DAITO-RYU AIKI JUJITSU ROPPOKAI
Daito-Ryu is said to have been founded by Minamoto no Shinra Saburo Yoshimitsu (1045-1127), the last grandson of emperor Seiwa. Yoshimitsu, was the younger brother of Minamoto no Hachiman Taro Yoshiie (1041- 1108), who was considered to be the greatest warrior in all of Japanese History. It's very likely that the earlier combat methods of the Minamoto clan were actually just refined and perfected by General Yoshimitsu, and his elder brother Yoshiie.
Yoshimitsu, was a teacher of so-jutsu (spear), To- ho (sword methods), and Tai-jutsu (body arts), as well as archery, and he was noted firstly, for having dissected the cadavers of executed criminals and slain enemy soldiers of the "Three-year war" (1083). Through this study of the structure of the human body he mastered Gyakute and Ichigeki Hissatsu (techniques of killing with one blow); secondly, by watching the silk spider catch it's prey, he obtained a hint which led to the discovery of the core of Aiki. Therefore Yoshimitsu is considered to be the one who originally developed the techniques of Daito-Ryu by adding to the previous secret techniques of the Minamoto clan, and passing those techniques down to the Takeda family of Kai.
In 1573 Kunitsugu Takeda, a relative of Takeda Shingen was appointed governor of Aizu, and moved his family, and retainers there. It was at this time that the traditional art of Daito-Ryu took form. Daito-Ryu (also called Goshikinai ), became the official self- defense art at the Aizu castle. The successive lords, and their bodyguards practiced it as the secret art of the Aizu clan, and passed it on until the fall of the Shogunate.
According to history, only the chief samurai's with an income of more than 500 koku, the pageboys, the court ladies, and those who served directly under the Shogun, were allowed to learn the art.
Daito-Ryu was first introduced to the world by Sokaku Takeda (1860-1943), after the Meiji era. Before that time, details were hardly known, and it wasn't shown to the public. The "Aiki " technique that Sokaku had mastered was strongly influenced by Jujutsu, as evidenced by photo's published in a book by Takuma Hisa, which shows Sokaku twisting his opponents by force, using kansetsu waza (joint locking) similar to Aikido and Jujutsu. This is apparently what he usually taught.
Records show that Sokaku taught some thirty- thousand students, mostly police officers, military officers, and public officials of high standing. One of whom was Morihei Ueshiba, who later founded Aikido. Out of all these, only a handful qualified, and received the certificate of "The acting instructor". These, and their divergent schools are the only authentic successors of Daito-Ryu.
Sokaku Takeda opened the doors of Aiki wide, but he himself died without having succeeded to wipe out the after-images of Jujutsu. It was up to his successors to further develop and pass on the essence of Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujutsu.
The following is a detailed account of how Daito- Ryu Aiki Jujutsu was handed down from master Sokaku Takeda to both Taiso Horikawa, and Kodo Horikawa, father and son, and then how it was passed to the Roppokai founder and master, Seigo Okamoto.
Taiso Horikawa first met Sokaku in 1912 on the train, in Hokkaido. Before they parted, he introduced himself out of politeness and said, "My name is Horikawa. I live in Kitami. If by chance you come near my residence - you are always welcome to visit me."
A few days later Sokaku actually visited him and said, "I would like to teach Aiki Jujutsu. Can you gather some people?" At first Horikawa was astonished, but he too loved Budo (He was an expert in Shibukawa Ryu Jujutsu). He at once gathered a group, and they used his own inn as a Dojo.
Before the training started, master Sokaku held one end of a thin twisted paper string and let another man hold the other end; then he said, "Hold it tight or you'll be pulled towards me!" The people were astonished to see Sokaku pull the paper string towards him without tearing it, and at the same time throwing the man up onto his shoulders. He also let his arms be tied up from behind, ordering the students to attack him simultaneously from all directions. To their dismay the students were all thrown down just like floor mops. All the participants attacked the master, but as soon as they touched his body they were thrown.
Mr. Taiso Horikawa trained diligently, and was awarded the title of "The acting instructor". His son Kodo Horikawa (1894-1980) began training under his father first and later, when his progress became noticeable, he trained directly under master Takeda.
Kodo was a short man 4'11", but his techniques came to be known as very subtle, effective, and strong. Sokaku specifically told him that he needed to master"Aiki" because of his short stature. In 1930 he received from master Sokaku the certificate of "The acting instructor", and still continued his training for 6 hours everyday. One year later, Kodo Horikawa received the certificate of "The secret Essence", and a month later he received the final certificates of "The secret essence of Mysteries", and "The secret essence of Aiki". In 1950 he established the Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodo Kai in Hokkaido. In 1974 Kodo Horikawa received the "Order of Eternal Mastership", which is the highest title of the Budo society.
Mr. Seigo Okamoto, was born in Yubari, Hokkaido in 1925. It was in 1963 that Mr. Okamoto at the recommendation of a friend, entered the Kodo Kai Dojo of master Horikawa. He had never heard of Daito-Ryu until then. He just entered out of curiosity, having heard about a master who did mysterious things. At that time Mr. Okamoto was already 38 years old.
At first Mr. Okamoto thought that the fights were fake, he couldn't believe that the small master Horikawa was really throwing 4 to 5 students instantly down, although they attacked all at once. However, when he was facing the master, the moment he made contact with the master's finger he was thrown down to the floor. Admiring the master's great technique, he continued to train and follow the path of Aiki.
Okamoto recalls that the training was extremely tough in those days in Hokkaido, and only after two to three years did he become good at ukemi (falling). He admits that he didn't understand very much about the training then. Gradually, he became able to use Aiki and soon he became regarded as the most senior. After ten years he began to teach in place of the master. In 1974 Mr. Okamoto was promoted to 7th dan.
In 1977 Okamoto sensei moved to Tokyo. Master Horikawa then gave him permission to open the Tokyo branch of Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodo Kai, and also gave him the "master certificate", and told him that having mastered Aiki, he could now create new techniques freely.
In the old days, one had to train for several years at least, before actually being able to touch the master's hand. And one received only the technical training, it was unthinkable to ask for explanation's. The opposite is the case at master Okamoto's Roppokai.
The most secret techniques, as well as the essence of the art are taught frankly by master Okamoto to all the students alike. No distinctions are made between beginning, and senior students in training. During practice, opponents are constantly changed so that everyone trains with everyone. This is a unique training system designed by master Okamoto for the Roppokai.
People joined the Roppokai in large numbers, all attracted by master Okamoto's excellent techniques, generous personality, and unique training method. There are many who have extensive experience, and hold high ranks in other martial arts, who have become Okamoto sensei's students, and joined the Roppokai in search of the essence of"Aiki" .
What is "Aiki" ? The word Aiki is not unique to Daito-Ryu alone. The word Aiki can be found in the documents of some other schools as well. But the meaning of Aiki was limited to idealized, or abstract concepts such as: "to adjust to the opponents Ki" , or "deceiving the opponent by synchronizing with his force in order to parry". Whereas the "Aiki" of Daito-Ryu is a pure technique, and it is the very heart of Daito-Ryu. That means, no matter how the enemy attacks, the moment he touches you, he is disarmed instantly, unable to resist when you counter attack with a throwing, striking, or locking technique.
If you are subjected to Aiki, the instant you're touched, your body becomes rigid as if struck by lightning, and your opponent can handle you without your being able to put up any resistance. "Aiki" cannot be understood by just watching from a distance. The only way to understand the feeling of "Aiki" is to experience the master's technique personally, on your own body. Master Okamoto's teaching in the Roppokai is a repetition of Aiki, Aiki, and nothing but Aiki. In this manner, students are taught the essence of Daito-Ryu techniques through repeated experience, and practice. It is Okamoto sensei's wish that many people will become interested in Daito-Ryu, and will learn to understand it.