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08-03-2006, 10:10 PM
A Short History of Daito-ryu Aikijutjitsu

THE DAITORYU is believed to have originated within the family of Emperor Seiwa and to have been greatly developed by one of the emperor's descendants, Shinra Saburo Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, in the eleventh century. Through his careful study of human anatomy-he made a point of visiting battlefields and execution grounds to examine and dissect the bodies of war dead and executed criminals-Yoshimitsu determined which were the most effective strikes, blows, holds, joint locks, and pins. To fathom the mysteries of aiki, or harmonized energy, Yoshimitsu spent hours observing a female spider trapping prey in her web. Furthermore, he was a talented musician, and while accompanying dancers on his sho (a type of wind instrument), he gained insight into the nature of good rhythm and smooth transition between movements. Yoshimitsu incorporated all of this knowledge into the martial art he had been taught by family members and then passed on to his sons this improved and expanded system-which came to be known as the "Daitoryu," after the name of one of his residences.

Omiya, Shiro, The Hidden Roots of Aikido, Kodansha International, Tokyo 1998.

How does watching a female spider trapping her prey lead to understanding the mysteries of aiki?

08-04-2006, 02:51 AM
How does watching a female spider trapping her prey lead to understanding the mysteries of aiki? I think we're into either
a) some really good drugs
b) "he gained enlightenment from the morning dew on the grass" territory
c) he had eight legs
d) random poetic imagery which masks pragmatism - a bit like the one where shogun chopped down all the trees because the falling leaves reminded him too much of the samurais short life, it really had nothing to do with clean lines of site for his archers and better security... oh no.

At a stretch you could go for the attitude of perfect patience coupled with the tension of immediate action (head off to sen no sen and stir until done), but I'd get lost explaining the mandibles and poison for this analogy to go far.

Steve Mullen
08-04-2006, 04:10 AM
A spider doesn't actively seek its prey, it just spins its web and lets the fly fall into it, job done. We don't (or at least shouldn't) actively seek to put technique on uki, we should make our movement and let uki fall onto the technique.

David Orange
08-04-2006, 09:01 AM
How does watching a female spider trapping her prey lead to understanding the mysteries of aiki?


I wondered about that a long time until I saw a Daito Ryu website that put it a little differently. It seems the spider lived at Yoshimitsu's house, so he was able to observe it for a long time. And from what I gathered, the spider didn't ambush the bug and physically use technique to entrap it. It just set up the web and let the bugs wander into it. Then there was little to do. And the site said that Yoshimitsu said that this showed how we must "set the conditions for sure success," meaning that aiki is more than just physical technique. For one thing, it means having a home of your own, where your money comes back to you, for instance, instead of just flowing out to the landlord, never to be seen again. You catch it in a web and keep it. Even the spider had a fixed home. And while we're at it, our home should be in a good neighborhood, where we aren't constantly threatened by bad neighbors.

I posted some of these thoughts on the Aikido Comes From Toddler Movement on Aikido Journal's blog site, "From the Front Page" section.

Howard Popkin, of Daito Ryu Roppokai, wrote to tell me some things about that and he indicated that some of the physical techniques of Daito Ryu do actually derive from the spider's way of moving, but he didn't eleaborate. You might contact him for some more information on that. He's very amenable to discussion.

So while my comments don't plumb the depths of Yoshimitsu's mind, I think that's part of what he meant. FWIW.

Best wishes,