Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
INTERLUDE: VII: Hidden in Plain Sight:
Tracing the Roots of Ueshiba Morihei's Power
By Ellis Amdur
A Review Essay:
Part 2: Takeda Sokaku in his Historical & Cultural Context
2. Hidden in plain sight? It's all in the Aizu.
A Second Look
The main aim of Amdur's second chapter, which is also a core chapter of the book, is to present an account of Takeda Sokaku's life and activities, with a view to illuminating the origins of the internal power / skills exhibited in Daito-ryu. At the outset, we need to recall the ten questions posed earlier:
"A so-called external martial art uses very sophisticated methods to enable an individual to use their body at the peak of its natural reflexes and potential. An internal martial art, on the other hand, attempts to transform the body's natural response to force—and at a higher level, to allegedly change the way one's own body actually functions." (Extracts all quoted from HIPS, pp.13-14.)It is important not to put more weight than they can bear on these definitions (which are perhaps intended as ‘pegs', of a provisional nature, on which to hang a discussion, or as something akin to Wittgenstein's famous ladder, which has to be climbed and then kicked away afterwards). Nevertheless, the fact remains that the whole point of Amdur's book is to throw light on the essential nature of these skills, as they apply to Ueshiba Morihei and his own teacher of Daito-ryu. Amdur himself distinguishes external and internal arts and, as I suggested earlier, appears to assume that the distinction is both known and sound, but the issue then arises whether Takeda was practicing the first or the second or both, and whether it is possible to distinguish them clearly in his particular case. Takeda'sactivities certainly provide very good circumstantial evidence that he acquired martial skills to an extremely high level of sophistication, but it is also important to see in his particular case that ‘the devil is in the details' and that it is these details that have to be accommodated by the historian.
The issues raised by Amdur relating to internal skills are in the form of several questions, asked in HIPS (p. 56). These are worth quoting in full:
"Given that no one has ever provided evidence that any of the martial arts Sokaku studied had the same training in internal power that he taught, it is possible that he created Daito-ryu himself?"I think this question needs to be ‘unpacked', somewhat, so that it is clear what Amdur is suggesting by it. Takeda Tokimune states in various places that his father Sokaku studied sumo, kenjutsu, sojutsu, and bojutsu in his home town. It is also asserted that he studied a large number of other arts during his apprenticeship to Sakakibara Kenkichi and his period of musha shugyo [ascetic training done by bushi]. Amdur seems to be suggesting that there is no evidence of ‘internal training' in any of these arts that is similar to the training in internal power in the Daito-ryu that Takeda eventually taught. This might mean that there is no internal training at all in these arts, or that there is internal training, but not of the same kind. Amdur is anticipating here somewhat (we are still at the beginning of the chapter), since he appears to take it for granted that Takeda did indeed possess the power and skills (cf. Questions 2 and 3 in the above list of ten). Of course, this leads to a further question, to which we do not yet know Amdur's answer, which is exactly how Takeda, assuming that Amdur is right that he possessed this power in abundance, acquired it and taught others how to acquire it.
"Could one man have created such a training method on his own, merely by auditing other martial arts, and deriving principles of breathing, movement, and manipulation of forces without following a codified tradition that was the product of a hundred years of research?"We shall find that all three questions are also highly relevant to Ueshiba Morihei's training in, and teaching of, his own art (this including both taijutsu and weapons). Amdur will suggest later that Ueshiba actually tailored specific weapons kata or ways of doing kata to his individual students (the term is used here in the same broad sense as that in which Amdur appears to be using it). However, Ueshiba appears to have ceased doing this from around 1955 onwards, when his son Kisshomaru publicly took the helm of the resurrected—and reconstituted—Aikikai. It is a moot question whether Ueshiba taught specific waza to his individual students, and a very moot question whether he taught weapons kata directly and individually to his early postwar students, for example, to Tamura, Tada, and Noro (as compared with Shirata, Sunadomari and Hikitsuchi). Saito Morihiro and Tohei Koichi (possibly) are examples of such wartime and early postwar students and Nishio Shoji knew weapons before he began aikido. It is it very clear that Saito was the main ‘test-bed' for Ueshiba's development of aiki-ken and aiki-jo, but there is little evidence that this development was generalized and became postwar Hombu ‘technical policy'. We will return to this point later in this review.
The Official History
Amdur's way of answering the above questions affirmatively—for I think he intends them largely as rhetorical questions and does answer them affirmatively—is quite subtle. First of all, he needs to deal with the ‘official' history of Daito-ryu, according to which it is an art that has been handed down through the Takeda family from the time of the Emperor Seiwa. The clearest statement of this ‘official' history can be found in Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography of his father. After suggesting that those who want to know more about Takeda Sokaku should consult Takeda's son Tokimune, Kisshomaru summarizes the "well-known facts" about the art (ここではただ、惣角師および大東流についてのすでに周知の大要をのみがく簡単に記しておくにとどめたいと思う):
"Daito-ryu Jujutsu is a martial technique of the Takeda clan, created by Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu Minamoto, who was related to Emperor Seiwa Minamoto. There are different theories about the name Daito-ryu, but one idea is that the art took its name from the Daito Mansion in Shiga. It was passed on from generation to generation in the Kai Takeda clan. When Shingen Takeda was clan leader, his kinsman Tosa Kunitsugu Takeda took up the post of Jito Kashira in Aizu domain, which is now Fukushima Prefecture, and he brought these special techniques with him to Aizu. Here they were designated as otome-waza, secrets that were not to be taken outside the domain; they were kept secret until the end of the Tokugawa era. Master Takeda's father was a samurai retainer of the Aizu domain, and he was descended from Tosa Kunitsugu Takeda.
"Master Takeda was skillful in all martial arts, but he was said to be a genius with the sword. It is thought that he actually killed some of his early opponents and he seems to have told some stories about this to O Sensei. However, at some point he changed his focus, gave up the sword and dedicated himself to Daito-ryu Jujutsu. In 1898, Chikanori Hoshina, the priest of Reizan Shrine in Fukushima Prefecture, conferred on Master Takeda a certificate of mastery, or menkyo, in what had been the Aizu domain otome waza; Chikanori Hoshina had at one time been the chief retainer of the Aizu domain, and was then known as Saigo Tanomo. So when this happened, Master Takeda became both officially and practically the true restorer of Daito-ryu Jujutsu. He taught and disseminated his art in many places and at this time [the time when Ueshiba Morihei heard about him], happened to be in Hokkaido." (Kisshomaru Ueshiba, 『合気道開祖植芝盛平伝』, pp. 97-98; A Life in Aikido, pp. 97-98.)This ‘official' history is generally accepted and pervasive, for we should note Kisshomaru's statement that his summary of events gives ‘well-known facts'. Takeda Sokaku's son Tokimune also gave a similar history in his essays and interviews. Even the martial artist, researcher and historian, Kono Yoshinori, whose work Amdur draws on in this second chapter, states that, "Chikanori Genzo, who later adopted the name Tanomo Saigo,is well-known as Sokaku Takeda's Daito-ryu aikijutsu teacher." (Kono, Aiki News, #102, p. 39.)
Another version of the ‘official' history, however, restricts Saigo Tanomo's influence to the teaching of oshikiiuchi, the supposedly secret skills that enabled daimyo sitting in a meeting to fell their opponents at one stroke—and do much more:
"Sokaku learned Daito-ryu from his father Sokichi, but it was from Saigo Tanomo, former Chief Councilor of the Aizu domain, that he learned oshikiiuchi. After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, Saigo Tanomo had become a Shinto priest and taken the name Hoshina Chikanori. In 1875 Sokaku visited him at Tsutsukowake Shrine in Fukushima to study for entrance to the priesthood, and while he was there received instruction in the arts of oshikiiuchi from Chikanori. Although Sokaku decided not to become a priest, he visited his mentor many times after that, and under Chikanori's instruction is said to have perfected seemingly miraculous skills of understanding another's mind and thought, and to have grasped the true depths of oshikiiuchi. On May 12th of 1898 Chikanori presented him with a single poem, inscribing it in Sokaku's enrollment book. One interpretation of Chikanori's words is that he is likening the flow of a river to the flow of time. With the beginning of the Meiji period, the age of the sword had ended, and no matter how skilled a swordsman might be, he can no longer make any mark and will amount to nothing. Therefore, it is time to pursue and make your way with jujutsu." (Aikido FAQ, referenced in the English Wikipedia article on Takeda Sokaku.)In the introduction to his book, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, the pioneering interviews with Tokimune and other Daito-ryu students of Takeda Sokaku, Stanley Pranin helpfully provides a Takeda family tree, going right back to Emperor Seiwa—before seriously questioning this official history. Stanley Pranin was a pioneer in researching the early history of aikido, with the result that Takeda Sokaku and Daito-ryu were given a much more important role in this early history than biographers of Ueshiba Morihei cared to admit. In his introduction Pranin raises searching questions about Takeda Sokaku's relationship with Saigo Tanomo, but he does not seriously examine the general picture of the martial arts in the Aizu domain at the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, when Takeda began his serious training. Amdur goes some way to rectifying this omission. His treatment of the ‘official' history is a prime example of the best kind of 崩し (kuzushi). It is not so much a demolition, as a gentle removal of all the main supports on which the ‘official' history is based, so that the only reason for it to remain standing is until it collapses. However, Amdur also needs to present a coherent and plausible ‘revisionist' history and this is the main point at issue in this review.
Amdur starts with a very broad picture of martial ryu in the Kanto area of Japan and presents a complex and sophisticated survey of three main lines, but with special emphasis on Kurama-den, the cluster of traditions centered around Kurama-dera, a Buddhist temple located on Mt Kurama, near Kyoto. The discussion appears in a section entitled "Deep Roots" (HIPS, pp. 64-69) and readers who do not practice koryu, or have little acquaintance with the history of Japanese koryu, might find this somewhat bewildering. Japanese koryu finds its own identity as a more intense and extreme version of Japanese society as a whole. This society—both at a microcosmic level, such as within a samurai family with its own koryu, and also at the macrocosmic level, such as within a much larger social organism, like a university or even a large general martial art like aikido—finds its identity in being vertically structured, in the sense that relationships with seniors and juniors (understood in a very broad sense) are considerably more important than relationships with equals, who are sometimes seen as rivals. Thus the connections within koryu are all about vertical connections, between master and pupil, and also disconnections, and the tracing of lineage or breaks in lineage.
(NOTE: When reading Amdur's section entitled "Deep Roots", I found Watatani Kyoshi's Bugei Ryuha Daijiten of great use [Japanese title: 武芸流派大辞典]. I do not think there is anything similar in English. The entries are scattered throughout the work, but the main references to the various ryu cited by Amdur occur on the following pages: 71, 74, 159, 225, 294, 573-5, 631, 633-5. In any case, since there are no okurigana, this work will, unfortunately, be useless for anyone who cannot read Japanese, especially the nanori of Japanese personal names. This is one area where Amdur could perhaps have provided more help for the knowledgeable reader.)
Amdur's analysis of the koryu traditions emanating from Kurama-dera enables him to focus on one specific ryu: Shinmyo-ryu, especially the Inagami branch of this ryu, which was practiced in the Aizu domain. This focus on Shinmyo-ryu, in turn, leads to a general discussion about the person who taught the art in the Nisshinkan (日新館), the Aizu hanko (藩校: domain school). This was Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori (黒河内傳五郎兼規), who also happened to be Takeda Sokaku's maternal grandfather. The focus on Kurokochi enables Amdur to wonder what and how he might have taught his son-in-law Sokichi and his grandson Sokaku. The focus on Kurokochi then broadens to include other members of the extended Takeda family and branches, especially Sokaku's father Sokichi, with discussions in passing about the latter's friend, Saigo Tanomo. The focus on Aizu samurai, including Kanenori and Tanomo, then allows Amdur to focus attention on the horrific effects of the Aizu War on the Takeda family and especially the effects of the war on Takeda Sokaku himself. A major focus in this part of the review will be to ‘unpack' Amdur's arguments here and examine in more detail the connections he attempts to establish.
Finally, the sharper focus on Takeda Sokaku himself enables Amdur to make use of his own professional expertise to present a kind of ‘psychological profile' of Takeda and this analysis—true ‘speculation' in Amdur's preferred sense of the term—is by far the most original aspect of the chapter. For example, at one point Amdur considers the parental role of Takeda's father Sokichi. He is discussing Sokichi's punishment of his son by burning moxa into his nails:
"One wonders what kind of father Demon Sokichi would have been in the best of circumstances. But he, too, had been to war and had seen his Aizu ravaged, and he had a child, innately defiant and proud, and now—horrified. All too often, I have seen frustrated, desperate parents use outlandish methods to discipline their unruly child. The child, who, given his make-up and circumstances, is acting in a way that is completely natural to him, becomes more profoundly psychologically damaged by the parents than he was from the original trauma." (HIPS, p. 79.)Amdur then moves on to the supposed effects on Sokaku:
"In my clinical experience of working with victims of unspeakable crimes, or youth incarcerated for the most dreadful crimes, children who have suffered in this way have wildness in their spirit, a prickly hypersensitive pride and a hair-trigger readiness to protect themselves against any insult or threat. Acutely aware of anything that could cause them pain, they feel an almost compulsive need to defend themselves against others, or even, paradoxically, against the pain and vulnerability of love. Such individuals not only have difficult lives, but also make life difficult for those around them." (HIPS, p. 80.)His aim here is to give some explanation of the way Takeda treated his own son, Tokimune:
"As desperately as they [children who have suffered in this way] desire to be loved and cared for, they also experience any vulnerability as bearing destruction, and thus attack what they fear—those whom they love."It does indeed—even at the hearts of knowing non-apologists: ‘neutral' book-reviewers who have some idea of samurai upbringing. The issue for such a reviewer, then, is to consider to what extent this fraught tripartite relationship of Sokichi, Sokaku, and Tokimune was in any way typical of samurai families of the period and what influence it had on Sokaku's acquisition of internal power/skills. Thus we need to repeat the questions posed in the previous column: (1) Does Amdur's account of Takeda's life, exploits and martial attitudes hang together? Is his account of the origin of Takeda's internal power / skills cogent enough to be convincing? (2) Consequently, does Amdur's psychological profile of Takeda illuminate his complex and changing relationship with Ueshiba Morihei, especially in respect of the latter's alleged possession of internal power and internal skills, which is the major issue of the book?
Accordingly, in this part of my review essay the main focus will be on Takeda Sokaku's life, which is an enormous puzzle. Amdur has depicted him as a somewhat tortured individual, but I think this picture—though largely successful—risks being misunderstood if it is seen too much in black-and-white, with the black set in a pristine white background. Accordingly, in keeping with the general plan of other Transmission, Inheritance and Emulation columns, I attempt to place Takeda as far as possible in his contemporary setting, with the overall aim of presenting a grayer alternative: a rather more nuanced picture than Amdur had the space to do. As a consequence, there will be much discussion of contemporary attitudes concerning child rearing, socialization, home discipline and punishment. Of course, this general scene-setting will also involve discussion of family members, teachers, and contemporary events, but the principal intention here is to throw light on the general question of Takeda Sokaku's uniqueness as an individual and of what drove him to acquire external and internal power / skills through the rigorous training he undertook. I will also briefly discuss a related topic that Amdur does not dwell on too much in this chapter: the parallels between the stages in Takeda Sokaku's life and those in Ueshiba Morihei's. Even in the light of Amdur's discussion, however, there still remains very much about Takeda Sokaku that we do not know.
Takeda Sokaku's Life: Version 2
Takeda Sokaku's life can be divided into three main periods: (A) the period of his childhood, from his early martial upbringing at the hands of his father Sokichi until the time he left the temple of Saigo Tanomo / Hoshina Chikanori in 1876; (B) the period of his travels and musha-shugyo; (C) the period when he began the enrollment books and payment books as the famous teacher of Daito-ryu, from just before 1900 until his death in 1943.
(A) Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth: 1859-1876
Only about thirty years separate Takeda Sokaku (1859-1943) from the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910). We do not, alas, have the kind of literary record of Takeda's early life that Tolstoy left of his own, even though the latter's early short novels with the above titles were actually fictional autobiographies. On the other hand, as a child and youth Takeda lived through scenes far more stirring—and potentially quite disturbing, as Amdur suggests—than the prosperous but rather dull childhood depicted by Tolstoy. However, a study of Amdur's analysis of Takeda Sokaku's childhood, and especially his relationship with his father Sokichi, should remain free of any tendency to anachronism. Sokichi should be judged as much by the standards of his own time, as by the standards of child-rearing current in western cultures of the 21st century. A major problem, then, for modern postwar practitioners and also historians of the martial arts, whether Daito-ryu or aikido, is to obtain some measure of understanding of the uniqueness of Takeda's childhood, even when judged by the already severe standards of martial child rearing and education current in Japan around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Some of these core standards, though somewhat modified and softened, are still in place today; others have disappeared, as the following sections attempt to show.
[Essential Digression 1
(i) Socialization and Fathers
In Japan, as with all other societies, the upbringing and education of a child is a general process of socialization, but nowadays there is a major difference between the part of the process that is undertaken at home and the part undertaken at school. This was not so evident in Takeda Sokaku's time, when education was not compulsory. The desired social behavior is rule-governed, but the rules are enforced with an increasing severity that matches the age of the child. Home life for a very young child is free from explicit rules and the child is taught how to appreciate the attractions of amae and amaeru (甘える: being indulged) in the family. However, the important point here is the child learns these attractions mainly from the mother and siblings, since the father is a comparatively remote figure, usually encountered only in the late evening and at weekends. Even now, the father's role is still somewhat restricted to the world outside the home.
""Japanese men likely are never told that it's important to for a man to create a family that can enjoy life together," said Toshiyuki Shiomi, president of Shiraume Gakuen University in Tokyo and an expert on child-rearing issues. "They're told to value their families, but they're made to think the most important thing for them to do is work and bring home money," Shiomi said. With such pressure making it difficult to leave work early or not do overtime to help with the kids and housework, "taking child care leave requires serious resolve."" (From a report on paternity leave, Daily Yomiuri, January 15, 2010.)The main point of this Daily Yomiuri article is the great difficulty in changing entrenched traditional attitudes, even with a new law that comes into effect in June 2010. For example, a close aikido friend of mine, happily married (as far as I can see) with one son and two daughters, still refers to his interaction with his family as 家庭サービス (katei saabisu: family service or duty), which occurs mainly at weekends and on holidays. To generalize, we have the man himself, considered as a competent member of his sex, but who, like his fellow males, lacks certain crucial biological and social needs that in most cases are met by marriage and the production of children. The biological needs being met, the man settles down to being a competent male, but considered by the standards set by his peers, especially in the workplace. He and all his colleagues have katei saabusu to perform, but none of them would admit that it plays a major emotional role in their lives. In fact, as the dead weight of tradition gradually lifts, an increasing number of divorces are taking place in Japan among older couples, whose children have grown up and left home: their parents never learned to communicate with each other except through the shared labor of raising their children.
I have known my friend for over thirty years and I know that he has brought up his son much more severely than his two daughters. Of course such attitudes, namely, that the marital relationship is exclusively concerned with maintaining the family line and that the maternal and paternal roles in the relationship are rigidly separated, were far more entrenched in Tokugawa and even Meiji Japan. For Takeda Sokaku, the concept of katei saabisu did not appear to exist at all. Clearly he needed a wife to prolong the family line and actually married twice. After Moe, his second wife died, when Tokimune was fifteen years of age, "he hardly ever went home. I suppose he was lonely. She was a very strong wife. It seems that she was quite a bit stronger than Sokaku Sensei." (Chieko Horikawa, in Pranin, Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, p. 100.) Perhaps he was, but this does not entail, as Amdur makes clear, that Moe provided him with the kind of companionship in an equally balanced partnership that modern western couples might term ‘love'. The existence of Moe and his first wife gave Takeda a base from which he was enabled to go out and play his traditional role as outside the family. Periodically—sporadically, in fact, he returned to this base for food, shelter and relaxation, but not primarily because his wife and children were waiting for him there.
(ii) Socialization and Schools
In Japan, as with all other societies, the upbringing and education of a child is a careful process. Life ‘outside'—and especially outside the warm atmosphere of the family group—is regarded as potentially abunai (危ない: full of dangers) and is to be approached with great care. Reaching the age of six is a momentous occasion, for the child takes the first official steps ‘outside' and enters elementary school, which officially substitutes for the amae of the family a different kind of amae, which the child is also taught to enjoy (the Japanese term here is tanoshimu [楽しむ], which has a very active sense, of something which requires training to do well), but one which is much more closely circumscribed by rules that have to be obeyed. There is usually a close relationship between the parents, especially, the mother, and the school (via the Parent Teacher Association), but it is also clear that the task of further socializing the child is no longer primarily undertaken by the family, for there is a clear transition from one social structure to another, invariably marked by an elaborate ceremony. This is one important respect in which Japan changed from the feudal and early modern period: schooling, since it was not compulsory, was at that time regarded as an important adjunct to the character building undertaken at home, but was never a replacement.
In the years leading to the opening of Japan to western trade and the abolition of the feudal class structure, education became much more widespread, with the content far less tied to status. Education became compulsory from age six onwards. Japan has a 6-3-3 school system, with the six years of elementary school followed by three years of junior high school and three more (optional) years at high school. The years at junior high school are especially crucial in instilling in the child the virtues accruing from, and the obligations involved in, belonging to a group. Clubs, especially sports clubs, are the usual vehicle for this and in such clubs the youngster also learns the importance of the sempai -- kohai dynamism, which will be a prominent feature of vertically structured relationships later in life.
A very good example of sports clubs as a social bonding process, showing the close relationships of team members, club members, and the equally important but quite different relationships with coaches and teachers, are the annual high school baseball championships. In this competition elimination matches are held over a period of weeks to choose teams from all of Japan's 47 prefectures and are followed by quarter finals, semi-finals, and a final, to find the national winner. This process is the focus of raptured attention, by the entire Japanese nation, and is held up by parents, schools and the media alike as an example of the supposed quintessentially Japanese virtues of cooperation and display of 'fighting spirit' in the face of challenge and adversity. It is like a postwar kokutai expereience.
The sketch given above focuses mainly on contemporary child rearing and socialization in Japan and much research in this area has been done by scholars like Joy Hendry (see Reading, below). An issue often faced by non-Japanese parents, either partners in international marriages, or those temporarily residing in Japan, is whether to put their own children through this socialization system, especially from junior high school onwards. The Japanese educational system is rigorously utilitarian in aim and some non-Japanese parents are not prepared to have their children put through the kind of socialization process that creates cogs in a social machine—and Tokugawa / Meiji Japan was just as much a social machine as postwar Japan. In any case, since they are not considered ‘true' Japanese, these children will never be proper cogs. In fact, this issue is much more acute for Koreans, whose families came to Japan unwillingly, because they were brought here during World War II to aid the Japanese war effort, and whose children were born in Japan, have native fluency in the language and culture, but want to preserve and enjoy their own language and culture as Koreans. The need for these children to assimilate—and their structural inability to do so—brings out the darker aspects of socialization in Japan. Of course, there are also Japanese who fall through the cracks and are left behind. These sometimes go through an alternative socialization process as members of yakuza gangs, which are just as much part of the Japanese social landscape nowadays as they were in Takeda Sokaku's time.
Hendry is an anthropologist and does not approach her subject from a historical perspective. We need to make a speculative leap here and imagine a much more rigorous and starkly depicted socialization process at the time that Takeda Sokaku was a child—and one that depended very much on traditional Confucian values of discipline and the maintaining of status. The point here is that late Tokugawa and Meiji socialization, though harsher, was still socialization and the important issue relating to Amdur's discussion of Takeda Sokaku is when it occurred in his case, if at all, and how.
Status, Discipline, Discipline, and yet more Discipline
Shiba Goro, who was exactly contemporary with Takeda Sokaku and lived through the same battles, wrote a memoir of the Aizu war and its aftermath. The memoir is entitled, 『ある明治人の記録 会津人柴五郎の遺書』 and has been translated and edited by Teruko Craig, with the title, Remembering Aizu: The Testament of Shiba Goro. This memoir provides a useful contrast and counterweight to Takeda Tokimune's account of his father's life and upbringing. As he struggles to survive during the siege of Aizu-Wakamatsu, Shiba, who, to avoid detection passes himself off as a peasant and gradually warms to this new role, is regularly reminded by friends and family alike of his obligation to uphold the status of the family as a samurai—and an Aizu samurai, which was a more intense version of the role. Accordingly, surviving was acceptable, but it had to be done as an Aizu samurai, and if there was a conflict between surviving and being an Aizu samurai, the latter assuredly had to take precedence over the former.
Herbert Passin provides a clear overview of the Tokugawa school system in his Society and Education in Japan. He emphasizes the great importance of status and class divisions.
"Samurai children took their first steps in education in their own homes, acquiring not only some rudimentary, ritual military skills, but, more importantly, the elements of self-image proper to their class and family status. The upbringing was severe, emphasizing the development of character traits considered essential for the development of future rulers: proper manners, proper language to superiors and inferiors, self-respect, frugality, toughness, moderation in food and drink. Therefore, by the time the young samurai lad [generally when between eight and ten years old] went on to formal school—and by the end of the Tokugawa era most of them did so—he was already started on the road to proper class behavior and manner." (Passin, p. 22.)A vivid account of schooling for samurai boys, clearly based on family experience, is given by Yamakawa Kikue in the first chapter of her memoirs (Women of the Mito Domain: see Reading, below). In all the types of schools maintained during the Tokugawa shogunate: the domain schools or hanko [藩校], the private academies or shijuku [私塾], the temple schools or terakoya [寺子屋], the teacher or Sensei, regardless of qualifications, was regarded with great awe and pupils were taught never to step on his shadow or to come within seven paces of him. The Sensei was certainly in loco parentis, but the awe in which he was held was an extension of the extreme remoteness of his own locus, which was achieved by the rules and regulations that surrounded it. Even samurai play was strictly regulated, with rules summarized by Teruko Craig in her introduction to Shiba Goro's memoir:
"A most notable feature of Aizu was the moral training it gave to samurai of rank. Boys aged from six to nine were organized into neighborhood groups of ten (asobi no ju: 遊びの十). They spent the morning studying with individual teachers and in the afternoon met by turn at each other's homes. Before their play began, the most senior of the group recited the "seven rules".In his memoir, Shiba Goro states that he very fond of playing in his neighborhood asobi no ju.
"I spent my afternoons with a neighborhood group of young boys called the asobi no ju. The spiritual training I received in the company of my peers served me well in the difficult years that followed. Indeed, in many ways, I feel I owe my very survival to the values and habits I absorbed unconsciously as a member of that group. I cannot praise it enough." (Shiba / Craig, p. 34.)Judging from Takeda Tokimune's reminiscences, I think it is rather doubtful whether Sokaku would have been particularly happy playing in such a group. However, apart from these reminiscences about his bujutsu training, there is no direct evidence about how Sokaku spent his time at home until he was nine, when the siege of Aizu Castle took place. After a brief discussion on what was expected of samurai daughters (who underwent a similar intensity of training to that received by their brothers and which also included a knowledge of how to commit seppuku ritual suicide and how to use a dagger), Craig continues.
"Every Tokugawa domain had instructions to educate and discipline its samurai, but historians of Aizu view that domain's samurai as having an especially strict training. The consciousness of the domain's close ties to the Tokugawa house, the founder's injunction to serve it with unconditional loyalty, and the stress on hierarchy and self-discipline are seen as having shaped a distinctive ethos. Aizu samurai were known to be proud, austere, narrow-minded, and, above all, stubborn. Such was the character of the "Aizuppo"." (Above quotations from Shiba, Remembering Aizu, pp. 6-7.)Shiba portrays himself as something of a wimp and a sissy, clearly not made of the sterner stuff of the Takedas.
"But to be truthful, I was really a sissy and a coward. I disliked games that had anything to do with physical strength, always lost at sumo matches, and was not even once scolded for being naughty." (Shiba, p. 35.)However, even wimps had to conform to the rules:
"No matter how cold it was, I was not allowed to tuck my hands into the front of my kimono, and no matter how hot it was, I was, I could not use a fan or strip to the waist. On meeting an older person in the street, I had to give way. When entering a house, I had to be careful not to step on the threshold and once inside a room, I had to avoid walking in the middle. Also, when guests came, I was not permitted to scold someone in their presence, not even cats or dogs, to say nothing of servants. Belching, sneezing or yawning in front of others was forbidden. Nor was I ever to look bored. In sum, I—and all samurai children—had to submit to a strict code of etiquette." (Shiba, pp. 35-36.)We should note that this was a reminiscence of a period that was coming to an end, gradually crushed under the dead weight of traditions, maintained purely for the sake of tradition, and unable to deal with the tide of change represented by Perry's 'black ships' and conservative radicals like Saigo Takamori. The traditions seem excessively harsh, especially when viewed in the light of modern conventions, and they appear to have bound Takeda Sokaku as much as Shiba Goro, but in different ways. Moreover, even with the collapse of the Tokugawa bakufu, such rigid traditions of child rearing continued more or less unchanged until Japan's defeat in 1945.
(NOTE: In her reference to Aizuppo, above, Teruko Craig is alluding to the kishitsu [気質: character], believed to be shared by the members of particular kuni or han. Thus Saito Morihiro was once described by K Chiba as an example of Mito Kishitsu and people of Hiroshima are sometimes called Akippoi, Hiroshima once being the province of Aki. Like one's blood type, kishitsu is still thought by many Japanese to be important in the formation of character, in some vague, ill-defined way.)
(iv) Martial Training
Teruko Craig's reference to the dagger is explained in more detail in an autobiographical work entitled A Daughter of the Samurai (武士の娘), written in by Sugimoto Etsu (杉本鉞). In Chapter XII, Etsu meets the grandmother of an acquaintance and is shown some weapons. The episode is of some relevance here for the author's knowledge of weapons.
"A naginata is a long light spear with curved blade which samurai women were taught to use, partly for exercise and partly for defence in case of necessity. This one bore the crest of one of our northern heroes. [This is a reference to those who were part of the Northern Alliance in the Boshin War: the purpose of the alliance was to support the Aizu clan against Satsuma and Choshu.] He was a traitor, but nevertheless he was a hero. When he was killed, his daughter was one of the group—three of them women—who defended the sorely pressed castle during the last desperate hours of hopeless struggle. The old lady told us, with modest pride, that she had been a humble attendant of the daughter and was with her at that dreadful time. The naginata was a memory gift from her honourable and beloved mistress."In his book, quoted above, Herbert Passin also mentions education in the martial arts. The context is a discussion about the differences in curriculum according to the rank of the samurai attending the domain schools. Because of their distaste for handling money, mathematics, for example, was looked down upon by the higher samurai and the father of the great westernizer, Fukuzawa Yukichi (whose picture appears on Japanese banknotes), took his son away from the domain school for this reason,
"It is abominable that innocent children should be taught to use numbers—the instruments of merchants. There is no telling what the teacher may do next." (Passin, p. 21.)Education for samurai was a matter of character building, rather than specialized training and this gradation was also applied to the strictly military arts.
"Swordsmanship, riding and archery were taught to the upper class samurai as a form of spiritual training, but lower-class samurai were taught jujutsu, lancemanship, group tactics and rifle." (ibid.)Passin cites the work of Kasai Sukeji (笠井助治), who published a work in 1960, entitled 『近世藩校の綜合的研究』 (Studies of Domain Schools in the Early Modern Period). The cited page (p. 229) is part of a general chapter on martial arts education in the 295 domain schools listed on pp. 274-291. For the benefit of AikiWeb students of Japanese, here are Kasai's actual statements.
「二 武 芸 と 階 級Kasai considers the Tokugawa domain schools as a whole, but we know that there was a progressive softening of the rules as the era drew to its close. Aizu, however, was a Tokugawa domain and it is reasonable to assume, with Teruko Craig, that the rules were applied strictly here to the bitter end. In the city of Aizu, the domain school was the Nisshinkan (日新館) and we will see later that one of the principal martial arts teachers there was Takeda Sokaku's maternal grandfather, Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori. A short distance away from the Nisshinkan to the north of the castle was the residence of Saigo Tanomo and we have seen from the ‘official' history that Saigo Tanomo was Takeda Sokaku's teacher of Daito-ryu, which he supposedly learned at the hands of grandfather Soemon and father Sokichi. Kasai's account, which will be supplemented below by a more detailed discussion of the Nisshinkan, suggests that this would have been extremely unlikely, at least if it took place before the siege of the Aizu Wakamatsu castle and domain. As Amdur notes, neither Soemon nor Sokichi were of a status to give lessons in an art such as jujutsu to a chief minister of the domain.
(v) 地震 雷 火事 親父
The above phrase, Jishin, Kaminari, Kaji, Oyaji (‘Earthquakes, Thunder, Fire, Fathers'), is a well-known proverb, citing what the Japanese fear most. However, the power of the fourth item has declined considerably since the time when Shiba Goro and Takeda Sokaku lived. The general family relationship, with the rigid differentiation of maternal and paternal roles in the upbringing of children, was described earlier. Even though not much of the power has remained, the general air of remoteness has.
In his memoirs, Shiba Goro gives some idea of the awe in which samurai fathers were held:
"My father [a member of the second highest rank of the eleven ranks of samurai] was devoted to his children and loved them deeply, but, as was the custom of the time, he did not allow himself any informality in their presence. To a timid child like me, he seemed forbiddingly stern, and out of fear as much as deference, I kept my distance. Once in a while, he would pick me up and sit on the hearth with me in his lap. My entire body would stiffen with tension and I would be unable to respond to his gentle questioning. As such times I would secretly wish that he would let go of me." (Shiba, p. 31.)Sugimoto Etsu, also, was in awe of her father—and her mother and, especially, her grandmother. Judging from the way she writes about them, this was probably due to the fact that she was mainly brought up by wet nurses and nannies and so had a much more distant relationship with her parents and grandparents than modern children. However, this distant relationship developed as they all grew older and Etsu recalls that she became very close to her mother during the time she was preparing to go to America to meet her new (Japanese) husband.
In respect of father-son relationships, the evidence we have indicates something more complex. Since sons were male, they were expected to show appropriate male virtues from very early on in their lives. The evidence also suggests that severe training, largely following a Confucian model, was thought the best way to acquire or instill these virtues. Nevertheless, there was some variation both in the severity of the training and also in the motives for practicing it. Though there is a time difference of thirty years or so, Takeda Sokaku's relationship with his father Sokichi may be compared with Ueshiba Morihei's relationship with his father Yoroku. The evidence of Kisshomaru's biography seems to suggest that, perhaps because his family were living in less turbulent times and he was glad to have a son, Yoroku indulged Morihei far more than Takeda Sokichi indulged Sokaku. Again, Shiba Goro's memoir is instructive here, for it suggests that youngest sons were indulged more then their older brothers, for the oldest son, especially, had a major responsibility to assume leadership of the family. (My own experience of teaching Japanese students who are male siblings suggests that this is true, even today.) In fact, in the case of Takeda Sokichi, ‘indulge' (甘える) seems the wrong word to use and this is the basis for Amdur's speculation that Sokaku trained himself severely, in order to spite his father. In both cases, however, their respective sons, Tokimune and Kisshomaru, have written memoirs and these memoirs and reminiscences also indicate certain relationships, actually spanning two generations. Kisshomaru's biography, especially, shows some warmth, but warmth encased in a shell of great awe and trepidation. With Tokimune, on the other hand, there is the same hard shell, but the warmth is somehow lacking.
Apart from the time he was adopted into the family of Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori, Takeda Sokaku appears to have lived in the family home in Aizubange-cho and would therefore have come into close contact with his mother and siblings, especially. Neither Takeda Tokimune nor Takeda Sokaku himself record any such respect or awe on the part of Sokaku for his father Sokichi and this raises an important question about the genesis of Sokaku's general attitude to life, which is one of the main thrusts of Amdur's chapter and which we will need to consider later. The general point which needs to be emphasized here is that in both cases Kisshomaru and Tokimune treat their own fathers with immense respect—and Kisshomaru also shows some affection. However, owing to the conventions governing Meiji and Taisho parenting and especially the public behavior of Meiji and Taisho fathers towards their children, any affection they may have felt was never publicly demonstrated. For example, Ueshiba Kisshomaru makes a poignant statement in his father's biography on the occasion of the opening of the new Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1968, the year before Ueshiba Morihei died. Kisshomaru would have been 47 years old at the time.
"O Sensei took a long look at the new dojo building and was filled with deep emotion. Our eyes met and he simply said, "You did well." This was the only time that my father ever said something to praise what I did." (A Life in Aikido, p. 45).By all accounts, moreover, Morihei seems to have been a rather more considerate father to Kisshomaru than Sokaku was to Tokimune.
(vi) Discipline and Punish:
The Birth of Sokaku's Prison?
The seemingly turbulent relationship between Takeda Sokaku with his father Sokichi also needs to be understood in the general context of social conventions that existed for punishing evildoers, including juvenile delinquents, which were always based as much on the status of the person involved as on the severity of the transgression. In other words, the punishment had to fit the criminal, as well as the crime. There is very little written in English on the practice and theory of punishment in Japan, but in one book, Punishment and Power in the Making of Modern Japan, Daniel Botsman applies to early modern Japan the methodological insights of Michel Foucault in his groundbreaking Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. Rather than showing that Tokugawa punishments represented clear progress from the ‘barbarity' of the sixteenth century to the more ‘civilized' state of the nineteenth (which they might well have done), Botsman shows them as a set of considered strategies for ordering society and exercising power. He also shows the additional important role of punishment, not purely as the expression of a private relationship between transgressor and the state—or parent, but also as a general—and very public—sign of censure.
"…Creating a horrifying spectacle (a memorable sign) was just as important as inflicting pain on the individual being executed [the context is the use of the executed corpse as a kosatsu 高札: ‘tall sign' or bulletin board), used by the shogunate to communicate basic laws and regulations]— consequently death was no limit to punishment. When a person who had been sentenced to crucifixion died before the punishment could be carried out, for example, the dead body was often pickled in salt and then crucified as if he or she were still alive. This procedure was followed in eight of the fifteen crucifixions conducted in Edo between 1862 and 1865 [when Takeda Sokaku was between three and five years old]. Burning at the stake was only conducted with live bodies, but even so death did not mark the end of punishment. As soon as the prisoner's life had been extinguished, so, too, were the main flames. Torches were then used to concentrate the fire on the genitals of the male bodies and the breasts of the female ones, as well as the nose, in order to produce a grotesque stump of humanity for the explicit purpose of public display." (Botsman, pp. 19-20.)The practice of gokumon (獄門: ‘gate of the prison'), displaying the severed heads of those who had been executed,
"which exemplifies the Tokugawa strategy of displaying the results of execution while concealing the process, was significantly more common then either crucifixion or burning at the stake. A total of 123 cases are recorded for Edo in the four years between 1862 and 1865, formed another important part of the Bakufu's system of bodies-as-signs." (Botsman, p. 20.)Botsman also notes that people, usually hinin, were employed to watch over the gruesome exhibits, to make sure that families did not take the bodies away for burial. There was also a pronounced public aspect to punishments less severe than execution. It is this public aspect of the punishment, the visible scars left from punishments like tattooing or burning substances on the skin, which was distinctive. The important point to make here is that such brutal and public methods of punishment were still in existence in Takeda Sokaku's childhood and that this is of some relevance to the question of Sokaku's supposed ‘traumatization', as a result of seeing dead bodies of soldiers in the Aizu campaign. The display of dead bodies and body parts as public signs was still part and parcel of the culture of punishment at the time.
Later in the work, Botsman considers the disciplining of children and emphasizes the desire of the shogunate to be seen to be benevolent—always, however, judged by the standards of the times. Thus children who murdered their parents were not executed, but placed with relatives until they reached an age when they could be exiled. It is significant that Botsman considers children only as transgressors and does not mention the disciplining and punishment of children within the home. A plausible inference is that there were no standards laid down in the house rules for parents when disciplining their children, other than those set for those who could not do it effectively. The parents of such juvenile delinquents were not punished, but the delinquent children could be imprisoned for a time.
End of Essential Digression 1]
As with Stanley Pranin's introduction to the interviews in his Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, so here, with Amdur's analysis, the principal basis for our knowledge of Takeda's early activities are the essays written by his son Tokimune and collected in the earlier issues of Aiki News (especially, Issues 67-70; 74-82). However, some caution is necessary, for these essays and interviews are varied in detail and do not always keep to a precise chronology. Like Kisshomaru Ueshiba's biography of his father, they are reminiscences made by a son and need to be corroborated by independent objective evidence. There is a great deal of contemporary evidence about education in the Aizu domain, but far less evidence about the life of Takeda Sokichi and the early life of Takeda Sokaku.
Tokimune's general accounts of life during the siege of Aizu should be compared with Shiba Goro's memoir, mentioned above. The accounts should also be compared with more official and scholarly accounts of education in the martial arts in general and in the Aizu domain in particular (the works of Kasai and Ogawa, referred to elsewhere, are very important here). For example, Shiba Goro was the same age as Takeda Sokaku, but was subjected to much less severe training in the martial arts. In addition, there is a vast difference in punishment meted out to the Shibas and the Takedas after the surrender of Aizu Castle. The Shibas were sent into exile and returned to Aizu only after a long period of hardship, whereas Takeda Sokichi seems to have escaped punishment altogether, returning home to Aizu after an unspecified period in Sendai, to work his plot of land and open his terakoya school. Even Saigo Tanomo, a major Aizu politician of very high standing, survived, took the name of Hoshina Chikanori, and found employment in various Shinto shrines. This difference in treatment is not even alluded to by Tokimune and can be explained only by the difference in their relative standing as samurai.
In his Aiki News articles Takeda Tokimune prefaces his discussion of Takeda Sokaku with a general historical outline of the Meiji Restoration, the Boshin War, the Battle of Aizu and the siege of Aizu-Wakamatsu Castle. He considers this outline to be essential background to Sokaku's early upbringing. However, his account, too, needs to be treated with caution, for the Boshin War was a pivotal point in the Meiji Restoration and the story can be told from many different viewpoints. Thus Tokimune's account needs to be placed in the context of the general history of the period from 1853 till 1868. Relevant here are the chapters in Jansen's The Making of Modern Japan and the same author's study of the life of Sakamoto Ryoma, who played a crucial role in Satsuma's decision to change sides and support Choshu instead of Aizu. Conrad Totman's account of the collapse of the Tokugawa bakufu dwells on the internal problems that led to the collapse, whereas Albert Craig's history of the Choshu clan tells the beginnings of the story from the viewpoint of the clan that defeated Aizu. The members of the Choshu and Satsuma clans were considered by Aizu samurai to be mortal enemies and this bias colors Tokimune's account as well as Shiba's. For her translation of Shiba Goro's memoirs, Teruko Craig travelled around and met the descendants of those ‘Northern heroes', who perished in the siege of the city:
"The people of Aizu never forgave the leaders of Satsuma and Choshu. Other domains in the northeastern alliance had their lands reduced, but Aizu alone had been abolished and its samurai sent into exile. It is noteworthy that even today natives of Aizu-Wakamatsu bear an enmity towards Choshu and Satsuma. Local historians of former Aizu [including Takeda Tokimune] refer to the Choshu and Satsuma forces as the "western army" and not as the government army, the usual term." (Shiba, p. 21.)However, the Choshu and Satsuma clans also had long collective memories and never forgot the reduction of their domain lands after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. Thus the facts about the Boshin War, the Siege of Aizu-Wakamatsu, and the Satsuma Rebellion that are relevant to Takeda Sokaku can be stated quite simply. The significance of the facts, however, is much more complicated and depends on one's position on either side of a wide political divide.
[Essential Digression 2
Main Events of the Aizu War and the Siege of Tsuru-ga-jo
(This outline is taken mainly from four Japanese sources: Ichimitsu Mahito's edition of Aru Meijijin no Kiroku [the original of Shiba Goro's memoir, Aizu Remembered, 1971]; Hoya Toru's Boshin Senso [Boshin War, 2007], Hoshi Ryoichi's Aizu Senso Zenshi [History of the Aizu War, 2005] and Aizu Sakujo [The Fall of Aizu Castle, 2003], supplemented by Takeda Tokimune's essays from Aiki News.)
1643: Hoshina Masayuki (1617-1672), half-brother of shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu, became daimyo of the Aizu domain. Later, Masayuki was allowed to use the name Matsudaira and the Aizu domain became a collateral domain, closely tied to the Tokugawa shogunate. Masayuki's house rules strongly emphasized the crucial importance of supporting the Tokugawa shogunate, no matter what the cost.
1862: When Matsudaira Katamori (1835-1893), daimyo [lord] of Aizu, was asked to be protector of Kyoto, thus assuring the safety of the Emperor and policing the city, Saigo Tanomo (a.k.a. Hoshina Chikanori, who allegedly taught aiki skills to Takeda Sokaku) was one of two Aizu elders who advised him to decline the request. However, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, regent of the Shogun and later Shogun himself, persuaded Katamori to ignore Saigo Tanomo's advice, on the grounds that his ancestor, Hoshina Masayuki, would certainly have accepted the task. Accordingly, Katamori moved to Kyoto at the head of a force of 1,000 Aizu samurai.
1863: Together with samurai from Satsuma (led by Saigo Takamori), Katamori engineered a coup d'état in Kyoto and suppressed the radical pro-emperor samurai movement in Kyoto.
1864: Choshu forces were defeated by Aizu-Satsuma samurai, when the former tried to recapture the imperial palace in Kyoto.
1865: Choshu surrendered to a large bakufu army [bakufu is ‘tent government': the government of the shogun] and the severed heads of radical leaders were sent to bakufu headquarters. (Some historians believe that Katamori pursued a personal vendetta against the Choshu domain and that this accounts for the severity of the later treatment of the Aizu clan.)
1866: In the Choshu domain there was a civil war and radicals regained power. Choshu made a secret pact with the Satsuma domain (engineered by the Tosa ronin samurai, Sakamoto Ryoma), which withdrew from the alliance with Aizu.
1867: Choshu samurai defeated a bakufu army.
1868: January: Satsuma, now allied with Choshu, seized the imperial palace and proclaimed the restoration of rule by the Emperor. Yoshinobu, with Katamori's strong support led an army to recapture the court, but this was defeated. Yoshinobu and Katamori fled to Edo. There was evidence (now generally regarded as false) that the Emperor had ordered Satsuma and Choshu, together with Tosa and Hizen, to mount a punitive expedition against Aizu and other allied domains in the northeast (known as the Northern Alliance).
1868, January: hostilities began with the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in Kyoto. Takeda Sokichi, who was the leader of a sumo group, is said to have fought in this battle.
1868, February: Katamori returned to Aizu and prepared for battle.
1868, February-September: Satsuma-Choshu forces undertook a carefully planned campaign, which involved marching through the various domains of the Northern Alliance and laying siege to the castle towns.
1868, April: Takeda Sokichi was the head of a company of sumo rikishi (see below) called upon to play their part in defending the castle of Shirakawa, situated several miles to the south-east of Wakamatsu, which formed the entrance to the Ou group of domains. The person in overall charge of defending Shirakawa was Saigo Tanomo.
1868, August-September: The Satsuma-Choshu forces laid siege to their final target, which Aizu-Wakamatsu castle, and invaded the domain. The force defending the castle were organized into four battalions, each named after a deity believed to guard one of the four directions of the compass:
In addition, smaller units were made up of:
Samurai elderly, women and children were ordered into the castle. This order would have depended on their status and their distance from the castle. It is difficult to envisage the women from the Takeda household walking the several miles to take refuge in the castle, but it is also clear that they fled from their houses, in order to avoid meeting any Choshu/Satsuma troops. In the castle town itself, many samurai wives, mothers, and sisters refused the order and committed seppuku. Many families lost female members in this way, including Shiba Goro and Saigo Tanomo (who lost 21 family members).
1868: Saigo Tanomo escaped from Aizu-Wakamatsu during the siege of the city and travelled to Sendai with Takeda Sokichi.
1868: Allied domains in the northeast surrendered one by one, with Aizu surrendering the castle in September.
1868, September: Saigo Tanomo travelled north to Hakodate and joined the army of Enomoto Takeaki. The final surrender was made by Enomoto Takeaki in June, 1869. Saigo Tanomo also surrendered with Enomoto and was imprisoned in Takebayashi.
1869: Aizu samurai were first taken to Tokyo and then exiled to the far north of Honshu (now Aomori Prefecture), where they remained until 1871. Takeda Sokichi was not among them.
1872-1877: When the Meiji Restoration ran out of steam and Saigo Takamori became disaffected with the new regime, he returned to Kyushu and built up an academy of disaffected samurai. Saigo Takamori's final battle occurred in 1877, at Shiroyama, when his samurai forces were defeated by a well-equipped army of conscripts, organized without reference to traditional class divisions. Takeda Sokaku traveled south to join Saigo's samurai army, but the Battle of Shiroyama took place before he arrived there. (The film The Last Samurai portrays this defeat, but blends the story of the battle with another, quite different, episode.)
End of Essential Digression 2]
Takeda Sokaku was born in Oikeda (御池田), not far from the center of Aizubange-cho (会津坂下町), in what is now Fukushima Prefecture. Aizubange-cho was several miles to the northwest of Aizu-Wakamatsu City, the 城下町 (jo-ka-machi or castle town) where the Tsuru-ga-jo (‘castle of cranes') was located and the significance of this location is that it offers some indication of the Takeda family's status. According to Takeda Tokimune, Sokaku's father, Takeda Sokichi, was a goshi, (郷士) a lower-ranked samurai, who cultivated farmland that had been passed down in the family. Amdur remarks that
"some historians have even questioned whether this part of the Takeda family even remained part of the bushi class, or whether they were goshi (landed yeomen) who were midway between farmers and bushi." (HIPS, p. 73.)Amdur does not tell us who the historians are and it is true that the term broadened in use over time to include upwardly mobile rural elites and non-samurai village heads, who were given permission to assume surnames and carry swords. In some domains goshi were active in local politics during the later years of the shogunate and played a major role in bringing about the Meiji Restoration.
Takeda Tokimune notes that the shrine to which the Takeda family was attached also had a rice stipend, but this was because of the status of the shrine, not because of Takeda's status as a goshi. Tokimune does not make clear Takeda Sokichi's precise relationship with the shrine, beyond stating that his eldest son Sokatsu studied to become a priest, passed the examinations and worked at the shrine. Elsewhere, Tokimune states that Sokichi's father Soemon was the shrine priest, so it is likely that Sokichi was, also.
By contrast, the Shiba family, considerably higher in rank, lived with other high-ranking samurai in Aizu-Wakamatsu City, within the outer walls of the castle itself, and was entitled to a rice stipend. The difference in status relates to the rules laid down at the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate, when the country was more or less unified. The Tokugawa shoguns were always mindful of possible disaffection and revolt by local daimyo and as a result allowed only one castle in each domain and also required all samurai to reside in the castle town and help to administer the domain. However, two important factors ensured that this rule was not completely enforced. One was that some goshi had maintained their rural estates since well before the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, when the Tokugawa shogunate began, and it was thought prudent to allow them to remain. Secondly, with the passage of time the rule requiring samurai to reside in the castle towns on a rice stipend became increasingly difficult to maintain, owing to the constant fiscal problems faced by the shogunate. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the Tokugawas increasingly stressed the primacy of bun (文) over bu (武), in the house rules published after 1600.
The difference in status between the Takedas and the Shibas is of some significance for the turn of events in the Aizu War. Higher-ranking samurai were expected to be in the central castle keep and defend the castle. Their wives and children were also expected to accompany them, but many did not do so, on the grounds that they would have got in the way. Takeda Sokichi and his eldest son also went to the castle from Aizubange-cho, which would have involved a lengthy walk, and stayed there during the siege. The wives of lower ranking samurai and peasants were not expected to go to the castle, but left the town for their own safety. Very young children, like nine-year-old Takeda Sokaku, stayed at home, since it was considered that they would not present any military threat to soldiers. Thus Sokaku was able to walk to the city relatively unimpeded to watch the siege of the castle and then go home again. It was on these excursions that he encountered government troops and saw the bodies of the Aizu soldiers. Tokimune states that Sokaku enjoyed going to watch the fighting, and we need to consider Amdur's suggestion that he was being ironic.
"Sokaku regularly snuck through enemy lines to get close to the castle they were defending. Tokimune, either credulously relying on his father's account or in studied irony, wrote, ‘Sokaku, being a child, enjoyed observing the scene.' Really? He passed through piles of corpses, made all the worse because the government refused to allow the Aizu to bury their dead. Dogs devoured the bodies, rotting in the sun. He saw the corpse of a naked man hanging upside down from the tree, and perhaps worst of all, soldiers offered him what they were eating themselves, grilled human flesh, necessary for them to survive due to the shortage of food in the ravaged countryside. Consider what that will do to a child? Think of the child soldiers of Africa and Southeast Asia. This tiny boy was only one step removed from such a fate, being witness to horror, rather than a participant. Witnessing is dreadful enough." (HIPS, p. 78.)I have not seen the Japanese original of Tokimune's text cited by Amdur, but there is a Japanese version of the interviews conducted by Stanley Pranin. Tokimune recounts the same episode (of Sokaku walking to the castle at night to watch the battle), but with some omissions.
「また夜中に三里の道を通って大砲の撃ち合いを見に行ったそうです。毎晩にぎり飯を持って、城に弾が飛んで来るのがおもしろくて行くわけです。そこらじゆう警備だらけだか ら、音をたてて見つかってしょっちゆう捕まるわけだ。子供だし、おどかされて帰されるのだけど、また行くわけですね（笑）。昔の大砲は今の爆弾と違って破裂するのではなく 、赤い火の球（焼いて熱くしたもの。焼球）を飛ばしたのです。それを夜だとよく見えるのだから毎晩見に行った。戦場だから槍だのをさげているものいたし、小さい時から人を斬ったりするのを見ていたわけです。戦場が好きでね。子供だから殺される心配はないし、戦場を駆けまわっていたそうです。」Basically, Tokimune states here that the reason why Sokaku went to watch the fighting was the canon fire, with new types of cannons being used against the old type. Then he adds (section in bold & underlined in Japanese) that, "Since it was a battlefield, many people were carrying spears and other weapons. Sokaku saw people kill each other in this way when he was very young. He loved battlefields." (Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, p. 44.)
As do many soldiers (Patton comes to mind here) and military historians. Readers will need to make up their own minds about Tokimune's possible irony in the above extract (for it is reasonable to suppose that if Tokimune was being ironic in the passage cited by Amdur, he was also being ironic here) and also about whether the episode, almost certainly recounted by Sokaku himself, revealed the kind of trauma that Amdur detects. The narrative cited by Amdur should be balanced by another passage, taken, like that cited by Amdur, from the articles published in Aiki News. In the article published in Aiki News Issue #78, Tokimune notes that when he attended the school run by his father (which would have been after the events cited by Amdur), Sokaku loved listening to stories of martial valor. "During story telling time, he would push other children aside to sit right at his father's knee and listen very avidly."
Rather than the irony, I think we need to keep in mind the historical timeline. The Meiji government army followed a very precise plan for subduing the Northern Alliance and this involved a route that was carefully thought out, which is partly why the campaign was successful. It was an intense and closely fought campaign, with much wanton violence on both sides. The siege of Aizu was the last event of the campaign and took place over a period of one month, after the surrender of Shirakawa-guchi. The nocturnal visits of Sokaku to the environs of Aizu Castle lasted for one week. Sokaku, who loved ‘stories of martial valor' and battles, had the chance of a ringside view of a real battle—and took it.
Finally, I believe that any trauma suffered by Takeda Sokaku has to be seen in the general context of contemporary attitudes concerning transgression, discipline, and punishment and so the discussion by Botsman, summarized earlier, on the public aspects of punishment in Tokugawa Japan is of great importance here. This is especially relevant to his final sentences, when Amdur asks us to, "think of the child soldiers in Africa and Southeast Asia." I think he leaves himself open to the charge of anachronism here, for such a comparison is best made when all the relevant factors are considered, not merely the emotional impact.
The main points of discussion concerning Amdur's treatment of this period are: (1) what martial arts Takeda Sokaku would have learned from his father, grandparents, uncle and others; (2) what kind of internal skills would this training have given; and (3) the effects of the discipline to which he was subjected at this early age. We will consider these three points in turn.
(1) The most important event in Takeda Sokaku's early life was the invasion of the Aizu domain by the forces of the new Meiji government and the subsequent siege of the Tsuru-ga-jo castle in Aizu-Wakamatsu. Thus September 23, 1868, when Matsudaira Katamori surrendered the castle, makes a convenient dividing line for considering Sokaku's childhood and youth. Sokaku was nine years when this happened, but we do not really know for certain exactly which martial arts he had studied up to this point. As noted above, his son Tokimune is sometimes vague about precise dates. It is clear from Tokimune's articles in Aiki News that the Takeda house in Oikeda was close to, or even part of a shrine, which was also known as the Aizu Ise Shrine. Takeda Sokichi was already an accomplished sumo wrestler at the time of the Aizu War, with the rank of ozeki and this means that he would have travelled around competing in sumo tournaments. Tokimune states that Sokichi built a sumo ring on his own property, and also had live-in deshi. He notes in passing that the level of sumo training was very high, sufficient to attract wrestlers "from all over", with their living expenses paid by Sokichi. Even in present-day Japan, boys are introduced to sumo from a very early age, so it highly likely that Sokaku had been practicing sumo since well before the war broke out.
Thus Amdur is correct, in my opinion, to emphasize that training in sumo from a very early age lay at the root of Sokaku's possession of any internal power and skills. There are two aspects to this. One is the pair work involved with partners of differing size and power; the other is the extensive solo training required. It seems from Tokimune's accounts that Sokaku was willing put in long hours in both types of training from very early on. Moreover, even in present-day Japan boys also begin kendo from a very early age and I sometimes see very diminutive juvenile kendoka, clad in miniature keikogi and hakama and clutching their protective gear, rushing to their training sessions. (Note that these students are usually boys. Their martially minded older sisters are more likely to be doing naginata.) Thus it is highly likely that Takeda Sokaku would also have begun training in kenjutsu from a very early age and it is also very clear that he much preferred this and sumo to book learning.
Takeda Sokichi also played a ‘political' role in Aizu affairs as the leader of a political group of sumo wrestlers. This group, apparently consisting of 30 members, played a major role in the Battle of Toba-Fushimi in January 1868, in Kyoto (this battle began the Boshin Civil War), the defence of Shirakawa-guchi, and in the defence of the Aizu castle later in the year. Sokichi's role as leader suggests that he was sometimes absent from home and these absences would have become increasingly frequent and prolonged in 1868, during the run up to the Boshin War. This is clear from Takeda Tokimune's account in Aiki News. The account is occasionally puzzling, however, since at one point Tokimune briefly mentions the assassination by Mito samurai of Ii Naosuke in 1861 and then crosses a gap of several years and moves straight to a discussion of the Aizu Sumo Wrestlers' Party, who travelled around teaching sumo to enable the defeated Aizu to regain their ‘fighting spirit'. This can only have happened after the autumn of 1868. In the same article, Tokimune states that after the war, Sokichi
"remained in the Aizu domain as a "country samurai" where he had inherited some cultivated land which had been handed down in his family. He also taught swordwork and bojutsu at the "Budojo", which he had built several years before as a storehouse." (Aiki News, #78, Sept 1985.)The question arises as to what kind of "swordwork and bojutsu" Sokichi taught in his dojo and how he learned the jujutsu that he supposedly taught Sokaku.
[Essential Digression 3
Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori and the Nisshinkan
Takeda Sokichi's wife was the daughter of the prominent Aizu samurai, Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori, and it is likely that at least some of the Sokichi's weapon skills would have been learned from Kanenori. Kurokochi Dengoro Kananori is the subject of an article by Kono Yoshinori which was published in Aiki News (#102, 1995) and Amdur acknowledges his debt to this article. Kono, in turn, relies heavily on a Japanese text entitled, 『会津藩教育考』(which I have translated as, Thoughts on Education in the Aizu Domain), complied by one Ogawa Wataru (小川渉). It is unfortunate that Kono followed the Japanese custom and gave no page references to this work and so a reader of Kono's article might have the impression that Ogawa's book is a historical work, written with a strict concern for accuracy. This is not, however, entirely correct. The book is really a compilation of charts, diaries, lists, and anecdotes—very interesting to read, but not corroborated by other evidence, as far as I can judge, other than various cross-references to, by, and about the large number of people mentioned in the text. (The main reminiscences about Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori can be found on pp. 537-540 and about Saigo Chikamoto [Tanomo's father] on pp. 525-527. Kono produces these reminiscences more or less verbatim, the only difference being the translation into reasonable English of one single Japanese sentence, covering two whole pages of Ogawa's text.)
The minimum age for entry into the Nisshinkan was ten years, so Takeda Sokaku would not have been eligible at the time of the siege of Aizu Wakamatsu. However, most samurai boys attended private academies from the age of around seven, where they learned how to read the Chinese classics and also bujutsu. Thus, it is possible that Sokaku was adopted into the Kurokochi family and trained under Kanenori's direction before the Aizu war and also that Kanenori, who was noted for his skill in Japanese waka, might have attempted to teach Sokaku to read. However, if he did, he was singularly unsuccessful, and it is strange that there are no stories told by Tokimune of his ‘wild' behavior outside his immediate family.
It is clear that Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori was a formidable martial artist. Kono lists all the arts that Kanenori practiced (explanations in brackets are quoted from Kono's article in Aiki News, #102, pp. 36-37): Shinmuso Itto-ryu kenjutsu (sword); Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha sojutsu (spear); Shizuka-ryu and later Arazawa-ryu naginatajutsu (glaive); Inagami Shinmyo-ryu jujutsu (unarmed grappling); and Shirai-ryu bojutsu (stick). Kono adds that he was also "skilled" in shurikenjutsu (throwing darts), haribukijutsu (blowing needles), and kusarigamajutsu (chain-and sickle), and that he also "trained in" bajutsu (horseriding), kyujutsu (archery), fukiya blowgun), jutte (metal truncheon), and mitsu-dogu (a set of three weapons used to subdue criminal suspects without the use of undue force). Some of the mitsudogu are still carried today in Japanese police patrol cars.
Ogawa lists all the arts that were taught in the Nisshinkan, the domain school in Aizu, and various other locations (Ogawa, pp. 500-506). The kenjutsu and jujutsu ryu listed are reproduced below. (The names of the individual ryu, which are not numbered in the original text, have been left in Japanese, as a challenge to AikiWeb readers who are students of this language.)
1. 一刀流溝口派; 一刀流 (another location listed, but probably the same ryu);
2. 北辰一刀流 (Instructor: Kurokochi Kanenori, in his own dojo);
3. 眞天流; 眞天流 (another location listed);
5. 太子流; 太子流 (seven other locations listed);
6. 安光流; 安光流 (another location listed);
7. 神道精武流; 神道精武流 (two other locations listed);
8. 大道流; 大道流 (two different locations listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan);
9. 神道流 (different location listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan);
10. 天流 (two different locations listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan);
11. 一刀流小野派 (different location listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan);
12. 波東流 (different location listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan);
13. 古天流 (different location listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan);
14. 新景流 (different location listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan)
NOTE 1. One issue is whether the art listed as No.11 is the same Ono-ha as the art taught to Takeda Sokaku in the Shibuya Dojo in Aizubange.
NOTE 2. There is a brief appendix added to the list of kenjutsu ryu:
「按するに家世實記寛文二年の條に、柳生流（柳生十兵衛三嚴を祖となす）劔術[so I assume this is the Edo lineage] の逹人毛利市之丞に三百石を賜はり召抱へられし旨見え、また會津古人傳鹽田昭矩が傳に、父重矩學びて柳生流の劔術に長ずとあり、昭矩は明和五年に死しその子昭方に傳へしや否詳らかならず、毛利より鹽田に至るの間その後の傳続絶えしや將た予が知らざるものか後考に付しぬ。
また承應二年今家利（又兵衛）山口流新小太刀の兵術を以て三百石を賜はり召し出され、また明暦二年家利死し嗣子利次（茂太夫）未熟にして百石を減せられし旨系譜に見え、ま た元祿十六年竹村長高、七左衛門隔日に以心流の劔術を侍授せしよし積慶錄に見えしが、何れも後世なき所絶傳したるものと見ゆ。」(『会津藩教育考』, p. 503.)
NOTE 3. Both Kasai's discussion, quoted above, and this appendix for kenjutsu ryu mention Yagyu-ryu kenjutsu, (in bold & underlined). I assume that this would be Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, but I can find no other evidence in this work, nor any other evidence elsewhere, that Takeda Sokaku actually studied this art in his youth. Kasai, however, does not explicitly state whether the Yagyu-ryu he refers to is jujutsu or kenjutsu (as I understand his reference, Yagyu-ryu was an art that was widely available, but the context of the discussion is the arts to be practiced by high-ranking samurai—which would suggest kenjutsu). I have included all the evidence in Japanese (with references to sources), in order that AikiWeb readers can work out for themselves to what extent it is possible that Takeda Sokaku was exposed to either line of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu.
15. 神道精武流; 神道精武流 (two other locations listed);
16. 神妙流 (different location listed; the art was not taught in the Nisshinkan);
17. 稲上心妙流 (Instructor: Kurokochi Kanenori, in his own dojo);
18. 水野新當流; 水野新當流 (six other locations listed);
NOTE 4. The art listed as 17 is Inagami Shinmyo-ryu, taught by Kanenori in Shin-machi, Ichiban-cho. If Takeda Sokichi studied jujutsu, it is possible—but by no means certain, that he would have studied this ryu, since it was taught by his father-in-law. However, it is also possible (there is no evidence for or against) that he studied other jujutsu ryu taught in the Aizu domain.
NOTE 5. There is one ryu listed under both categories (7 and 15), but with different instructors. However, there is no evidence that Takeda Sokaku ever studied this art (Shindo Seibutsu-ryu).
NOTE 6. Unlike in the list of kenjutsu ryu, there is no appendix of explanations for the jujutsu ryu officially taught under the auspices of the Aizu domain school.
End of Essential Digression 3]
Kurokochi Kanenori's name appears only twice in the above lists, but appears frequently in the lists of other arts taught in the Nisshinkan. These include the many arts taught by Kanenori at the Nisshinkan and at other locations around the city of Aizu (his own dojo in Shin-machi, Ichiban-cho included). We saw earlier that who attended the domain school and on which days, who sat where, and who studied which martial art, all depended heavily on the samurai ranking of the student's family. In his article, Kono also notes that Kanenori maintained his own dojo in Shin-machi Ichiban-cho and that it is likely that Takeda Sokichi, and perhaps his grandfather Soemon, would have acquired the skills there. The sole kenjutsu and jujutsu arts listed as taught by Kanenori are, respectively, Hokushin Itto-ryu and Inagami Shinmyo-ryu and this is the reason for Amdur's lengthy explanation of the various arts connected with Kurama-dera.
I can find no references at all in Ogawa's book to Takeda Soemon or Sokichi and it is not clear from Kono's article what, exactly, Kanenori taught his grandson Sokaku. Tokimune notes that Sokaku was adopted into the Kurokochi family for a period, but in his introduction to Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Stanley Pranin notes that it is not exactly known when Sokaku's adoption into the Kurokochi family took place. A plausible hypothesis is that, as Sokichi's second son, Sokaku was adopted into the Kurokochi family to provide a male heir. Kanenori's eldest son was killed in the Boshin War and both his wounded younger son and Kanenori Dengoro himself committed seppuku during the same war. Sokaku's adoption was marked by the gift of a kotetsu sword, which Sokaku used on a number of occasions during the period of his apprenticeship to Sakakibara Kenkichi, which began in 1876. Since Kanenori died in 1868, any martial arts training that Sokaku received at his hands must have occurred before this, when he was still a young boy. Another, more likely, possibility is that Sokaku did not learn very much at all from Kanenori directly, but learned much more from Sokichi, whom Kanenori knew well enough to allow his marriage to his daughter. This is Amdur's argument and it is presented in various parts of this chapter.
Amdur notes that Kanenori was licensed to teach the three main arts that Sokichi allegedly practiced: jujutsu, kenjutsu, and sojutsu, for, in addition to the two arts listed above, Kanenori taught Takada-ha Hozoin-ryu sojutsu. Amdur accepts Tokimune's statement that Kanenori taught this art to Sokichi, who was "initiated into all of the secret teachings of the art and taught it to his son Sokaku." He then takes a second step:
"It seems logical that a young man who found such favor with his teacher that he was allowed to marry his daughter, would very likely have learned something of the art most central to Kanenori's skill: Inagami Shinmyo-ryu." (HIPS, p. 72.)Amdur repeats the argument later in the chapter.
"Kanenori Dengoro taught Sokichi Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha sojutsu, one of the most important arts in his repertoire, and, given that Sokichi was a sumo champion—and, furthermore, given that Kanenori held him in such high esteem that he made him his son-in-law, it is very likely that he also taught him some, if not all, of Inagami Shinmyo-ryu. Could Inagami Shinmyo-ryu have had such extraordinary principles and subtle techniques as Daito-ryu? Why not? Remember, as described in Chapter 1, Kito-ryu and Yoshin-ryu had principle-based methods methods of training which created practitioners who had skills remarkable similar to those described for Takeda Sokaku. Furthermore, consider the brilliance of Kanenori Dengoro, who asserted that jujutsu was the root of all skills." (HIPS, p. 86.)For the benefit of AikiWeb students of Japanese, Kanenori's famous statement about jujutsu is quoted below. (The Chinese character for the Kane in ‘Kane-nori' has been simplified.)
「また［兼規］謂へり柔術は技藝の元素なり、これを窮むれば他の藝術は窮推するに難からずと、」(『会津藩教育考』, p. 539.)Amdur makes as good a speculative case as possible on the basis of the circumstantial evidence. However, as we shall see below, some questions remain.
In addition to the arts he learned from his father, Takeda Sokaku practiced Ono-ha Itto-ryu kenjutsu at the Yokikan Dojo in Aizubange-cho. This school, run by Shibuya Tomo, would, of course, have been a private dojo, for the only recognized school in martial arts for samurai in Aizu was the Nisshinkan and the instructors who taught there were officially qualified to do so. (Shibuya's school is not listed in Ogawa's『会津藩教育考』.) Sokaku was practising Ono-ha Itto-ryu even when the siege of Aizu Wakamatsu Castle was in progress, for Tokimune states that soldiers from the government army saw the boys training, but made no attempt to stop them, for they were only children.
Finally, in view of the makimono scroll given by Takeda Sokaku to Ueshiba Morihei, the question arises whether Yagyu Shinkage-ryu was taught in the Aizu domain and whether Sokaku himself actually studied this art. It is clear from the work of Kasai that Yagyu-ryu was taught in many domain schools and from that of Ogawa that Yagyu-ryu kenjutsu was taught in the Aizu domain. However, there is no evidence, even circumstantial evidence, that Takeda Sokaku ever studied this art in Aizubange-cho.
(2) If we accept that Takeda Sokaku studied at least sumo, bojutsu and kenjutsu until the age of 17, when he left Aizu to join Sakakibara Kenkichi's dojo, the question arises about his knowledge at this point at this point in his life of internal power and skills.
Once again, we should also recall the working definitions given by Amdur earlier in his book:
"A so-called external martial art uses very sophisticated methods to enable an individual to use their body at the peak of its natural reflexes and potential. An internal martial art, on the other hand, attempts to transform the body's natural response to force—and at a higher level, to allegedly change the way one's own body actually functions." (Extracts all quoted from HIPS, pp.13-14.)We have mentioned Sokaku's very early training in sumo and kenjutsu and it appears from Tokimune's reminiscences that he also trained in bojutsu from very early on. Thus by the age of seventeen, he would have put in many, many hours of serious solo and partner training, which is seen as an essential requirement in building up both ‘external' and ‘internal' skills. However, it is far less clear from Tokimune's reminiscences or from Amdur's discussion in this chapter what Sokaku was aware of the transformations mentioned by Amdur above and what he was doing to achieve them, apart from displaying a dogged determination to do the training required to beat his opponents, whether in the sumo ring or the dojo.
The question of internal skills is relevant here, in view of Sagawa Yukiyoshi's reminiscence that he himself "discovered" aiki at the age of seventeen, with the implication that he knew what this was and that he either ‘stole' the knowledge from Takeda Sokaku or discovered it for himself. Of course, Sokaku was much older by the time Sagawa was seventeen, but Sagawa was already in a position to make critical comments about his own training and it is a reasonable hypothesis that Sokaku was, also. Tokimune has much discussion about aiki: what it is and how it is acquired and we have seen that Amdur also uses aiki as a shorthand term for internal power / skills. It is an even more reasonable hypothesis that by the time Sagawa was seventeen, Sokaku had acquired these skills and at a very high level. However, Tokimune gives little indication of his father's own awareness of such skills when he was seventeen. I think the answer has to be that in the absence of more hard evidence we have no real idea about his knowledge of such skills at the age of seventeen, short of extrapolating from the kind of training that is currently practiced and supported by the kind of informed speculation that Amdur has produced in his book and that I am attempting to produce in this review.
Amdur is quite clear in his belief that Takeda Sokaku indeed learned "internal" skills at a young age and that his training in sumo was the basis. The argument appears after a lengthy quotation from one of Tokimune's Aiki News articles (#78, 1988), which Amdur spends much time in "unpacking".
"We get some hints at what composed his abilities. That no one could grab his belt suggests that he had phenomenal skill at body displacement, te-hodoki (hand releases) and subtle physical control, the last being the ability to catch the person just as they thought he was in their grasp and redirecting or neutralizing them. Aside from such subtle techniques, which we are accustomed to think about when [we] considered aiki, note how he handled Hisa—with "swift frontal attacks", not the turning and redirecting movements that we associate with modern aikido. What this means is tsuppari—the characteristic repetitive rising palm heel strikes of sumo. That he could stop a larger man in his tracks with such blows means that Sokaku could generate enormous power, somehow concentrating all one hundred and twenty pounds rooted in the ground in a single point in his palm making contact with the chest, throat or face of his opponent." (HIPS, p. 85.)There is one issue here. Both Tokimune and Amdur are conflating the sumo practiced by Takeda when he was a teenager with the sumo practiced when he was 80 years old. Presumably the burly farmers—and his own father, who was renowned as a "demon ozeki", also practiced their te-hodoki and tsuppari skills in preparation for the kind of matches in which Sokaku participated as a teenager. In modern professional sumo, tsuppari is a regular feature of bouts, as is te-hodoki and turning, especially practiced by lighter wrestlers. However, the experts, like ozeki and yokozuna, can also receive tsuppari from sometimes much larger wrestlers and remain completely unfazed. My point here is not to deny that Sokaku won the matches, earned his father's displeasure and once had moxa burned into his fingernails; it is to suggest the implausibility of the thesis that only Sokaku—and no one else—possessed the internal skills that he allegedly acquired from sumo, and also to suggest that Sokaku's abilities, whether in internal or external skills, also developed over a lengthy period of time. Thus it is arguable that Sokaku's winning of sumo tournaments that so upset his father was actually due to a combination of internal and external skills, the later skill also exhibited in some form of jujutsu. Sagawa Yukiyoshi recalls a visit to Takeda from one Itabashi Rinzo. (Sagawa was fifteen at the time.) After some training, Itabashi stated that Takeda had changed: he was no longer doing yawara, but aiki, to which Takeda answered that he had learned aiki from Hoshina Chikanori.
Amdur present his conclusion on the following page.
"In short, Sokaku almost surely had phenomenal skills in "internal strength" while still a teenager. How? Was he training in Daito-ryu? This hypothesis presents a problem. I have already made the case that there is no evidence of Daito-ryu within the Aizu domain. Could he have learned jujutsu from his father Sokichi? If so, why do we not have the name of the jujutsu ryu he studied?" (HIPS, p. 86.)The answer is that Tokimune is preserving a tatemae, which is the ‘official' history of Daito-ryu. However, as we have seen, Daito-ryu does not appear in the list of jujutsu ryu mentioned in Ogawa's 『会津藩教育考』. However, since Sokichi was from a family of lower-ranked samurai or yeomen and since the Aizu domain took such things very seriously, it is likely that as a youth he was required to train in one or more of the arts considered appropriate for his rank, which would have included jujutsu. It is possible that, as a young man, in addition to the Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha sojutsu that he was officially taught by Kurokochi Kanenori, that he was also taught Inagami Shinmyo-ryu, as Amdur argues, because he was married to the latter's daughter. Tokimune nowhere states that Kanenori was expert at other forms of jujutsu, such as Daito-ryu, and it is also possible that Sokichi studied other arts of jujutsu. In any case, since he excelled at sumo and had reached the rank of ozeki when Sokaku was a boy, it is also possible that by the time of the Aizu war, these things ceased to matter. Amdur does not spell out his own answer as bluntly as Sagawa does, namely, that Daito-ryu did not exist when Takeda was a teenager and that he created the art himself, but this is clearly his answer.
(3) As for the effects of the parental discipline Takeda Sokaku received at home, it is reasonable to compare him with his older brother and with contemporaries like Shiba Goro. Shiba produced his reminiscences shortly before he died. Like Saigo Tanomo, Shiba had lost family members who preferred to commit suicide rather than surrender to the shogunate forces. So his reminiscences were an eloquent outpouring of grief: something that he had kept bottled up for most of his life. Goro came from a samurai family of higher rank than Sokaku's, but was subjected to a general level of discipline that was at least as severe. On the other hand, Goro accepted the discipline and his desire to do his very best to uphold family values as an Aizu samurai—and also to please his father, with whom he developed a closer relationship as he grew older—might well have been something that drove him to succeed, as he eventually did.
One aspect of Sokaku's domestic upbringing in which his parents were unsuccessful was his ability to read and write and it seems strange that Sokichi did not spend much more time and effort in making his son acquire what was considered at that time an essential skill for a samurai, of whatever rank. With the beginning of the Tokugawa era, higher samurai were expected to reside in the castle town and form part of the local bureaucracy, balanced with training in the martial arts. As we have seen, until they attended domain school samurai children were educated at home and for boys, especially, this involved learning to read and write the Japanese language by way of the Chinese classics. Why did this not happen with Sokaku? Tokimune notes Sokaku's struggles with calligraphy, but his comments add to the problem, for on the one hand he regards his family as members of the samurai class, but on the other hand, sees no oddity in his father not behaving as such. Was there some other problem with Sokaku, over and beyond the relatively simple ‘discipline' problems with his father? We do not know and Amdur's ‘profile' does not throw much light here. Nevertheless, I remain skeptical that Sokaku's ‘wildness' in his childhood can all be attributed to the traumas of the Aizu War.
(B) The Wandering Samurai (1876-1898)
In 1876 Takeda Sokichi took Sokaku to the dojo of Sakakibara Kenkichi in Tokyo. This marked an important stage in the supposed ‘taming' of Sokaku, for his social education had not so far progressed very much in Aizu. After a few years, he was summoned back to Aizu by his father and taken to Saigo Tanomo's shrine to be apprenticed as a priest, presumably in order that he could replace his brother Sokatsu, who had suddenly died. Saigo Tanomo was still politically active at this time and as a result Sokaku decided to join Saigo Takamori's army in Kyushu. On his way to Kyushu, Takeda visited the dojo of Momonoi Shunzo, with an introduction from Sakakibara Kenkichi. Thus Sokaku's move to Tokyo also marked the beginnings of the acquisition of expertise in an immense range of martial arts, a range similar to those acquired by his grandfather, Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori. In fact, it is of some relevance to Takeda Sokaku's training to compare the two.
I believe that Kanenori embodies the positive ideals of the samurai—the ‘feudal anachronism' discussed by Amdur earlier—to a far greater degree than Takeda Sokaku He was a brilliant exponent of the bu (武) side of the equation that was the hallmark of Tokugawa samurai culture, possessing technical expertise in a vast range of the arts taught in the Aizu domain. After his musha shugyo training, he also followed the established pattern and lived in the domain, teaching at the domain school and in his private dojo. He was also acknowledged as a capable exponent of the bun (文) side as well, with skill in Japanese & Chinese studies and in waka poetry, which he discussed with friends from the Shiba and Saigo families (notably, the father of Saigo Tanomo). The only point of similarity with Takeda Sokaku seems to be the ability to acquire a vast range of technical repertoires and to make good use of musha shugyo training. We will discuss Sokaku's expertise with weapons in the next section, but it seems clear that Sokaku shared with Kanenori an ability to grasp essential connections and underlying structures, which, coupled with a photographic memory, enabled both of them to reproduce complex weapons kata at sight. Takeda had the additional gift of adapting, melding, picking and choosing, so that he could make free use of complex kata to create something new. Kanenori might also have been able to do this, but it is not really discussed in Ogawa's『会津藩教育考』or by Kono.
Takeda Tokimune devotes a good deal of space to describing the way that Sokaku handled himself during his musha shugyo visits and it is clear that he understood the required behavior very well. The immediate context is the general training pattern of musha shugyosha: visiting a dojo and ‘asking for a lesson'. The ‘lesson' invariably involved practice known as ‘running the line', namely, engaging in bouts with all the members of the dojo, from the weakest to the strongest, sometimes including the shihan.
"According to Tokimune, Sokaku was generally quite sensitive to the ‘face' of the shihan whom he would challenge—he would win the first match, and then gracefully lose the next two of the best-out-of-three bouts. The instructor, recognizing both Sokaku's skill and tact, would invite him to stay and teach his students for a period of time. On the other hand, Sokaku also had a special shinai with a slender rod of copper in the center, in case things got nasty." (HIPS. p. 104.)Tokimune's account should be compared with the account given by Kondo Yoshinori of a similar training visit made by Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori to a dojo in Kurume, Kyushu. The visit was to a dojo of the Kurume domain and the art was Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha sojutsu. Kanenori's group was led by Shiga Shigekata and the group appear to have trained for most of the day—and literally run their hosts off their feet. They were alerted by their innkeeper that they were about to be attacked by Kurume samurai, presumably for causing their hosts ‘loss of face'—which was one of the reasons for Sokaku's special copper shinai, but they stayed till morning and departed without incident.
Was the vast range of arts that Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori studied, or the way he studied, sufficient to enable him to develop internal power / skills, which he then passed on to Soemon and Sokichi, who in turn passed them on to his son? Even without the help of Kanenori, would the vast range of arts that Sokaku studied in this period have enabled him to develop this power? We have seen the statement by Kanenori about the importance of jujutsu and Amdur notes the comment, also quoted by Kono, that Kanenori thought that it was not sufficient by itself, but needed to be augmented by training in some system of weapons. The need for augmentation seems to work the other way, also, to judge from Amdur's remarks about Nakakura Kiyoshi. Nakakura was a brilliant swordsman and trained at Ueshiba Morihei's Kobukan Dojo. He appears to have given up training at the Kobukan—and his marriage to Ueshiba's daughter, because he realized that he would never be able to learn the skills of jujutsu and aiki-jujutsu to the level necessary to inherit the art from Ueshiba.
To see the issues here, we can consider a range of possibilities (none mutually exclusive):
(a) Kurokochi Kanenori acquired a high level of both external and internal knowledge / skills through his training in all the various arts he studied and his musha shugyo activities. Though he stated that jujutsu was the foundation of the other arts, it was the possession of internal knowledge / skills that was the foundation of his jujutsu expertise (which appears also to have been the case with Sagawa Yukiyoshi).
(b) Takeda Sokichi and his oldest son Sokatsu possessed a high level of skill in the martial arts they had studied in the Aizu domain, including jujutsu, and for Sokichi this level of skill also included expertise in sumo. With this skill went a deep knowledge of certain principles, detailed at some length by Amdur in this chapter, which Sokichi passed on to Sokaku.
"Instead [of the kata found in Daito-ryu], Sokichi taught him sumo—but not just any sumo. I believe he coupled this with solo power training exercises, breathing coordinated with mindful attention to lines of tension and relaxation in the body that very likely were part of the Shimnyo-ryu curriculum, as well as the subtle aiki methods that enabled Sokaku to slip through the grasp of impoverished farmers…who were playing for keeps." (HIPS. p. 87.)(c) Takeda Sokaku acquired a high level of both external and internal knowledge / skills, basically from rigorous training in sumo and supplemented this with training in kenjutsu and sojutsu and bojutsu. During his musha shugyo period, his knowledge of principles and photographic memory enabled him to master quickly a vast range of kenjutsu, sojutsu and jujutsu kata, the latter becoming the basis for the art he called Daito-ryu.
At various stages of this period Takeda Sokaku returned to Aizu. According to Stanley Pranin,
"It is also recorded that Sokaku married a woman named Kon in Aizu about 1888 and that this union produced two children. We may safely assume then that some of these years [between his detention by police after the fight with construction workers and the end of the century] were spent in Aizu and it is quite conceivable that Sokaku received additional training in Daito-ryu techniques from his father Sokichi." (Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu, p. 19.)Pranin's suggestion itself suggests that he believed that Sokaku and his father continued a productive teaching relationship as both grew older. Amdur does not broach the question whether Sokaku met his father during this musha shugyo period, but, to judge from his discussion in the later part of this chapter, however, I suspect that he would consider it highly unlikely that the relationship developed very much at all, the overwhelming reason being the "tortures" that he received when he was a child. Amdur lays this on rather thickly:
"Let me offer you one more idea. How would you regard a father who tortured you? Whatever his intentions and whatever the difficulties in raising such a child as Sokaku, he treated his son in a way that I hope none of us would ever do, a way that, from the other end, few of us would be able to withstand without flinching or crying out in agony. Once again, if you think I am overstating this, take your child's hand, as delicate as petals of nacre [mother-of-pearl?], and imagine deliberately burning them and the flesh beneath to cinders. Imagine sitting, looking your child deep in his eyes as you do this. Imagine what you see in those eyes. Consider being a little boy to whom this was done—repeatedly." (HIPS, pp. 98-99.)Given the way Amdur puts this, it is indeed difficult for anyone to think that he is overstating it, for, because of the rather absolute, Kantian, terms in which he states the argument, anyone who disagrees is liable to be branded as similar to the monster that Amdur thinks Sokichi was. However, I have indicated earlier in connection with Botsman's discussion of ‘punishments-as-signs' why I think Amdur is indeed overstating his case. It is not clear from Tokimune's accounts that the moxa-burning episode occurred repeatedly and, even if it did, we are still left with Pranin's suggestion that as a grown man Sokaku visited his father and trained under his direction, which, if true, would suggest that Takeda had recovered from the treatment he received at the hands of his father earlier than Amdur gives him credit for.
Amdur suggests that it was Takeda's relationship with Saigo Tanomo that was a substitute father-son relationship. His relationship with Saigo Tanomo became the compassionate father-son relationship that had never existed with Sokichi.
"Perhaps when he associated with Saigo, he was beginning to grow up, still not wishing to bend the knee to his father's wishes, but no longer wishing to be a wild child. To survive in the world, he had to begin to learn its ways." (HIPS, p. 97.)Takeda Sokaku also travelled around northern Honshu and met Saigo Tanomo on a number of occasions. Watatani's Bugei Ryuha Daijiten authoritatively states that Saigo wrote out all the waza & kata on the makimono scrolls of Daito-ryu for the benefit of Sokaku, who could not read or write. (One can wonder who gave Watatani the information, but it is very likely that when he states that a scroll written by Hoshina Chikanori effectively installed Sokaku as the reviver of Daito-ryu, Kisshomaru is referring to one of these scrolls.) According to both Kondo Yoshinori and Sagawa Yukiyoshi, Takeda Sokaku allegedly learned aiki from Saigo Tanomo, who had taken back his earlier family name of Hoshina. This training in aiki occurred when Sokaku was around 40, which would have been around 1900. At this time Saigo was a priest and would have been approaching 70 years of age. Sagawa does not state where this happened, but it is known that Saigo returned to Aizu in Meiji 32 (1900). In one of his Aiki News articles, Tokimune mentions that this training indeed took place when Saigo / Hoshina was a priest at the Toshogu Shrine in Nikko, which would make Sokaku a little younger. There is more than a hint of a contradiction here. According to another student of Takeda Sokaku, Sato Keisuke, whose opinion both Amdur and Stanley Pranin accept, Saigo had been a politician of some eminence, whose activities would never have afforded him the time to undertake the rigorous training (also heavily stressed by Sagawa) that was necessary to acquire aiki, at the hands of a teacher (Takeda Soemon or Sokichi) who was far lower in rank than himself, let alone to teach it to someone else.
The matter is discussed by Sagawa Yukiyoshi in Transparent Power, in the chapter entitled, "About Sokaku Takeda Sensei".
"Takeda Sensei stayed with us when I was about 15. At that time a man from Takeda Sensei's hometown named Rinzo Itabashi visited him and, with just the three of there, Sensei threw Itabashi in various ways, using standing two-handed Aiki. Itabashi remarked, "This is different from the old-style of jujutsu (yawara) you were doing before," to which Sensei replied that he had learned it from Hoshina-san." (Transparent Power, pp. 118-119.)Sagawa states that he was fifteen at the time and so the above discussion cannot have taken place before 1917, when Takeda was around 60. Sagawa also mentions that Itabashi was the same age as Takeda Munikiyo, Sokaku's eldest son, who was born in 1891 from the marriage with Kon in 1888. So it is not really clear exactly when Itabashi thought that Takeda was doing ‘the old style of jujutsu (yawara)'.
Then, when discussing Takeda's musha shugyo activities, Sagawa adds,
"When he was in his late 30's or 40's he started teaching Aiki after receiving the Aiki technique from Chikanori Hoshina."Immediately following this, Sagawa makes the suggestion that Takeda himself created aiki.
"It is said that Aiki was transmitted to Takeda Sensei by Hoshina/Saigo, although I believe that it was actually Takeda Sensei himself who created it. …
…"When I look at the photograph of Tanomo Saigo (a.k.a. Chikanori Hoshina, I simply cannot believe that he could have done Aiki. Even when sitting those who have been trained and those who haven't seem different. He might have learned a bit of the form only, but I think that it was something that Takeda Sensei created. I don't think that something this difficult could have been transmitted down through the ages, although the form might have been transmitted. You can understand this little by little from training. It's not something you can do by being taught." (op.cit., p. 120.)Amdur wisely leaves this contradiction unresolved and contents himself with the suggestion that the oshikiuchi that Sokaku might have learned from Saigo Tanomo (for the oshikiuchi tradition cannot have been a totally invented tradition), consisted mainly of etiquette.
But, ever ready with a parting shot, Amdur makes some new and intriguing suggestions about Saigo Tanomo in his Epilogue (HIPS, pp. 231-232.)
(C) The Teacher of Thousands (1898-1943)
According to the interview published by Stanley Pranin in his collection of interviews, it was Sato Keisuke who was requested to suggest to Takeda Sokaku that he should cease to be a peripatetic musha shuygosha and settle down (as far as someone like him was able to settle down) as a teacher. Takeda largely ceased to be a musha shugyosha, but continued the pattern established in his earlier period, of moving around from place to place giving seminars. But what did he teach?
Amdur's discusses this question towards the end of this chapter, mainly in the section entitled, "Form after Function" (HIPS. p. 89-94). The title is apt for someone who had acquired a deep knowledge of principles and also the expertise to apply and show these principles by means of demonstrating a vast array of kata forms that had been adapted from the many arts mastered in his musha shugyo period. So what was the base for these jujutsu kata?
Although Amdur appears to believe that Sokichi learned Inagami Shinmyo-ryu jujutsu from Kurokochi Kanenori, what he actually taught Sokaku were principles, culled mainly from sumo and (possibly) seasoned with the practical knowledge base of Kanenori's jujutsu.
Amdur likens Sokaku's development to that of Akiyama Shirobei, the samurai who went to China, sat watching the willow tree shed its load of snow, and then created Akiyama Yoshin-ryu.
"Like Akiyama, Shirobei, he had to work backwards, so to speak, to make a teaching method that he could: a) teach to "outside" students, to whom he had no responsibility to offer the essence of his skills; b) make his teaching commercially viable; c) make his teaching congruent with what people believed martial arts actually look like." (HIPS, p. 89.)Amdur suggests that Takeda stole the kata & waza in much the same way that he and Ueshiba expected their students to steal from them. The difference is that Takeda stole the kata & waza and then called them his own, whereas the students never went this far, not, at least, while they were still students
"Once Takeda began teaching seminars, he was in the company of hundreds of men from different ryu. I do not suggest that Takeda became the student of any of these men. Rather, he observed what they did—Yoshin-ryu kata in particular, often bear particular resemblances to those in Daito-ryu—and he pirated the techniques, then later showinghis own version, without attribution, in the context of his own teaching." (HIPS, p. 90.)Amdur isolates three important aspects of the kata that Takeda taught. The first aspect was their reliance on sophisticated grabbing skills. As Amdur puts it, "One learns how to grip while simultaneously directing that power in a manner that locks up the opponent." Ueshiba Morihei, also, was known for his extremely powerful grip. The second aspect is how to neutralize such locking and release the grip (te-hodoki), not merely the joint, but the locking up of the skeleton, such that the attacker cannot exert any force on what appears to be still a grip. The third aspect is the set of subtle techniques related to pushing or pulling on the body of a standing or sitting person. Sagawa spends much time discussing the technique known as aiki-age and it is this technique that he appears to have mastered at the age of seventeen.
There is a phenomenon here, which is similar to that of Ueshiba Morihei's similar transformation from shugyosha to the established teacher of a martial art with a recognized structure, distinct from the various phases in the personal training of the teacher who constructed it. Depending on one's viewpoint, one could assert either that Takeda mixed together all the arts he had studied into a stew, added some internal seasoning, and came up with Daito-ryu, or that he took an existing secret oshikiuchi art, added many more ingredients, and called the result Daito-ryu. Similarly, Ueshiba mixed together all the arts that he studied into a different stew, but a stew of which the main ingredient was Takeda's Daito-ryu, added some internal seasoning which he wreathed in Omoto and kototama-gaku terminology, and the result was eventually called aikido. In both cases there was drastic change of the externals of the supposed old arts.
Two Lives: Takeda Sokaku and Ueshiba Morihei Compared
Since the main thrust of Amdur's book gradually moves from Takeda Sokaku to Ueshiba Morihei by Chapter Three, I think it will be of value to offer a few points of comparison and contrast between Takeda and Ueshiba.
Like Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei appears to have been a ‘loner', a ‘star', who was able to shine brilliantly in the intense relationships required in a training group, but was also able to shine equally brilliantly alone, within his own orbit. In fact, to judge from the literature, the only person with whom Ueshiba eventually got on badly enough to separate himself from completely—was Sokaku: the other, brighter, ‘star' in his orbit.
Like Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei appears to have had early training in sumo and also appears to have practiced this after his childhood and youth. It is not clear whether Ueshiba's father was as proficient as Takeda Sokichi in local sumo circles, but Amdur's arguments concerning Sokichi's—and his son's—sumo prowess can also go towards grounding Ueshiba's external and internal skills in his sumo training. Ueshiba seems to have had other pursuits in his childhood and youth, such as spear fishing, but the anecdote about the new skills he allegedly acquired after Takeda's visit to Ayabe in 1921 suggests that he regarded sumo as some kind of hallmark of body skills.
A factor in both the ‘loner' quality and the ‘star' quality of both was their incredible ability to drive themselves: to train themselves remorselessly to the point of exhaustion and then continue some more. I have seen this quality once or twice in Ueshiba's students (Tada Hiroshi is one who comes to mind).
As a corollary of the ‘star' quality of both, like Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei was an utterly ‘selfish' individual. Ueshiba Kisshomaru also notes this in his biography: that Ueshiba made decisions concerning his own training and expected his own family to accept these decisions, as if it was the most natural thing in the world to do. Both were men who saw others, including their own families, as one of the means for them to achieve what they themselves wanted to achieve.
Another corollary of the ‘star' quality of both is that, like Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei walked the fine line between genius and insanity. Takeda took the samurai ethos, as he understood it, to lengths that others would consider absurd, with his refusal to enter a house or to suspect that any food he was offered was possibly poisoned. After meeting Deguchi Onisaburo (another ‘star', teetering along the same fine line), Ueshiba became a super-guru, a kind of oracle, dispensing wisdom, wreathed in code, at every opportunity. (Takeda dispensed with both the wisdom and the code.) But one wonders what either said to his respective wife, or whether either ever had a conversation with the family while sitting round the dinner table. It is instructive that the present Doshu admitted to me (in a private conversation) that he had never asked his grandfather any questions about aikido. He merely waited for the stream of wisdom to flow—and hoped that some tributary of it would cover his own concerns.
Like Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei had an ability to understand and absorb complex martial principles almost at a glance and, like Sokaku, he acquired this from a combination of personal training, the various skills he acquired from the various arts he studied and in particular, the skills in Daito-ryu he acquired from Sokaku. Unlike Takeda Sokaku, however, Ueshiba Morihei undertook no peripatetic musha shugyo training and so did not build up the same huge repertoire of kata and waza, out of which he created aikido. In fact his repertoire of kata and waza was largely culled from training with Takeda and was called Daito-ryu, at least until around 1936.
Like Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei was the dominant figure within the family relationships of father and son. They are both in the very similar situation of having written or spoken very little about their own private lives directly, and so what we know about their relations with both their fathers and their children mostly comes from the latter. Even though both Tokimune and Kisshomaru reveal biases in their treatment of both their fathers and grandfathers, it is very clear from the information they have given us that both Sokaku and Morihei were far more overtly powerful and commanding characters than either their parents or their children.
Takeda Sokaku: a Complex Human Being
We need to take stock here, for one of the main points of the second chapter of Amdur's book is, as we have seen, that Takeda Sokaku suffered serious psychological damage at the hands of his father (and possibly others) and that this affected the way he taught. I have been concerned to place this as far as possible in a wide contemporary context and this might well have the effect of lessening the general sharpness of Amdur's arguments and conclusions.
Perhaps ‘psychological profile' is a misnomer, since a glance at the literature will reveal that this term usually refers to offender profiling. Forensic psychologists ‘profile' a serial killer, for example, in the hope that this will reveal the next likely victim. Actually, the classic profiler in film was himself a serial killer, namely, Hannibal Lecter, and The Silence of the Lambs helped to establish the popular idea of psychological profiling. Of course, it is likely that there will be common elements in the mental suffering of the perpetrator and the physical/mental suffering of the victim, but Amdur's treatment of Takeda Sokaku is in effect a psychological profile of the latter: a victim, who has suffered physical and mental torture, either at the hands of parents or relatives, or as a result of events, such as a war, and, as a result, himself becomes a torturer. This analysis of Takeda is one of the most important parts of the chapter.
Nevertheless, we need to raise questions about the methodology involved here and the validity of the results. Amdur is a practicing psychologist and therefore is in an authoritative position to give such a profile, but this is a critical review essay and so questions about the basis for his assertions are highly relevant. An important personal context for me is the fact that I live in a city that was virtually obliterated by atomic bombing in August, 1945, and the psychological scars of the diminishing numbers of survivors, either active or living in nursing homes round the city, still remain. There were many abandoned or orphaned children, who were more or less ‘turned loose' after the bombing, but whose later lives did not appear to reflect the severe trauma suffered by the bombing and immediate aftermath. Of course, one can argue that Takeda Sokaku's scars are different in character, since they were the product of both war and domestic violence. Hiroshima survivors would probably heartily agree, for they are very fond of claiming that their own sufferings are ‘uniquely' unique, that is, of a completely different order to Takeda's. This is really a quintessential example of two conflicting examples of the IHTBF trope, for the aim of the city's whole efforts—a thriving local ‘peace' industry, the main foundation of which is the creation and preservation of ‘intention-directed' memory—in maintaining public awareness of the ‘sacrifice' of the victims and the testimony of survivors, is to prove the thesis that no one who did not actually have the experience can ‘really' understand what happened. The situation is similar with the trauma of the Takedas. How can one who was not personally involved ‘really' appreciate the agonies suffered by Sokichi, Sokaku and Tokimune? Both examples are strictly true, but we must take care to ensure that the truth does not become trivial.
Of course, it is safe to assume that Takeda Sokichi, in addition to being a local role model as a prominent sumo expert with the rank of ozeki, was also a role model as a strict samurai father and would never have suffered the public shame of being acknowledged as incapable of disciplining his own son. Thus, the episode of Sokichi burning moxa on Sokaku's nails also needs to be seen in its contemporary context. As an ozeki, Sokichi's reputation would have been damaged by too many victories by his own son at local amateur sumo tournaments and Tokimune explains the episode as a one-off occurrence, caused by Sokichi's anger at Sokaku escaping from home and winning the sumo tournaments, rather than training in bojutsu at home in the dojo, as he had been ordered to do. The punishment was also highly in keeping with the Tokugawa tradition of giving a public sign, for Tokimune himself saw the scars many years later. In fact, Tokimune's reference in the 1985 Aiki News article to Nezumi Kozo as a ‘mysterious thief' is some indication of a certain ambivalence in Tokimune's view of his father.
The real name of Nezumi Kozo [鼠小僧: ‘rat errand-boy'] was Nakamura Jirokichi [仲村次郎吉 1797-1831], a thief who stole money, especially from daimyo. His nickname is due to the rats he carried in his bag and let loose in the houses he burgled, so that the noise would allay suspicion of the occupants. When Nakamura was first caught, he was tattooed with stripes on his arm and banished from Edo. He was eventually arrested again, executed, and his head displayed as a kosatsu sign, as was discussed earlier. However, he became a ‘Robin Hood' figure in popular imagination and as such was the subject of a short story (Nezumi Kozō Jirokichi, translated into English as Nezumi Kozo, the Japanese Robin Hood), written by the novelist Akutagawa Ryunosuke. Here is an extract from the introduction to the English translation:
"In the years following the 1868 political revolution which overthrew the shogunate (feudal government), kabuki plays with Nezumi-Kozo as the hero achieved immense popularity among the Japanese people who had just been emancipated from the yoke of feudalism which for centuries stood upon a hierarchy of four rigid castes in descending order from military, agricultural, industrial to commercial. The people consequently delighted in any performances which belittled or fooled their former daimyo rulers and their parasites who lorded it over the citizens and subjected them to all manner of humiliations and indignities hardly imaginable in present times." (Takashi Kojima, in Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Japanese Short Stories, pp. 97-98.)It is noteworthy that it is Takeda Tokimune who mentions Nezumi-Kozo in connection with his father, for Aizu was a bastion of support for the shogunate and in fact the Aizu War broke out because of Aizu opposition to the collapse of the shogunate. Nevertheless, Nezumi-kozo was sufficiently famous, even in Aizu, for Sokaku to be compared with him in public gossip. Thus it is likely that such public gossip was not all entirely critical and was probably tinged with the recognition that boys were supposed to be mischievous (compare this with Shiba Goro's ‘confession' that he had never once been scolded) and also with public admiration of someone who refused to conform—and showed all the virtues of an Aizuppo in great abundance.
For example, Tokimune is largely silent about his uncle Sokatsu, who was Sokaku's elder brother. Sokatsu was, apparently, an accomplished martial artist and also fought with his father Sokichi during the siege of Aizu Castle. In my opinion, Tokimune's very casual observation to this effect speaks volumes in the context of Amdur's general conclusions in this chapter about Sokaku's psychological state. Sokatsu's traditional upbringing and supposedly equally severe martial training at the hands of his father (for Sokatsu was the eldest son), the same father who allegedly tortured his second son, was largely successful, since Sokatsu was allowed to fight with his father. Tokimune is also silent about whether Sokatsu accompanied his father and Saigo Tanomo to Sendai, shortly before the siege of Aizu Castle ended. If not, he would have returned home to Aizubange. So one can wonder what, if any, brotherly love or sibling rivalry occurred in the Takeda home and, again, it is useful to compare the Takeda brothers with the Shiba brothers. Goro, the youngest, had a very close relationship with at least one of his brothers. Of course, Sokatsu died, and so passes out of the story of Sokaku's life, but his own life and relationship with his younger brother is still an essential ingredient of the total story about Sokaku's alleged battle scars. Presumably—and I admit that this is a major assumption, Tokimune's information about his uncle would have come from his father.
Takeda Sokatsu was a brother and an equal in some sense; Kurokochi Dengoro Kanenori was a teacher; and Saigo Tanomo was a mentor. All three were people who were subjected to similar parental discipline as Sokaku (though I admit that one might argue this point), but they did not, apparently, develop the psychological scars that Amdur attributes to Sokaku. We have compared Kanenori and Sokaku in respect of their respective technical repertoires; perhaps an equally fruitful speculative comparison can be made between Sokaku, Kanenori and Tanomo in respect of their respective ‘psychology'.
Both Kanenori and Tanomo suffered very severely as a result of the Aizu War. Kurokochi Kanenori was the archetypical Aizu samurai warrior, who, having achieved a combination of 文 and 武 of rare brilliance and spent his life entirely in the service of his daimyo, saw the fortunes of his domain drastically decline and committed seppuku. The occasion for this was the death and wounding of his two sons in the war. We do not know whether he did this for the above reasons, but he was certainly following an established tradition: he could not face the prospect of defeat. Saigo Tanomo, on the other hand, experienced a much greater loss of family and relatives, with not just two, but twenty-one family members ending their lives during the siege of the castle. Shiba Goro also experienced a similar loss. Tanomo, however, did not commit seppuku when Aizu surrendered. He moved north and continued the fight with Enomoto Takeaki. After the final defeat, like Goro, he followed his surviving samurai colleagues into prison and exile in Hokkaido and then spent the rest of his life in the priesthood, itself a kind of self-imposed exile in Japan. He adopted the legendary Saigo Shiro and returned to Aizu just before his death. We know from Tokimune that Sokaku maintained intermittent contact with Tanomo from his temple apprenticeship almost to the end of Saigo's life and it is reasonable to assume that Saigo was a maturing influence on him. Compared with these two men, it would seem that both Sokichi and his son Sokaku survived the war relatively unscathed. Of course, the domain was destroyed after a short period of intense and heavy fighting, but both father and son went back to their previous lives and Sokaku went on to do something very fruitful with his, as compared with the rather hollow shell that Tanomo appears to have become as he grew older.
One possibility, which Amdur does not mention, is that Takeda Sokaku's psychological scars actually prevented him from having a more stable and fruitful relationship with his closer students—and I am certain that this is the case with some aikido shihans with whom I am acquainted. In other words, the fact that he could never "settle", to use Amdur's term, prevented him from being open to the possibility that he could learn from them. We will return to this in the next section, which deals with Ueshiba Morihei and weapons, and it will be instructive to look at Sokaku's relationship with Sagawa Yukiyoshi. Like Ueshiba, Sagawa was a close student of Takeda's, but unlike Ueshiba, Sagawa often accompanied Takeda in his peripatetic ‘instruction tours' during the third phase of Takeda's life and never appears to have split off or separated from Takeda. Sagawa's students have produced some material about Sagawa, notably a memoir entitled 透明な力 (Tomeina Chikara), translated into English as Transparent Power. Although this memoir is written in the ‘breathless adulation' style of martial arts writing, reminiscent of certain biographies of Ueshiba Morihei, it is clear that the Sagawa's experiences as a deshi of Sokaku and the reports of his own training in aiki are of direct relevance to Amdur's discussion of Takeda Sokaku's possession of internal power / skills.
I think that Amdur's discussion of Takeda Sokaku's character is a brilliant, iconoclastic, and refreshingly original application of some modern forensic insights to the illumination of a hidden enigma about Takeda Sokaku (‘hidden', though, ‘in plain sight', because the enigma has not yet been detected by proponents of the ‘official' history). However, in this review, I have been concerned to present Takeda Sokaku as a rather more robust and balanced personality than Amdur depicts him.
Nevertheless, in Amdur's treatment of the relationship between Takeda Sokaku and his father, I think more research is needed, if only to take account of the vast numbers of late Tokugawa samurai males, who, even if they were never allowed to reveal their emotional lives as children, grew up into caring, even loving, fathers (always within the delicate boundaries drawn at the time between punishment, ‘torture', and strict samurai family upbringing). Thus I think that Amdur's analysis of the Takeda family needs to be placed in a wider contemporary context and given more rigor. Turbulent family relationships abound in the martial arts, but Amdur's analysis seems to place an unusually heavy burden of responsibility—and moral irresponsibility—on Takeda Sokaku's father Sokichi. In fact, one of the more interesting facets of Amdur's ‘profile' of Sokaku is the spotlight this throws on the psychology of his father Sokichi, as a "torturer" of his own son. I think Sokichi also deserves a similar ‘psychological profile'.
His deprived and traumatic childhood notwithstanding, Takeda Sokaku was enabled to become a teacher who appears to have had a genuine solicitation for some of his students (though I think that this point also needs deeper scrutiny), even though he seems to have treated one of them—his own son—much more harshly than the others. Thus I think there is a place for a more strictly scholarly treatment of ‘family traumas in the martial arts'—perhaps another book, with some case histories of father-son-child relationships that Amdur judges similar to that of the Takeda family.
To be continued.
The following suggestions (of books, rather than articles, written mainly in English) are intended as a way to fill out some of the discussion in the various chapters.
NOTE: Amdur's book can be obtained only from Edgework. Purchasing details can be found at www.edgework/info.
2. Takeda Sokaku and Daito-ryu:
General Cultural Background
As I stated in Column 16, the life of Takeda Sokaku has to be seen in the general cultural context of the time (and the books listed there are also given here, with some additions). To repeat, the social and political upheavals that accompanied the Meiji Restoration in 1868 need to be understood, if only to make sense of the considerable cultural gap between Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba Morihei, his most famous student, and Kano Jigoro. There are general histories, but little in the way of the history of ideas, or general studies of social history, such that, for example, we can place in a general cultural context the fact that Takeda virtually refused to be educated by his father. Ueshiba Morihei's education also stopped early, but the consequences were quite different for both men. Although Amdur does not mention this in his chapter on Takeda, Deguchi Onisaburo was also unique and an anachronism, but not at all in the same way. Like Takeda, Deguchi also "embodied a lost era."
The evolution of the martial arts during the whole period from the closing years of the Tokugawa shogunate right through to the postwar reconstruction of Japan after World War II, needs close study if the main characters in Amdur's book are to be fleshed out and seen in a wider context. Various aspects of this evolution have been studied in great detail, but piecemeal, and the whole story has not yet been presented in a single volume. Wiley-Blackwell have been publishing a series of ‘companions' and the volume on Japanese history is a good place to start: William M Tsutsui, Ed., A Companion to Japanese History, 2009, Wiley-Blackwell. This book actually claims to do what The Cambridge History of Japan does not do and present a thematic approach to Japanese history. In this respect the book is only partially successful, but the coverage of prehistoric, Nara, Heian and mediaeval Japan is too superficial by comparison with that of postwar Japan and the human aspects of education, warfare and revolutions are not covered in any depth. The bibliographies and suggestions for further reading are good; they are at least as good as the individual chapters.
Donald Keene and Marius Jansen have produced magisterial volumes on Meiji, Taisho and early Showa Japan, in whole or in part. Like the Cambridge histories, they are rather ‘heavy' reading, but have extensive bibliographies: Marius B Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan, 2000, Belnap, Harvard U P; Donald Keene, Emperor of Japan: Meiji and His World, 1852—1912, 2002, Columbia U P. Shorter and lighter reading is Andrew Gordon, A Modern History of Japan from Tokugawa Times to the Present, 2003, Oxford U P. Paul Cullen adopts a ‘revisionist' approach (against the [‘Japan-as-incipient-western-democracy' and therefore ‘good'] model, favoured by postwar scholars in the US) and emphasizes the interplay between the ‘external' aspects (gaiatsu; foreign pressure) and the ‘internal' aspects (fear of such pressure and economic self-sufficiency) of Tokugawa and Meiji Japan. He has added an impressive, if not uncontroversial, bibliographical essay for the serious student of Japanese history: Paul H Cullen, A History of Japan, 1582-1941: Internal and External Worlds, 2003, Cambridge U P.
General Martial Background
In this chapter Amdur also gives a detailed but concentrated discussion of several koryu of jujutsu and kenjutsu and readers who have no understanding of early modern Japanese ryuha might lose their way. So we must begin with three modern classics, the first in Japanese: (1) Watatani & Yamada, 『武芸流派大辞典』; (2) Donn F Draeger, Classical Bujutsu, The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, Volume I, 1973, Weatherhill; Classical Budo, The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, Volume II, 1973, Weatherhill; Modern Bujutsu and Budo, The Martial Arts and Ways of Japan, Volume III, 1974, Weatherhill; (3) Diane Skoss, Ed., Koryu Bujutsu, Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, 1997, Koryu Books; Sword & Spirit, Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Volume 2, 1999, Koryu Books; Keiko Shokon, Classical Warrior Traditions of Japan, Volume 3, 2002, Koryu Books. Another important source is 笹間良彦, 『日本武道辞典』, 2003, 柏書房. Also of interest are: Serge Mol, Classical Fighting Arts of Japan: A Complete Guide to Koryu Jujutsu, 2001, Kodansha International (of special interest is Mol's discussion of Chin Genpin and jujutsu, on pp. 125-147); Classical Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts, 2003, Kodansha International; Makoto Sugawara, Lives of Master Swordsmen, 1985, The East; John Stevens, The Sword of No Sword: The Life of the Master Warrior Tesshu, 1989, Shambala. Amdur's second book also gives information on some ryuha: Ellis Amdur, The Old School: Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions, 2002, Edgework.
Study of Japanese society and education could well begin with Herbert Passin's book of the same title: Society and Education in Japan, 1968, Kodansha. About half the book is devoted to translations of documents, most of which cover the Tokugawa, Meiji and prewar periods. Dore's study of Tokugawa education might help to explain why Takeda Sokaku (and Ueshiba Morihei, for that matter) found it all so crushingly dull: R P Dore, Education in Tokugawa Japan, 1965, 1984, Athlone Press. Passin cites笠井助治 Kasai Suteji, 『近世藩校の綜合的研究』 (Studies of Domain Schools in the Early Modern Period), 1965, 吉川弘文館. Kasai mentions the Aizu domain in a number of places, but the main text on education in the Aizu domain is a volume in a series entitled,「日本史籍協會叢書」, published by Tokyo University Press. The volume is『会津藩教育考』(Thoughts on Education in the Aizu Domain), by Ogawa Wataru (小川渉). The date of the original compilation is Showa 5 (1930), but the completed book appears to have been published later. My own copy was published in 1978.
Two works by Joy Hendry discuss the general principles of socialization in Japan: Becoming Japanese: the world of the pre-school child, 1986, Hawaii U P; Understanding Japanese Society, 1987, Croom Helm.
Social attitudes concerning punishment in early modern Japan are relevant to Takeda Sokichi's treatment of his son. Thus the first five chapters of the following work are required reading: Daniel V Botsman, Punishment and Power in the Making of Early Modern Japan, 2005, Princeton U P.
Akutagawa's short stories are available in a modern translation: Ryunosuke Akutagawa, Japanese Short Stories, 1962, 1981, Tuttle.
I have not found much in English specifically devoted to the Boshin Civil War. There is an interesting series entitled, 「戦争の日本史」 (Japanese History Through its Wars) and the Boshin War is the eighteenth volume in the series: 保谷徹, 『戊辰戦争』, 2007, 吉川弘文館. The author, Hoya Toru, gives extensive references to other material in Japanese and also invites Internet discussion on the issues raised by his book.
The Boshin Civil War was a major war, fought over a large area, mainly of northeastern Japan, and the fighting in Aizu and the siege of Aizu Wakamatsu Castle was only a part of it, though the fighting here was more severe than elsewhere. The best account of the Aizu War in Japanese is by Hoshi Ryoichi, which, again, is part of a series, this time with the interesting title of Kodansha Sensho Métier: 星亮一, 『会津戦争全史』(History of the Aizu War), 2005, 講談社. Hoshi has also written an account of the siege of Aizu Castle: 会津落城 防振戦争最大の悲劇 (The Fall of Aizu Castle: The Greatest Tragedy of the Boshin War), 2003, 中公論新社. A memoir written by an exact contemporary of Takeda Sokaku is essential reading: 『ある明治人の記録 会津人柴五郎の遺書』, 1971, 中公論新社. The English translation is: Remembering Aizu: The Testament of Shiba Goro, Edited by Ishimitsu Mahito, Translated by Teruko Craig, 1999, Hawai'i U P. Craig's translation is from a Japanese text and cites other Japanese sources, which are more numerous. Contrary to the impression given by Takeda Tokimune, there are numerous records and these are cited by Hoshi Ryoichi, in the works mentioned above.
Teruko Craig's husband Albert M Craig, has written a history of the Choshu clan, who, with Satsuma, were the main antagonists of Aizu: Choshu in the Meiji Restoration, 2000, Lexington Books. This is a seminal work, originally published in 1961, and the author gives some indication of the reason in his introduction to the paperback edition, which should be compared with Cullen's bibliographical essay, mentioned above. Basically, analysis of the Meiji Restoration by Japanese historians followed a Marxist pattern, also espoused by the Canadian historian Edward H Norman, as a reaction to the severe restraints on historical research imposed by the military governments in the 1930s. Much is made of the ‘bottom-up' movement towards the removal of the bakufu government by disaffected lower class samurai with the support of the peasants, as a kind of class struggle. There are many problems with this approach, especially when it is applied to the Boshin Civil War and the Battle of Aizu, which was led by upper-class samurai, who basically directed a very willing peasantry, fighting against equally upper-class samurai from Choshu and Satsuma. The latter formed the new Meiji government and later refused to share power with a quasi-democratically elected parliament. Craig's study is a pioneering work, which is part of a general undermining of the Marxist approach.
An interesting perspective on the Aizu clan and the Boshin civil war is afforded by some other memoirs: Yamakawa Kikue, Women of the Mito Domain: Recollections of Samurai Family Life, Translated and Edited with an Introduction by Kate Wilkman Nakai, 2001, Stanford U P. Another vivid picture of the people who lived at the time when Takeda Sokaku was active is given by Dr Junichi Saga, who was a doctor in Tsuchiura, a village not far from Mito. Though the people he introduces or interviews lived substantially later than Takeda Sokaku, they have long memories and it is possible to imagine the Japan where he grew up: Junichi Saga, Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan, 1987, Kodansha International; Memories of Wind and Waves: A Self-Portrait of Lakeside Japan, 2002, Kodansha International. The work mentioned in the text, A Daughter of the Samurai, gives a graphic account of family life in Meiji Era: 杉本鉞子, 『武士の娘』, 1994, 筑摩書房; Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto, A Daughter of the Samurai, 1927, Pacific U P.
For Takeda Sokaku's musha shugyo activities, a good start would be the many studies of samurai and medieval Japanese fighting by Stephen Turnbull, who has produced a vast number of books on warfare, castles, sieges, and those involved. More explicitly scholarly works are studies by Paul Varley, G Cameron Hurst III, Karl Friday and, especially, Thomas Conlon (on the realities of samurai warfare). Relevant also are accounts of the part played by low-ranking samurai in the upheavals of the Meiji Restoration. The most famous figure here is Sakamoto Ryoma, who has been the subject of many books and films. (Readers in Japan should note that the 2010 NHK 大河ドラマ, entitled 龍馬伝, will feature Sakamoto.) Sakamoto became an outlaw by leaving his domain and moving to Edo, where he entered a dojo and undertook personal training in the sword. He planned to assassinate Katsu Kaishu, but ended up as his disciple. Marius Jansen wrote a study and Romulus Hillsborough a semi-fictional biography: Jansen: Sakamoto Ryoma and the Meiji Restoration, 1994, Columbia U P; Hillsborough, Ryoma: Life of a Renaissance Samurai, 1994, Ridgeback Press.
With respect to Daito-ryu and aikido, there are two sets of items that are essential reading concerning Takeda Sokaku and Daito-ryu. (a) Important items in the first set are the biographical essays written by Takeda Tokimune and published by Stanley Pranin in the earlier issues of Aiki News. Tokimune was also interviewed by Stanley Pranin on a number of occasions and these interviews have been published by Aiki-News in Japanese and English: 『竹田惣角と大東流合気柔術』, 1992; Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu: Conversations with Daito-ryu Masters, 1996, Aiki-News. In fact, the entire archive of articles and interviews created by Stanley Pranin at Aikido Journal merits deep and repeated study. All the back issues of Aiki News and Aikido Journal are available on a CD-ROM that comes with a subscription to Aikido Journal.
(b) The second set of items are the interviews and other material made by Kimura Tatsuo relating to Sagawa Yukiyoshi, another of Takeda's top students: 『透明な力 不世出の武術家 佐川幸義』, 1995, 講談社; Transparent Power: A Secret Teaching Revealed: The Extraordinary Martial Artist Yukiyoshi Sagawa, 2009, MAAT Press; 『合気修得への道 佐川幸義先生に就いた二十年』: Discovering Aiki: My 20 Years with Yukiyoshi Sagawa Sensei, 1995, Aiki News. Another student, Takahashi Masaru, has produced an account of Sagawa and his training: 『高橋賢, 佐川幸義先生伝 大東流合気の真実』, 2007, 福昌堂.
Peter Goldsbury (b. 28 April 1944). Aikido 6th dan Aikikai, Emeritus Professor at Hiroshima University, teaching philosophy and comparative culture. B. in UK. Began aikido as a student and practiced at various dojo. Became a student of Mitsunari Kanai at the New England Aikikai in 1973. After moving back to the UK in 1975, trained in the Ryushinkan Dojo under Minoru Kanetsuka. Also trained with K Chiba on his frequent visits to the UK. Moved to Hiroshima, Japan, in 1980 and continued training with the resident Shihan, Mazakazu Kitahira, 7th dan Also trained regularly with Seigo Yamaguchi, Hiroshi Tada, Sadateru Arikawa and Masatake Fujita, both in Hiroshima and at the Aikikai Hombu. Was elected Chairman of the IAF in 1998. With two German colleagues, opened a small dojo in Higashi-Hiroshima City in 2001. Instructed at Aiki Expo 2002 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
Peter - once again, I continue to be both moved and honored by the critical reading of my work. I also feel quite lucky that, through Aikiweb, I can respond in a way that one cannot in usual printed material.
I do not assert that anyone who went through what Takeda "went through" would end up like Takeda. Instead, only Takeda could end up like Takeda. The observation of horror, independent of culture, does cause one's character to develop, in general, along certain lines. But this does not guarantee the "development of a Takeda." The majority of warrior cultures are typified by distant fathers, a coming of age where one is separated from the feminine, initiation ceremonies that define, clearly and harshly, the masculine role, and very often, de-sensitization procedures so that one is at ease with violence. This set of components would explain the creation of the samurai class, for example - and a wonderful example of this is described in Junichi Saga, Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan, 1987, Kodansha International, a book you cite. I do not have the book at hand, but one chapter describes a former executioner of a han, the grandfather of the narrator. He is a very severe man who goes duck hunting in the following manner: He takes a musket and a small lead smelter. At the riverside, he smelts a single lead ball. Loads his musket. Shoots a single duck. Returns home.
I consulted with some film makers in Africa on the making of a documentary on the boy soldiers - what is remarkable is that, many, now returned home, are such gentle souls. I've met some in my area - they are attendants in a mental hospital, and the most patient, kind staff in the entire facility. But when one of them met me, me wearing BDU's (the many pocketed pants sometimes favored by military), he went into a mild flashback, only alleviated when I assured him that I liked the pants for the many pockets, not that I was a military guy.
With Takeda Sokaku, we do not have the same kind of man - a rigidly controlled warrior. Nor do we have the returned child soldiers - often gentle men who survive by deliberately "not remembering." Why not? First, I believe we start with innate character. To take my own sons, each was born into my hands. And I would assert with complete confidence that they are fundamentally unchanged from that moment - they were born with soul. The way they greeted the world is still the way they live. Takeda Sokaku was a ferociously independent being, defiant of authority. He had several significant disruptions of attachment - fostered to Dengoro Kurokochi's and then left alone/abandoned near a battlefield. (I shan't repeat the thesis of my chapter) - but in short, I am saying the "obvious" - Takeda Sokaku's life made Takeda Sokaku. Flamboyant, paranoid, and at the same time, passionate and desiring contact with others.
Yet, I am not out of line in referring to what Sokichi did to his son as torture. Torture is the deliberate infliction of pain and destructive psychological experience. It can be done for sadism and it can be done for education. I don't care what your culture is - being involuntarily forced to experience severe pain - against one's wishes - with no way of making it stop - is, as Jean Amery, a holocaust survivor writes, always a rape of the body. With different cultural memes, that pain/torture may be "assimilated" differently, but it is still torture.
What is most significant to me is that Takeda found it necessary, as an adult, to point it out. One several occasions. What is significant is that he cut his own father out of his "lineage" of Daito-ryu.
I want to make it clear - unlike most others, I believe, I do NOT believe that Takeda Sokaku was impaired to the point of psychological pathology. But I also do not believe he was typical of his class and his times. He reminds me very much of the Araki-ryu admonition that one must be like a pine tree growing on a cliff. (The implication is that however the wind blows, however impoverished the root bed of rock and earth, you will, twists and all, grow up strong).
One of the "mysteries" of my work with youth is this - a life story can explain THAT child's life - but in many cases, cannot explain in general terms, chidren's lives. One of my best friends experienced horror in levels equal or greater to that we read of Takeda. He's not a man you would want to make angry - and fighting him would be a terrible mistake. But he is a loving father and husband and good friend. Abuse and violence are not like train tracks that lead to a pre-determined direction. Instead, they are blows that knock one OFF the rails - each of us will struggle through the swamps to our own destination - which is a combination of luck, character, and maybe the size of our feet.
A couple of other issues:
I did not rely on the account of Takeda's sumo as an old man to substantiate my belief that he learned the skills young (Heck, it's possible that Hisa was just being kind to his teacher and tanking, for all I know). I've done some provincial sumo when I was in Japan. I was at the peak of my physical strength, well over 200 pounds, and tough locals, with some real skill and lots of power, handled me easily. What catches my attention about Takeda is that he was a young teen, probably somewhere between 100-130 pounds, most likely on the lighter side of that range, and he was defeating such work hardened men whose family well-being would be impacted by victory or defeat. And he beat them all! That's remarkable. Hence, my conclusion that he must have known something more than a good uwatenage and some skillful tsuppari.
As always, I not only think most of your questions and critiques are valid - particularly in the demand for sources, more scholarly rigor and in catching a number of "jumping off points" for further writing and research. My goal, as always, is to knock the narrative off the rails - so something new might be found in the swamps I lead you.
My work as an assessor in child abuse cases actually runs quite parallel to this - very frequently, I'd be handed a case in which everyone had a slam dunk to taking a child away from parents - -or returning a child - and often I would knock the case right off the rails. Once in court, I would be questioned by both lawyers and, through them, other expert witnesses. My best work circled around noting what no one seemed to see about this particular child.
And that is what led me to ask how the scariest man in most aikido books was never violent to his students, but stabbed his own son, who surely learned from his father, but erased him from his own history, except to point out to others his lifelong damaged nails as his father's work.
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
Here are a few preliminary comments on your comments. I am sure there will be a need for more discussion.
As I read this chapter, I considered that Sokichi also needed a spokesman (or defense lawyer) and I am not convinced that the traumas of the Boshin War were what led him to treat Sokaku in the way you describe.
Nor do I think that your account of Sokaku’s supposed traumas offers a more convincing explanation of the sources of Ueshiba’s power than an account that places less emphasis on Sokichi’s transgressions.
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
Peter - If reach an impasse, I am content to have reached an impasse. I want to be sure such an impasse is reached, rather than us talking at cross-purposes, caught by nuance rather than true disagreement:
1. My absolute is that the infliction of physical pain, the disruption of attachment at an early age, the witnessing and experiencing of horrific incidents affect character. Thus, they are a significant component in the development of Takeda's character. It is my belief that, combined with the innate character that he was born to have (nature AND nurture), that this is a key to his wandering - his serial relationships of close disciple, then either distance or rejection, AND he relationships with his own family. I am attempting to be an advocate for Takeda, who has been described as evil, as psychopathic, whereas I see the central endeavor of his life as a path towards morality and attempts to connect with others and bequeath something to them. Hence the sub-chapter heading "Sympathy for the Devil"
2. If the word "torture" is not on the mark to you, I would still assert that having moxa burned on one's fingernails so that it damaged the nail beds permanently, something that Takeda obsessed about enough that his son mentioned it prominently in his bio of his father, and Sokaku himself highlighted it in the only interview we have, makes it of symbolic import in Takeda's own sense of himself. So one can drop the word, torture, if one likes, (I don't, but that's neither here nor there), but it would be wrong to deny it's significance to Sokaku.
3. I do not think Sokichi needs an advocate. I actually advocate for him. I wrote:
My grounds for empathy:
Back when I was 19, I roomed with a guy who had a labrador puppy - a sweet dog, who was bereft at being separated from his mom. My roommate worked in the day, and I'd be alone with this defecating, whimpering, crying, shrieking thing that kept climbing over me for comfort. I'd never taken care of a dog, I had no idea what to do to either train it or comfort it - and I used to throw it bodily into the garage. It would whimper and cry and try to get close to me. I shoved it away with my foot, and just stopped myself from kicking it. I hated it - and hated me for hating it. Luckily for me and the dog, I told my roommate that I was going to be gone during the day - every day - so he had to find somewhere else for the dog. "Helpless" caregivers are more common as abusers, in my experience than evil men. I describe Sokichi as the latter. This experience, by the way, scalded me enough that when I had children of my own, one in particular, very very strong willed, and I feeling helpless at times to guide or teach him, I had a warning - guilt - which kept me from trying to break my sons' wills to mine.
3. As for culture, one of the books that is a "Bible" to me is "Sick Societies," a book by a renegade anthropologist who takes the position that cultures can be pathological as well as individuals - and his definition is a cultural rule that damages it's members is pathological. (Note: he's not saying "them vs. us" - he cites quite a few pathologies in our own.). I agree that people experience things differently in whatever culture and time they are in - but often, cultural relativism is a product of distance. Foot binding in China, for example - was given a sophisticated context, including sexual fetishism, a particular attitude towards women, etc. We can explain it away, and explain it deeply - it was still mutilation at core, and inflicted terrible pain.
The source of Sokaku's character - a parallel concern of equal if not more importance to me - is nature and nurture. I am NOT - in any way - attributing Takeda's skill to how his father treated him, to the Boshin war, etc., except, possibly that his early experiences may have given him the drive to excel. These two things run in parallel to me. The chapter was not an attempt to tease out internal training skills on the part of Takeda as a product of bad experiences. I tried to do three things: First, if possible, to trace a line towards the actual roots of Daito-ryu, the martial art. Second, to sketch out what I believe is a truer picture of Takeda's character, rather than the cartoon we usually have, where, as I stated above, "I see the central endeavor of his life as a path towards morality and attempts to connect with others and bequeath something to them." Three, some hint on how Takeda learned internal skills - this, the most minor of the three to me (having the least data to work with) is simply that his dad taught him, not Hoshina - and I would bet that were Sokaku the easiest kid in the world, had he the talent and the drive, his dad would have taught him too.
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Heck - I wrote so fast I made some mistakes.
And Sokichi's "transgressions" - at least, I believe, as his son saw them - only illuminate his erasure from his lineage, not what he actually taught. BTW - Sokichi died, I believe, in 1904. Sokaku has a 17 year period of which very little is know. Stan Pranin speculated to me that this period may actually be the key to understanding how he developed as a martial artist. Takeda reappears in in the late 1890's. It would be very illuminating if one could find out what, if any, contact Sokaku and Sokichi had in later years, as well as what Sokichi did in the last years of his life.
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Thought provoking and extremely interesting to me, gentlemen; and thank you very much for sharing publicly your thoughts in such fashion. I'm learning a lot and your discussion has already ignited some ideas and explorations of my own in similar directions.
Again, thanks, and please continue to share. Also, again thanks to Jun (and everyone that takes part in AikiWeb) for continually maintaining a public forum that is a clear and clean platform that provides a place for this to happen.
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Good Morning, Ellis,
(It is 8.45 and I have just got up and gone to my computer.)
An impasse? No. I do not think so. Anyway, this post is only the sixth post in this thread and I think there will be a few more before anything approaching a conclusion is reach.
Basically, I am approaching HIPS in the same way that I would approach a doctoral thesis about a historical character (in this case, Takeda Sokaku and those with whom he came into close contact). Are the data / speculations well grounded in fact and is the narrative (he 'rhetoric', if you like) well grounded in the data? What are the limitations of Tokimune's articles and interviews and can they be supported by other evidence, from sources that are no way influenced by him? Do the frames and metaphors (in a very general way) match the narrative, or do you take unwarranted liberties, or attempt to fit the data into a narrative framework that is inappropriate? In other words, if I were to study the same sources and go over the same ground that you have done, would I end up with much the same conclusion? Or would I need other knowledge, which does not appear in your sources?
Actually, I still have the pages of notes sent to me by the professors who formed my thesis committee. One in particular, long passed away, sent me pages and pages of very detailed stuff, all criticisms. Had I taken the next step and made the thesis into a book, I would have started from this material.
Of course, I know that you have not written a PhD thesis, but you have certainly written one of the very few works of quality on Daito-ryu and aikido published in the last few years. As such it deserves to be examined with great care, right down to the minor details.
I will go through your numbered comments (there are two 3s, by the way) later today, as time permits.
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One of the problems I have here is the notion of an absolute. You appear to be using the term as a kind of category, one of the three concepts mentioned (there would be more) that you would use to explain someone’s character.
I certainly think that you could use such categories to explain someone’s actions. Thus, if you did a case study on Takeda and looked at all the supposed factors that caused him to do what he did, or could be cited as reasons for his actions, the infliction of physical pain would be one of these. Whether it is true that all of them were truly factors in explaining his actions is something that would have to be shown—it is not something that is even intuitively obvious, at least to me.
However, you go much further than this and state without qualification that it is some sort of absolute that three factors affect someone’s character, that they are factors in the development of this character, which, in addition, is something he is also born with. So your explanation of Takeda’s activities lies in his character, as in the phrase: ‘That’s the kind of person he is. He was born with this character and this character developed because of these factors.’ Thus the explanation becomes proactive and also predictive: Given Character C and factors X, Y and Z, which affect C in a particular way, it is an absolute that Person P will act in a certain predictable way.
You might be right; I cannot say. However, I would at least like to see more of the reasoning lying behind such statements. That said, the last time I studied these questions in depth was in graduate school. The main issues there were the origins of scientific knowledge, especially in the behavioral sciences, and the power of explanations concerning causes vs, reasons; actions vs. physical movements--and the ethical issues resulting. Borger and Cioffi was a favored text.
I will respond to your other points in separate posts.
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Hence my interest in Daniel Botsman’s work was to see whether there was a late Tokugawa / early Meiji ‘culture of torture’ in the Aizu domain, that would have placed Sokichi’s actions in a wider context. I have been concerned to add rather more detail to this contemporary cultural context of Sokichi’s behavior to his son than you have done in HIPS. This is partly to find out whether there was a contemporary connotation to the Japanese equivalents of terms such as ‘discipline’, ‘punishment’, ‘violence’, or ‘torture’ that existed in late Tokugawa / early Meiji and that does not exist now, or vice versa.
I am not concerned to diminish the fact of causing intense physical pain, so much as to wonder aloud why Sokichi chose this particular form of infliction, which clearly had some form of precedent.
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However, in my opinion, applying the term ‘torture’ to Sokichi’s actions removes any moral approbation and this is why I thought he needed a defence advocate. So I would be interested in contemporary sources that give a more general explanation of how and why he received the "Demon" sobriquet. Was it because he also inflicted similarly severe physical pain on those under him, or merely because he was a very strong man, expected the same strength from his subordinates, and so maintained an exceptionally severe level of general discipline: severe, even for the Aizu clan? As I stated in TIE 17, I can find no references to either Sokichi or Sokaku Takeda in 『会津教育考』, but the publisher appears to have published other works on Aizu, specifically concerning the Boshin War. Since Sokichi was the commander of the 力士隊, it is likely that his prowess—and his nickname, would be mentioned somewhere.
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I have called this Point 4.
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1. I have heard about the application of moxa to the skin as a form of discipline for unruly kids, once upon a time. Not on the nails, for whatever that's worth. There is no doubt that warrior cultures are usually very harsh to their male children, and this helps produce warriors. I have never read of a warrior culture where this is not true.
2. I recall Turnbull's books - the first one being delightful, and the 2nd anything but. As I recall, there was a lot of controversy about The Mountain People. As best I remember, other anthropologists asserted that the Ik's "culture" was an outcome of a) a severe famine b) an utter disruption of a stable way of life by resettlement and the government's destruction of their traditional way of life, and that, Turnbull ended up "blaming the victims," so to speak.
3. One problem with almost all studies of culture, including cultural relativism is that history and culture are written by the ruling class - as is the rationalizing of the culture. It is hard to even get access to those violated and abused in the culture. For example, there was recently a long radio essay about a woman with an African father and African-American mother, who, married in the US, wished to go back to Kenya for a second wedding, so her children would be able to appreciate and love both cultures. At first glance, she had entered a different and wonderful culture. But as she got to know the women, she learned that every woman, on the way home from school, or somewhere else, had been kidnapped and raped. Afterwards, the man would present himself to the family with this accomplished fact of possession and then the girl would be married to him. As Edgerton points out (yes, you have the right book), many anthropologists would find an elegant intellectual rationalization for this, so that, somehow, it would not be "rape" and "kidnapping." But the woman found, as she got to know each of the women of the culture, that they suffered in silence, and everyone of them experienced this as a rape and violation, even though the conventions of their culture did not give them a public language to say so.
4. Thus, in sum, I deliberately chose the word "torture." Why? Because that is the child's experience, and I have long felt that Sokaku has had his voice stolen. Yes, that's dramatic. But for a long time, my work (and my life) revolved around abused children - from many cultures - and although each culture had a different explanation for the physical infliction of pain and/or sexual exploitation of their young, the children, as best I could tell, experienced the pain exactly the same. To be sure, as they grew up, the explanations the culture provided - or the desperate measures the child took to accept the abuse ("I deserved it," for example), might differ. But the core experience was the same. However, we could not predict from that core experience how the child would grow up. We could generalize that it was more likely that - - - but the wonder of humanity is that each of us will break free of the bounds of such predictions (which Emanuel Levinas would refer to as "totalizing").
So, on the one hand, I do think it is very important to ascertain the larger cultural context - how such actions as the infliction of pain upon one's child were viewed. On the other, the child's raw, core experience must not be forgotten - and the victim of violence, be it the child or the woman who is beaten - often is.
5. Finally, the type of psychology I hew to is referred to as phenomenological or individualized psychology. Rather than trying to find a norm, in which one can profile (if x happens to a child, y will develop), which results, usually, in superficial generalizations, one views each individual as unique. If x happened to this child, y resulted for this child). On the one hand, one is left with a tautology, but on the other, it is the truth. One young man I know was brought up by an Army Intelligence officer who decided, as an experiment, to see if he could psychologically destroy his son, through physical and psychological torture. (That word again). He, now a man of 35, described to me, pleading with his father as he was tortured, saying, "You are supposed to take care of me. You are not supposed to do this." How did he turn out? Is he an abuser himself? A torturer? In fact, his response was to become a man who tried never to reveal his feelings, because every revelation of such resulted in his father using it to create more pain and also, a militant pacifism. He will literally accept death rather than do anything violent to anyone. It makes sense as a narrative - but there is no way we could predict that such a man would emerge from such a background.
By way of saying, all I've tried to do is tell, as best I can, what I believe to be Takeda's story, to understand if there was anything in his early life which could help make sense how such a man could have developed. Rather than the "type" - (a typical example of a feudal samurai, as some have asserted) - I wanted the man. And perhaps I am lacking a little humility, but I believe I explain his character - the inability to settle, the prickly defensiveness and paranoia, his relationship (close/far) with his deshi, the way he brought up (and didn't bring up) his own son, who would not refer to him as "father," but rather "Takeda Sensei," with more truth than has been done previously.
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This is a really fascinating discussion. Thank you, Peter and Ellis, for having it where I can read it. I don't speak or write Japanese, so my info comes via an interpreter, but I remember a conversation with my shihan. He was trying to explain his father to us, a man who was maybe 18 when O Sensei was in his late 30's and they were uchi deshi for Onisaburo Deguchi Sensei. Tanaka Shihan was talking about how strict and severe his father was, and how he had few openings either for attack or for human contact (I hope I am not overstating here.) Tanaka Shihan said most of us can't relate now, but folks who were in their 70's or 80's (this was 10 years ago) would remember and understand that generation of men.
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"Some may think I am over-dramatizing a minor thing, an archaic discipline method that was "appropriate" to the time."
I do not state that it was a "minor thing", nor that the method was necessarily "appropriate" (at least, not without hearing Takeda Sokichi's version of the story), but, yes, I still think you are over-dramatizing.
Tokimune spends devotes much space to a detailed explanation of the Aizu war and the reason he gives is that Sokaku's childhood was "greatly affected" by "conditions in Japan at the time. So the war was certainly a context, but I think it was rather more than a back-drop.
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A few comments based on your last post (#12).
1. I am not sure whether you read my comments on Turnbull’s work. I stated that, “Turnbull’s portrayal of the Ik raises a host of issues, especially those of objectivity and cultural divergence.”I did not state anything at all about Turnbull’s methodology and I am aware of the controversy his work raised (there were other issues, too, apart from the three you mention). The issues would apply to any anthropological analysis of a ‘culture’ and would thus include those made by Mead, Benedict, Hofstede, and also by Edgerton.
2. Your points about culture and class are well taken. However, I think they add to the problem of objectivity; they do not solve it. A description of a unique case based on phenomenological psychology is still a description of a unique case and is subject to the same problems of objectivity, bias and superficiality as a description of a unique case based on other types of psychology.
3. So, while I do not deny that Sokaku has had his voice stolen--and that you have given him a voice, I am suggesting that Takeda Sokichi was not even given much of a voice to begin with. In addition, if it is possible to talk of core experiences, in contrast to other experiences (or types of experience), the issue arises of why this particular experience (or this type of experience) is core—and others are not. That it is a core experience because you, or someone, has chosen to describe it as such is not an adequate answer, at least for me.
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Thank you for the comments.
Last week I gave a lecture to a group. Of course, it was about Japan and Japanese culture and the main theme was how the 'culture' was changed by the Meiji Restoration. My audience was composed entirely of relatively elderly Japanese, who, of course, remembered their parents and grandparents. In the ensuing discussion, nearly everyone commented on how truly severe the upbringing of samurai boys really was and this severity continued well after the Meiji Restoration: it did not really change.
The darker aspects of Japanese society hardly ever come out in the biographies of more senior Aikido teachers and I suspect that not revealing these darker aspects was also part of the code. Sometimes I overhear mothers talking about their sons' education (conversations in a restaurant, for example). The conversation is always about helping them to cope with all the challenges in store (examinations, groups, peer-pressure, bullying--by teachers as well as other pupils). It is never about lessening the challenges, which are regarded as a given and have to be accepted, in order to build the strength of character required for a Japanese.
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Peter - I've only a few more thoughts on the subject we are discussing.
On the question of abuse and discipline in Japan, an incident while I was teaching jr. high school.
I taught in a module, separated from the rest of the building - two classrooms. The module was frequently unused, or mostly, just me teaching in one class. In the middle of one class, the walls started falling in. Thought it was an earthquake. But the damage was focused - too focused. I ran next door and found the school's "gang of five," the five young thugs in our school who, thinking the building deserted, decided to take it apart. I yelled, "Ungogu na!" And then, as they froze, with "Oh s***" expressions on their faces, I yelled, "Narabe!" They lined up and then, "Clench your back teeth hard!" (to avoid broken jaws). And then, one by one, I slugged each of them with a full-arm open hand slap, half-knocking each off his feet. Then, after a moment of total silence (and not a peep from my class next door), I said, "Get out of here. I didn't see a thing." Each of them gave me a very proper bow and left.
And I went back to teaching my class. Several hours later, the principal asked me if noticed anything wrong in the A classroom of the module. With a puzzled look, I said, "No."
Over the next day or two, I saw each kid on the way to class, and each simply greeted me with "konnichi wa, sensei," a smile, and on his way. And I can tell you, when these lads felt treated unfairly, each had a history of making one or another teacher's classroom hell.
I knew that, if the matter had been handled "properly," these five young men would have been a) expelled b) their parents terribly shamed c) every moment of their future irrevocably changed. For a moment of stupid boy-mob testasterone, this made no sense to me. One of the biggest changes I've seen in American since I was a kid - for the worse - is that boys can't fight, can't be obstreperous, or defiant, without it becoming either a criminal matter, or in some ways worse, something to diagnose and medicate.
The five kids were in the school for two more years. They were still the "boyz" of the school, but they were respectful without being craven - and on two occasions, when one of them was in trouble in their own lives, they came to me for "sodan," (consultation). They chose to be around me - and around the judo and baseball coaches - the only one's in the school who accepted young males as males, rather than usual teachers who were either intimidated and ineffectual or wasp-tongued, manipulative, record-keeping, passive-aggressive and vindictive. Ironically, the teachers were mostly very left-wing, but hated the working class kids most of all. Discipline with young men, I have found, should often be crisp, hard, and OVER.
Had this happened in America, I would have been both sued and arrested. A lot of my readers might think I was abusive. I personally think I saved their futures - and I believe, that if asked, all five (now) men would agree. Their actions over the next two years certainly suggest that I am right. [An example of either phenomenology, if I've properly, using Husserl's term, "bracketed," or pure subjective delusion of a "Oni Eego Kyoshi"].
I believe you raise several questions I cannot answer:
1. IAre there, in fact, any objective standard - either beyond culture or within a cultural context that are deterministic? - Can any historian, psychologist, or even parent assert that "a" incident will result in "b" personality development? - this, backed up by research or historical record. I do not believe such exists. Human beings are too "free" to be so subject - why, in the ancient Hebrew myth, that the angels were angry with God's creation of humanity, because in our freedom, we had something that God did not give the angels.
This definitely leads to legitimate questions regarding any of my assertions - but really, any assertion at all. Truly, all I'm saying is that my experience with many children (and my reading of many other authorities) shows that children with similar experiences show many of Takeda's behaviors. There is a significant pattern here.
One of the most remarkable aspects of PTSD is that it is NOT defined by the horror of the account - but by the person's response to the horror. In other words, trauma is a psycho-physical personal narrative, not a "fact." Hence, treatment/healing is often changing the personal narrative - because the incident cannot be changed. My "evidence" for Takeda's early trauma is the man he became, not merely the fact of the pain of the fingernails, the witnessing of the horrors of war, the disruption of attachment. Takeda's later life is congruent with the lives of many other people who experienced early lives much like Takeda. That's as far as I can go. I believe that this has not been noticed, because of another, more dominant narrative myth.
2. Can one assert with any assurance that such-and-such experiences "made" an individual? This is, without a doubt, fraught. I have seen - and contradicted - a number of assessors adamant assertions of such determinism. But my contradiction of them is more of the same! The only thing that makes it "true" is a) a judge accepts it (dubious proof, I know) b) that if my evaluation and recommendations are followed and the child's life improves along the trajectory I suggest, or a alleged abuser acts as I suggest they will, then there is a congruence strong enough to suggest the possibility of fact. But it is not fact, not proof - merely congruence. It just "rings true" - that's the best that can be said. (And this applies to all psychological evaluation, no matter how ostensibly objective it might be, no matter what "scientific" tests are used). Human beings are beyond all our deterministic suggestions.
Clinical observation is an art - not a science - although the art is supported by science, just as a great painting is supported by the proper use of pigments. But sometimes, all too often, it's very bad art (witness the "satanic panic" of the 1990's).
Even more fraught is "psychohistory." You are absolutely correct to question my conclusions because I've not only never met Takeda, I've never met anyone who had met him. I am at a minimum of three degrees of separation - and really four, when it comes to knowing anyone well who knew someone who knew someone who knew Takeda.
I believe your questions go directly to the heart of my book, which, there is no doubt, is provocation. My challenges at the end of the book, the title of the book, all of this is a challenge to the writer/researcher to do much of what you are doing. But beyond asking good questions which reveal the limits of my methods <and honestly, until proven otherwise, I "know" I'm right - all the evidence of Takeda's life and actions fit most perfectly with my conclusions) - but I hope, eventually, there will be a diary, letters, whatever to prove me right or wrong.
Imagine in Hoshina Chikanori's diary, a brief note of being consulted by a frustrated, despairing father named Sokichi, worreid about his , defiant son, and, after due discussion the only thing they could come up with as "moxa on fingernails" therapy.
So, in fact, I agree with all your questions - (with the exception, perhaps, that you are hewing a little too literally to the title of my book - for I could say that the roots of Ueshiba's power include, by definition, the personal make-up of his teacher, as this affected the teacher-student relationship) - but still stand by my account of Takeda's life, as explaining, in a much "truer" fashion, not only his development, but some of the nuances of his relationship with his students, Ueshiba among them.
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As others have said, many thanks to Peter and Ellis for hashing this out back and forth and offering much to think about.
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Most of the questions I raise about this chapter of HIPS are based on a decade or so of teaching comparative culture to Japanese graduate students. Such students inevitably believed (a) that they could analyze their own culture objectively, and (b) they could also make objective comparisons (which, as a consequence of them being objective and grounded in facts, they believed to be true) with any culture not their own and, especially, with cultures they labeled 'Western'. They also (c) had what they thought was a very clear idea of what culture was. In this respect my students have not been helped by the Nihonjinron gakubatsu, who have added to the obfuscation by suggesting that Japanese culture is, yes, really unique in a 'whiter than white' kind of way.
The problem with culture is that certain types of analysis of it are regarded as scientific and therefore preferable to other kinds of analysis. I also regard phenomenology and behaviorism as being at opposite ends of a spectrum--and subject to similar problems of analysis.
Many thanks for the exchange.
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And I too. Much
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Below is an excerpt of a translation of some of the Daitokan Newsletters (translator unknown) regarding the life of Takeda Sokaku (from his early life thru training to later teaching). These have been mined quite well by the great research Stanley Pranin, however some of the original flavor has been removed, edited, or shortened.
There seems to be a trend to say that he resented his father for excessive punishment. Quite possibly so, I do not read minds nor was there.) Yet here is an account passed on through Tokimune , Sokaku praising his father for his prowess on the battlefield.
The battlefields of the Aizu war lack the ‘lethality' we see today in long range death (without death from above by jet, bombers, and ‘civilian-friendly' cruise missiles. Gunpowder from muskets and cannon caused immense smoke, flashes from muzzles created dazzling displays (which fascinated young Sokaku and do children today at reenactments), and more important death was almost always a close personal thing. Getting anyone to fight in any combat is a tough thing (see Grossman's "On Killing" [much of what I agree with and some I don't -- there is a fear of killing and more importantly there is a fear of exposing yourself to the chance of being killed.] Sokichi operated in this environment very well as a leader and also seems to have operated well in the post phase as a teacher of sumo and literary skills. Sokaku seems to be the child not destined for reading and writing but shop class. In his case, martial arts was the driving force.
Courage of Sokichi Takeda
Both the western and Eastern artillery parties had great military achievements. However, the Satsuma and Choshu troops of the western army whose strength depended on its mobile power used, "Edo Sumo Oozeki" (special artillery unit). Especially noted was the power of the Choshu artillery party which enabled the Choshu clan to destroy the large shogunate army earlier when the Choshu were being suppressed. It was against these impressive artillery of the western army that the 30 members of the Aizu Sumo Wrestlers Party with Sokichi Takeda as its head participated in historic battles at Hamaguri-gomon, Toba, Fushimi and Shirakawaguchi.
The Aizu artillery proved its superiority over its counterpart of the western army in these battles. The head of the Aizu Sumo Wrestlers Party. Sokichi Takeda (Aizu Ozeki) mercilessly whipped those who showed a cowardly attitude while shooting and encouraged and also terrified the artillery soldiers. When the two forces engaged each other in close-quarter combat he rushed into the enemy brandishing a specially-made spear and cut them down. His incredible bravery was also known to the enemy and he was nicknamed "Demon Sokichi". As a result of his outstanding service he was promoted to "yoriaiseki" (chief magistrate) on June 12. He further received a letter of appreciation from the Aizu clan lord on behalf of the sumo wrestlers party for their bravery in carrying the valuable artillery into the castle. This letter authenticating the achievements of Sokichi Takeda during that period was preserved for many years.
When a principle retainer, Tanomo Saigo, secretly escaped from the castle in order to contact the army outside of the castle, Sokichi accompanied him. He went to Sendai to try to recruit fellow sumo wrestlers there and in Yamagata Prefecture when he learned of the fall of Aizu castle and remained in Sendai.
From this account, we see he does not disparage his father's bravery or skill. There is repeated mention in the newsletter of Sokaku Takeda learning sumo, kenjutsu, bojutsu (what has been lost there?) and spear from Sokichi, plus seeing (with much reluctance as he was most well aware of the passing of the era of the sword) his son had further training in Jiki Shinkage ryu through his connections.
He does not mention his father teaching him Aiki. This he clearly recounts through Tokimune as having learned this from Tanomo Saigo (Chikanori Hoshina). The trouble with facts is sometimes you have to believe them. He could be wrong with a name or date or even a person or two, but he clearly stated to two different people (on record) that his instruction came from Tanomo Saigo.
I am much intrigued by the Peter Goldsbury's writings (FASCINATED and devouring each one -- more! more!) and Ellis Amdur's books and comments (whom I love disagreeing with but he writes so damn well).
One of the things I mention when discussing history is those in the past were 1) just like us, loving, laughing, crying and living and 2) were radically different in belief systems and how and why they did things. Not wrong always (sometimes), just different.
Goldsbury makes much of the difference of the Japanese mindset and Amdur much of how they had the same foibles and faults as today. I tend to listen, trying to determine what is right, what is wrong, what was lie and what may be a truth.
Oh, and I guess I'm a "birther" in believing Takeda Sokaku did not invent aiki, however he certainly mastered it.
co-author of "Aiki Toolbox: Exploring the Magic of Aikido"
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
No need for me to re-debate or rewrite what I spent a book working through. But, suffice it to say:
I spent a lot of time reading and re-reading the passage you quote. Which is, btw, an account by Tokimune, not Sokaku. And nowhere whatsoever have I ever written that anyone could have questioned Sokichi's courage or valour, least of all Sokaku. I don't remember whose bought my book - and thus, I do not know if you have. but suffice it to say that I spent considerable time proposing a possible reason why a) I believe that Sokichi was the direct teacher of Sokaku in aiki b) why Sokaku didn't say so.
And to say clearly what I tried to say in a lot of words - the intention of the parent and the experience of the child can also be much at variance. Refer to Johnny Cash's "A Boy Named Sue."
You mention that Sokaku mentioned to several people that he learned from Chikanori. Interestingly, two of those people - Sagawa Yukiyoshi and Sato Keisuke - both definitively stated that they did not believe that Saigo taught Takeda, and the latter stated that he believe Sokichi was his actual teacher.
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
I have purchased and read (and reread) your book. It is a very GOOD book and I think anyone interested in Aikido or Aiki should have it on the shelf!
Just because I may disagree with one part please don't take as a diss. There is much there to make one think.
Regarding Sagawa Yukiyoshi, in "Transparent Power" he DOES say (through Kimura) that Takeda Sokaku SAID that Chikanori was the one that taught him aiki.
He also, as you point out, said he believed that Takeda Sokaku invented it.
Thus we are on the horns of a dilemma with a 'conflicting' source.
My personal belief (which is like an opinion but worth less) is some rudiment came from Chikanori that rippled like a spreadsheet of the techniques of a hodge podge Yamato-ryu (pre Daito-ryu) system probably a family art, perhaps the documentation coming from the Nishinkan school library. Add years of training, years of drills (sumo-like - ala Toby Threadgill's omote drills) allowed him to come up with a neat style.
I am attempting to get translated a better source of information on the mysterious aiki. And perhaps some wacky non-Chinese sources. A conundrum inside a pin inside a waza.
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
Many thanks for your post.
I am curious about your reference to the Nishinkan school library. I have a plan of the Nishinkan and, as far as I can see, there was no library. In addition, Hoshina Chikanori was the name Saigo Tanomo used after the defeat of the Aizu. The sources with which I am familiar use the name Saigo Tanomo. Nor, in the Japanese sources I have, can I see any evidence in Aizu of any art called Yamato-ryu.
So, in the absence of any other sources that you might have seen and I have not, I tend to agree with Ellis, but with an important qualification: during his musha shugyo period Sokaku returned to Aizu and met his father (I do not accept Ellis's implication that he cut off all contact with his father: the evidence is lacking either way). He also met Saigo Tanomo (then Hoshina Chikanori) on a number of occasions.
Stanley Pranin (and Ellis) also talk of Saigo's diary--and what it did not contain. However, there is no mention of this in any Aizu sources with which I am familiar and Tokimune, also, does not seem to be aware of it. So I wonder if it has been published and is generally accessible.
Re: Transmission, Inheritance, Emulation 17
Peter - further meetings with his father is a very important question, of which I've no answer. And Sokichi died in, I believe in 1904. Those last years are very intriguing.
Here's the best info I've read in English regarding Sokaku's early behavior, his training directly from his father, etc. The article notes Sokichi's education, older brother Sokatsu's martial abilities (where did HE get them), and the repeated social distress that Sokaku "caused" his father.
One passage is particularly worth quoting and one sentence there is highlighted:
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