View Full Version : ARCHIVE: Open letter to daito-ryu.com by S. Pranin

Nathan Scott
17th May 2001, 20:18
The following open letter was published on the Aikido Journal bulletin board on 06/12/2000 by AJ Editor Stanley Pranin.

The letter is re-printed below in it's entirery, and can also be found in the "Editor's Updates 2000 (Archive)" of the AJ BBS under the name "An Open Letter to the Webmaster of daito-ryu[dot]com" (http://www.aikidojournal.com):

An Open Letter to the Webmaster of http://www.daito-ryu.com/

Dear Sir,

My attention was recently called to the introductory article on your website on Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, its ranking system, and other subjects. As you refer to yourselves as the "Official" website of the Hombu school of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, certain points raised in your article have left me puzzled.

By way of self-introduction, let me offer a few comments on my personal involvement in Daito-ryu. Although I am not personally a practitioner of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, I have studied the history of the art beginning with Sokaku Takeda since about 1985 when I first met and interviewed the late Soke Tokimune Takeda. From that point on I have had the good fortune of having been able to interview most of the top figures of the various schools of Daito-ryu descendant from Sokaku. Also, I have published a book entitled "Daito-ryu aikijujutsu: Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters" that contains the interviews I conducted over the years. I therefore have some familiarity with the background of this wonderful art.

The first question I have with respect to your article concerns your understanding of the meaning of the "menkyo kaiden" certification. As you may know, Sokaku Takeda gave out only two of these transmission scrolls during his lifetime: one to Hisa Takuma and the other to Masao Tonedate, both of the Asahi News dojo in Osaka, in 1939. Hisa was an avid practitioner and the leader of the Asahi News dojo while Tonedate was a high-level company employee and not a serious student of Daito-ryu. I have verified this fact with one first-hand witness--Shigemi Yonekawa--and also people such as Hakaru Mori Sensei of the Daito-ryu aikijujutsu Takumakai. My comments on the menkyo kaiden below therefore exclude Tonedate who never actually taught Daito-ryu in a formal sense.

During Tokimune Takeda Sensei's tenure as Soke of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu, he awarded only one menkyo kaiden. This was given to Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei of Tokyo, present head of the Shimbukan Dojo. I have personally seen the menkyo kaiden and can vouch for its authenticity.

Your article takes great pains to stress that possesion of a menkyo kaiden does not equate to a teaching licence in Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. I must confess I find this statement very odd. It is my understanding from conversations with Tokimune Sensei that the menkyo kaiden level is far beyond that of a teaching certification. In the only two instances of menkyo kaiden being awarded to active practitioners--Hisa and Kondo--both already had received the "kyoju dairi" certification. The kyoju dairi is indeed a Daito-ryu teaching certification and was awarded to about 25-30 persons by Sokaku and later his son Tokimune during their teaching careers. Parenthetically, the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, also received a Daito-ryu teaching certification qualifying him to teach the art.

You go on to equate the menkyo kaiden to a four-year university diploma which tens of millions of people have received, myself included. Since a person can receive such a degree at age 21 and be very inexperienced even in their field of expertise while a menkyo kaiden recipient is extremely rare and is considered to have full mastery of the art, I have been scratching my head trying to figure out the points of similarity between the two. Since you are so insistent about this issue, I can only surmise that you must be concerned with abuses by some unknown person or persons. I would be very curious to know who these people might be with "commercially oriented intentions" who are teaching Daito-ryu to the public without proper certification. Maybe you are alluding to the various Saigo-ha schools of Daito-ryu? Please clarify.

Another point regarding which I am experiencing great confusion is your understanding of who the present Soke or headmaster might be. You mention the "daughter of the late Soke" as the current headmaster to whom you are affiliated Well, as far as I know Tokimune only had two daughters: a Mrs. Oshima and a Mrs. Yokoyama, both of whom I have met. There was a relatively brief period of time when Mrs. Yokoyama acted as interim Soke while Tokimune Sensei was hospitalized in the early 1990s. She was living in Tokimune's house in front of the Daitokan dojo in Abashiri. However, Mrs. Yokoyama later withdrew from this interim position and handed over her administrative responsibilities to Katsuyuki Kondo of Tokyo. As Kondo Sensei is not a blood relative, he cannot act in the capacity of headmaster but uses the administrative titles of Hombu Dojo-cho and Somucho. These were terms used by Sokaku while he was actively teaching. The other daughter, Mrs. Oshima, has never claimed to be the Soke as far as I know, but her husband certainly has! In fact, her husband is one of three persons to claim or have claimed to be the Daito-ryu headmaster! That is another complicated matter I won't address here.

In any event, Mrs. Yokoyama is no longer involved in Daito-ryu affairs and it is Mrs. Oshima's husband who claims to be Soke. Which of Tokimune's two daughters then is it that you regard as the Soke? Surely, as the "Headquarters," you must know the background of this situation!

The next point I wish to address is your assertion of being the "Hombu Dojo" of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. Again, I am baffled because the three teachers you mention as the principals of your organization--Matsuo Sano Sensei, Shigemitsu Kato Sensei, and [Gunpachi] Arisawa Sensei--all resigned from the Daitokan dojo of Tokimune Sensei in December 1991. Two of the three gentlemen are listed as 5th dan holders on their resignation forms. They were among a group of students to resign en masse at this time.

As you know, the Daitokan dojo was the Official Hombu Dojo of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu under Tokimune Soke. Since these three individuals you mention on your website officially resigned from the Hombu Dojo while Tokimune Soke was still living, how are we to understand them now heading the "Official Hombu Dojo?"

This makes absolutely no sense to me! Also, one is tempted to ask how, by your own logic, if they were 5th dan in 1991 and did not have kyoju dairi certification at that time, is it that they became qualified to teach? What authority awarded them their teaching certification after Tokimune Sensei's death? I am at a complete loss to explain this. Please help me by clarifying how this inexplicable state of affairs came about.

One last thing has been bothering me about your site. You offer versions in several languages including English, Italian, French, German and Russian. But you also state in one place in your chronology "here in Abashiri," a town on the northeastern tip of Hokkaido, Japan. My impression is that you are located in Japan as the "Offical Hombu Dojo." Why is there no Japanese-language version of your site, especially the parts concerning your comments on the current headmaster, the meaning of menkyo kaiden, and the Daito-ryu grading system? I can't think of any Japanese headquarters school running a website that doesn't have a version in Japanese. It just makes no sense! How am I to understand this strange omission?

I hope you will take time to address the points I raise here, if not in a reply to me, perhaps then on your website itself. If you wish to be taken seriously you will certainly want to clairfy these important issues. You are reaching thousands of people via your website and participants from our bulletin board have alluded to your activities as well. Hence, my interest and concern for "getting the facts straight."

I have taken the liberty of posting this letter and a link to your site at our website at www.aikidojournal.com (http://www.aikidojournal.com).

Sincerely yours,

Stanley Pranin
Editor and Publisher of Aiki News/Aikido Journal

Nathan Scott
17th May 2001, 20:37
The following commentary was posted on the Aikido Journal bulletin board system (http://www.aikidojournal.com) on 06/19/2000.

It is re-printed below in it's entirety, and can be found in the "Editor's Updates 2000 (Archive)" of the AJ BBS under the name "Daito-ryu Open Letter Response Heats Up!" (http://www.aikidojournal.com/ubb/Forum13/HTML/000017.html):

I would like to sincerely thank the many of you who have provided feedback--so far all-encouraging--regarding my recent "Open Letter to the Webmaster of http://www.daito-ryu.com. Click here (http://www.aikidojournal.com/ubb/Forum13/HTML/000010.html) to read it.

It turns out that this site also includes a message board that has recently heated up due to the posting of my letter. It seems that a number of you have posted your questions and comments on this Daito-ryu bulletin board and that the person answering letters, a Mr. Y. Kobayashi, is experiencing some frustration in his attempts to reply.

I have read these messages and replies and have found some quite odd statements that I'd like to comment upon since some people will readily accept them as fact if unrebutted. Here are some of Mr. Kobayashi's comments in reply to questions:

"The Seishin (or seishinkai less correctly) is not part [of] or associated to the Honbu."

"The Seishin is offering in Abashiri, where the honbu is located, all technical support to the Honbu. Thus members of the Seishin are holding positions in the Daito School."

My understanding of the above is as follows: the Seishin group consisting of senior students of the late Soke Tokimune Takeda is not part of or associated to the Daito-ryu aikijujutsu Hombu Dojo located in Abashiri, Hokkaido but offers technical support to this dojo."

Forgive my confusion, but the principals of the Seishin group--Kato, Sano and Arisawa Senseis--all resigned from the Daitokan Hombu Dojo of Tokimune Sensei in 1991. Also, the Daitokan Hombu Dojo located in back of Tokimune Sensei's home was closed down after his death and has been vacant for years. To whom then is the Seishin group providing technical support and where exactly is the physical location of the "new" Hombu Dojo?

Another part of a reply reads:

"In the Daito School the Kyoju Dairi is a (Dairi=in place of) teaching licence. It indicates that the bearer of this licence (not a diploma) is representing the Soke in its [sic] teaching functions. The licence is generally temporary and not permanent as it indicates that the bearer is "teaching in place of."

Likewise, I have difficulty with this reply because the terms and conditions of Daito-ryu's "kyoju dairi" as awarded by Sokaku Takeda are clear and include no period of validity. Here is a complete translation of the text of the teaching certification given to Morihei Ueshiba for your reference:

"Instructor Certification: Morihei Ueshiba

1. When accepting students for instruction in Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu becareful to choose persons of good conduct.

2. When instructing students, have them write their address, name, age, location of their dojo, and the terms of their instruction in a registration book together with their seal by way of authentification.

3. When instructing students, an initial payment of three yen should be made to Takeda Dai Sensei as an enrollment fee.

16 September 1922"

I have never heard of an expired kyoju dairi!

Still another reply from Mr. Kobayashi:

"The [Seishin] group [is] endowed [sic] to :

1. protect and respect the Soke's last will that indicated that his daughters were to receive the position of Headmaster...."

This "last will" is also mentioned in the introduction on their [daito-ryu.com] website:

"In 1992 [actually Dec. 2, 1993] the last Soke, Takeda Tokimune Dai Sensei, died here in Abashiri. In his last will (a public act that is available to the public) he appointed his daughter (Mrs. Oshima) as our next Soke. She is the only legitimate person that may claim this position."

Again, this is highly problematic. About 30 minutes ago I telephoned Mrs. Yokoyama (Tokimune Sensei's youngest daughter) in Abashiri, Japan to ask her if it was true that her father left a will. She said clearly that he did NOT leave a will. Further, it is her older sister's husband, not Mrs. Oshima, who refers to himself as the Soke of Daito-ryu. Mrs. Yokoyama added that to her knowledge her older sister Mrs. Oshima did not have any current connection or relationship with the Seishin group.

Mention of the elusive will pops up again in this comment of Mr. Kobayashi:

"Mr. [Katsuyuki] Kondo himself, in an interview to Mr. Pranin ... confirmed the will of the Soke that both his daughters should inherit the direction of the School. So when the second daughter resigned her position, Mrs. Oshima naturally became the next in line to succeed her sister, just as the Soke had ruled before his death."

I looked up the reference to my interview with Kondo Sensei and extracted the relevant passage to which Mr. Kobayashi refers:

"At the meeting of the dojo heads held last September [1991], the future headmaster was announced. Mrs. Nobuko Yokoyama, Tokimune's second daughter, who lives with him, was selected. (Mrs. Yokoyama relinquished her position, following the death of Headmaster Tokimune. At the present time, both Mrs. Yokoyama's older sister's husband and Tokimune's younger brother, Munemitsu, claim to be the headmaster of Daito-ryu.). 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."

I think the distortion of Kondo Sensei's words will be obvious to the careful reader.

As you can see, your input has been having its effect in bringing these rather surprising statements about Daito-ryu under scrutiny. I would encourage you to continue contacting this group via its message board and make every effort to get satisfactory replies to the many unexplained questions.

Thank you for your assistance.

Stanley Pranin

Nathan Scott
17th May 2001, 20:56
The following commentary was posted on the Aikido Journal bulletin board system on 06/21/2000.

It is re-printed below in it's entirety, and can be found in the "Editor's Updates 2000 (Archive)" of the AJ BBS under the name "More on Daito-ryu and the issue of succession" (http://www.aikidojournal.com/ubb/Forum13/HTML/000018.html):

The text below is a reply to a question posed on the thread entitled "Letter Response" (http://www.aikidojournal.com/ubb/Forum10/HTML/000013.html) of June 21.

Nathan et al!

I'll do my best to reply to the questions you pose.

The meeting you mention I think is the one held in 1991 prior to Tokimune's death when shibucho or dojo representatives gathered in Abashiri to discuss the future leadership of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu. This was brought about because Tokimune Sensei had been declared legally incompetent due to the advanced state of his illness. At that time, the Takeda family--read the two sisters and their husbands--decided that Mrs. Yokoyama, the second daughter, would become interim soke for administrative purposes until the issue of successorship was decided at a later date.

Following Tokimune's death in 1993, no agreement could be reached by the Takeda family as to who should succeed the late headmaster. Mrs. Oshima and her husband later decided that he would change his name to Takeda and become the new headmaster. The Oshimas' are in physical possession of Sokaku Takeda's enrollment books, ledgers, seals and other personal belongings. Mr. Oshima is now known as Masanobu Takeda and declared himself soke several years ago. Few in the Daito-ryu have accepted this unilateral declaration particularly as he had no real involvement in Daito-ryu when Tokimune was alive.

Mrs. Yokoyama herself relinquished her interim position shortly after her father's death wishing to distance herself from the politics which had become quite acrimonius. Keep in mind that through all of this, Munemitsu Takeda--Tokimune's younger brother--had also declared himself the new headmaster even while Tokimune was still alive!

You are therefore correct to assume that Tokimune Sensei did not designate anyone to succeed him. Actually, Kondo Sensei ceased being the Soke Dairi (representative of the headmaster) after Tokimune's death. The titles he uses are Hombu Dojo-cho and Somucho, Headquarters Director and General Affairs Director respectively. These, parenthetically, are designations that Sokaku Sensei used during his lifetime.

Your next observation about Kondo Sensei having received instructions to oversee a possible successor is most perceptive. At one point in the late 1980s, Kondo Sensei was asked by Tokimune to give Daito-ryu instruction to the Oshima's son who was at that time attending school in Tokyo near Kondo Sensei. My understanding was that Tokimune's grandson did not show any enthusiasm for this idea and that nothing came of it.

One further comment. You must keep in mind that there was no established tradition of a soke (headmaster) in the Daito-ryu, so there was no protocol established for handling various contigencies. Sokaku never used that title. Tokimune decided on his own after the war to assume the headmastership. In most Japanese martial traditions, a son or daughter or other blood relative will assume the position of successor although there have been exceptions. I therefore don't think that Tokimune would have even considered Kondo Sensei as a candidate for soke. The fact that Tokimune asked Kondo Sensei to oversee the instruction of his grandson is perhaps an indication of his mental state and also his evaluation of Kondo Sensei's technical level.

My understanding of Tokimune's award of the Soke Dairi status to Kondo Sensei has to do with several facts. One was that his devoted wife had recently passed away and his own health had begun to deteriorate. Also, Daito-ryu was becoming the focus of increased attention in Japan and abroad. (I like to think that part of the reason for this was the regular stream of articles on Sokaku and his art published in Aiki News starting in the mid-1980s.) Kondo Sensei was being asked to travel frequently to foreign countries as the Daito-ryu representative for various kobudo groups that would perform at Japanese cultural demonstrations in the USA, Europe and Australia. Tokimune needed someone to represent Daito-ryu on these occasions and Kondo Sensei was the one he most trusted for these assigments.

I would like to point out that this is not something I am getting second-hand. I was a guest in Tokimune's home in Abashiri on several occasions prior to his hospitalization when Kondo Sensei was also there. I carefully observed the interaction between the two of them.

As to other witnesses who know directly of the events, there are many. There are some of the senior students of Tokimune Sensei who broke away from the Hombu Dojo in 1991 and now are functioning as the Seishinkai (see their website that has been the subject of much scrutiny), various shibucho from Hokkaido and elsewhere, some of whom remained with Kondo Sensei and some who have joined with the Seishinkai or other groups.

The whole matter is like a scene from "Rashomon" where everyone has their own perspective. There is nothing wrong with this when it is merely a matter of interpretation. However, many things that happened are factual and are documented. When one starts fabricating things all together such as saying that Tokimune had a public will--when he didn't--, asserting that someone who has not claimed to be headmaster is, etc., then it is a different matter, one involving honesty and integrity.

In the final analysis, make your own conclusions based on the available information and the forthrightness of the respones from the parties concerned.

My gosh, I've practically written an editorial!

Stanley Pranin