Okinawa, yielding in the end a synthesis of Chinese, Japanese and indigenous elements that took the form, in the mid 19tch c., of the linear karate we know and love. The exact process by which this came about is still largely a matter of conjecture, at this point, though I have hopes that the research of Harry Cook will ultimately shed enough light on the matter that we will wind up knowing what actually happened. But meanwhile, it looks as though reverse engineering may be the best way to proceed at this point. And if so, then we need to know just what it was that went into the mix, as well as what came out, so that we can come up with some plausible models to test about how what went in became what came out. That's why it's important to know if what the Minamoto samurai were doing several hundred years ago was something along the lines of daito-ryu aikijutsu, as has been claimed many times.

What I'm wondering about is what you-all think about this claim. Can you shed some light on this question of historical orgins? I don't have a horse in this race; I'm just trying to get a sense of what the best interpretation of the best evidence is telling us about the relationship between the 18th c. Satsuma's MA techniques on the one hand and the modern Daito-ryu fighting art. Can you help me here?
 

howard

Brown Belt
Joined
May 12, 2004
Messages
469
Reaction score
17
Hi exile,

There is at least one small group of American koryu historians who are researching the historical origins of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. There is a school of thought that maintains that what we know as Daito-ryu today was only formalized during the Edo period, primarily by Sokaku Takeda, and not passed down through the centuries by successive generations of Takedas.

You're probably familiar with Stanely Pranin's research into the history of Daito-ryu. To my knowledge, his work remains the most important source of Daito-ryu history available in English. He recounts the family history of the art as he heard it from Sokaku's son, Tokimune.

You will probably find the following three articles interesting. Their author, Ellis Amdur, is well-known in Aikido and Koryu circles and has published a good deal of meticuluously researched historical information about the Koryu.

This is an interesting topic. A lot of us Hapkido guys are familiar with the supposed historical link between Daito-ryu and Hapkido, but this is the first time I've seen it suggested that there is also a possible link between Daito-ryu and Karate.

Here are the links to the Amdur articles... hope you find them enjoyable.

http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=2610

http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=2702

http://www.aikidojournal.com/?id=2755
 
OP
exile

exile

To him unconquered.
Lifetime Supporting Member
MTS Alumni
Joined
Sep 7, 2006
Messages
10,665
Reaction score
251
Location
Columbus, Ohio
Hi exile,

There is at least one small group of American koryu historians who are researching the historical origins of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. There is a school of thought that maintains that what we know as Daito-ryu today was only formalized during the Edo period, primarily by Sokaku Takeda, and not passed down through the centuries by successive generations of Takedas.

Right, so on this view, we'd be talking 400, not 900, years of history, eh? Very respectable, but not... millenial. Well, that in itself would be interesting. But it would still bring Daito-ryu Aikijutsu within the historical radius, if I can put it that way, of the formation period for the Okinawan MAs. The Satsumas first showed their ugly mugs in Okinawa at the end of the first decade of the 17th century. So if D-r A J can be dated to before that period, there's a certain credibility to claims that something along the lines of D-r A J was brought to Okinawa and diffused into the mix of styles that eventually recombined as Matsumura-style linear karate.

You're probably familiar with Stanely Pranin's research into the history of Daito-ryu. To my knowledge, his work remains the most important source of Daito-ryu history available in English. He recounts the family history of the art as he heard it from Sokaku's son, Tokimune.

I've read some of Pranin's stuff—he has the ring of intellectual integrity, which puts him in a very small minory of sources on the MAs, along with people like Stanley Henning, Dakin Burdick, and Manuel Adrogu矇—but I'm not certain of the kind of time depths he's assuming in connection with the art itself and its relationship to the bujutsu of the Minamoto samurai...

You will probably find the following three articles interesting. Their author, Ellis Amdur, is well-known in Aikido and Koryu circles and has published a good deal of meticuluously researched historical information about the Koryu.

This is brilliant, howard—thanks much, I very much appreciate the pointers and will now probaboy shut up for a while on the whole issue while I digest the contents of these papers...


Again, my thanks!

The crucial historical issue here, so far as karate is concerned, is that there has been perhaps a tendency to ignore the fact that Okinawa's Japanese overlords intermarried extensively with the high Okinawan nobility—a not uncommon pattern in the history of conquest! :rolleyes:—making their MA knowledge available to their in-laws; and therefore that at least some of what has been taken to be indigenous Okinawan te technique sets originates in this Japanese contribution. If so, then it's the case that Chinese, indigenous Okinawan AND Japanese bujutsu techniques were all part of the technique pool available to Bushi Matsumura when he broke with the largely Chinese-based style he learned from Sakugawa and recast his `materials' into the distinctive form that became familiar under the rubric kara te. And from what I've learned so far, D-r A-J is one of the distinctly Japanese empty-hand jutsu styles which is not shy about using full-force atemi techs as opportunity presents...
 

howard

Brown Belt
Joined
May 12, 2004
Messages
469
Reaction score
17
Right, so on this view, we'd be talking 400, not 900, years of history, eh? Very respectable, but not... millenial.
Actually, more like 150 - 200 years. If I read these articles correctly, they seem to hypothesize that Sokaku created Daito-ryu from arts that he learned during his lifetime. There probably was a family art root in there somewhere, but Amdur seems to feel that Sokaku synthesized Daito-ryu himself. Do you read the articles this way too?

I've read some of Pranin's stuffhe has the ring of intellectual integrity... but I'm not certain of the kind of time depths he's assuming in connection with the art itself and its relationship to the bujutsu of the Minamoto samurai...
I don't think any serious student of these matters questions Pranin's integrity. He seems to have undertaken his research into Daito-ryu in order to evaluate its influence in Ueshiba's Aikido (Pranin himself is at least a 5th dan in Aikido).

Regarding his own views of Daito-ryu's timeline, this is an interesting question. I've carefully read the history sections of both of his books on Daito-ryu, and my conclusion is that he has restricted himself to documenting the Takeda family history of the art as recounted to him by Sokaku's son and the inheritor of the tradition, Tokimune. I have not seen anything in Pranin's own words with respect to what his research has led him to conclude about just when Daito-ryu was born. Perhaps he has not reached a conclusion himself. We may never know, because, according to what I've read on some other forum somewhere (from a reliable source), Pranin is occupied these days with research into Aikido, and has left his Daito-ryu research behind.

This is brilliant, howardthanks much...
It's a pleasure.

...from what I've learned so far, D-r A-J is one of the distinctly Japanese empty-hand jutsu styles which is not shy about using full-force atemi techs as opportunity presents...
Quite correct. Atemi are prominent in Daito-ryu. In fact, Kondos' "mainline" tradition teaches that atemi is one of the seven ways of applying aiki.

However, Daito-ryu atemi are different from most of the karate strikes I'm familiar with in both technique and intent. Daito-ryu atemi are used to disrupt the attacker's balance, just as you'd disrupt his balance by leading him too far into a committed attack, or by intercepting and overwhelming his attack before he is able to move into the attack's power phase. One of the most common hand strikes in Daito-ryu is the ipponken nakadaka, the one-knuckle strike done with the middle finger, that you've probably seen in other styles.

Given your original question, I thought you'd be interested in this... this is a quote from Pranin's Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu: Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters (pp. 17 - 18) about Sokaku and Okinawa:

"At the end of Saigo Satsuma's Rebellion in September 1877, Sokaku set out for Kyushu to continue on his journey for self-training. The police had placed the use of weapons under strict control and most sword schools suspended their activities. Unable to train, Sokaku joined a troupe of acrobats based in Nagasaki Prefecture which were popular at the time. Being agile and well-trained, he perfected many acrobatic skills in a short time. Sokaku performed with the troupe in many locations before arriving in Kumamoto Prefecture. There he saw the amazing feats of an Okinawan karate expert who was a member of a different troupe. Despite the karate exponent's outstanding skills, Sokaku defeated him in a bare-handed match using the rapid body movements he had developed through sword and spear training. One of his purposes in going to Kyushu and later Okinawa was to observe first-hand Okinawa-te, an earlier term for karate. After leaving the acrobatic troupe, Sokaku toured Kyushu and the Okinawan Islands seeking out karate masters with whom to match skills."
 
Top