50. Minamoto to You!

Dear Deshi,

I was sitting having coffee with ten or more students at a favorite haunt of ours in Yucaipa about a month and a half ago when Julie Evans of the Redlands dojo asked the following question;

“Well, Sensei, you talk about the 16 generations of Takeda in our heritage. Who were they?”

I swallowed, hard.

I could name the first one and the last three or four Takeda. There is no way I could name even one Takeda for nearly 700 years!

In old Japan before two armies went to war the generals rode up to each other, introduced themselves and gave their linage for generations and generations. It was a matter of pride.

And I couldn’t remember even one name for 700 years!

Immediately I resolved to go back to my notes and find the linage. The trouble is that Mr. Kim doesn’t give a nice orderly list. He mentions this master in one lecture, and that master two years later and eight thousand miles away from the site of the first reference.

I set upon the search with vigor. I had only 24 inches of stacked notebook paper notes to examine. I finished it today (a month-and-a-half after Julie’s question). Here is the answer for those of you who wish to know your own proud heritage…

SEIWA TENNO – 850AD He was the founder of the Minamoto clan and established a martial arts tradition which was to persist in his family for more than a thousand years.

Tsukamoto Minamoto -(894-961)
Mitsunaka Minamoto – (912-997)
Yoroimabu Minamoto – (968-1084)
Yoriyoshi Minamoto – (995-1082)

Yoshimitsu Minamoto (1056 – 1127) Yoshimitsu left the capital and took up residence in Kai Province where he also changed his family name from Minamoto to Takeda (Bamboo Field). From this time onwards there was a split in the Minamoto family. One branch remained at the capital the other had a different name and kept the family martial art started by Seiwa Tenno alive. Yoshimitsu was credited with having watched a spider capture his prey, a group of strategies which led to the addition of aikijutsu to the family martial art..

Yoshikyo Minamoto, 1098-1163. Remained at the capital continuing the Minamoto family line there.
Kyomitsu Takeda, 1116-1159
Nobuyoshi Takeda, 1138-1186
Nobumitsu Takeda, 1162-1248
Nobumasa Takeda, 1171-1256
Nobutoki Takeda, 1202-1235
Nobumune Takeda, 1204-1267
Nonutakawa Takeda, 1239-1282
Nobunari Takeda, 1244-1311
Nobuharu Takeda, 1291-1372
Nobumitsu Takeda, 1289-1351
Nobushige Takeda, 1349-1390 (I am unclear here about the names and dates)
Nobushige Takeda, 1382-1491 (I am unclear here about the names and dates)
Nobumoei Takeda, 1429-1527
Nobusigi Takeda, 1460-1501
Nobutora Takeda, 1493-1573
Shingen Takeda, 1521-1573
Kunitsugu Takeda, 1551-1592
Kunisigi Takeda, 1546-1582

>From Kunisigi Takeda to Soemon Takeda I have not been able to find any genealogy in my notes. Perhaps it is in the back set of notes I stored away several years ago. I hope to look at those soon for the missing genealogy (keizu).

Soemon Takeda, 1758-1853
Sokichi Takeda,
Sokaku Takeda, 1858-1942

Yoshida Kotaro
Richard Kim, 1920-

Sokaku Takeda was taught by both his father (Sokichi) and his grandfather (Soemon). The importance of Sokaku Takeda in his family martial art is that he was the first master of the line to teach this secret family art to anyone outside of the family for years and the first one to teach this art to the public ever. During the early times of the Takeda clan the sensei taught ONLY to the more noble families of the buke (warrior class).

By the Meiji Restoration (1867-1875) the feudal period ended with a great war. Unfortunately the Takeda family chose the wrong side to support during this war. The Takeda fought on the side of the Shogun not the Emperor Meiji. When the Emperor Meiji’s army won the whole Takeda family was in danger of being exterminated. Many committed seppuku (harakiri or ritual suicide). The few remaining masters went into seclusion and taught only to the FAMILY. The family art was dying a slow and secret death.

Sokaku Takeda was first a priest, giving himself the disciplined training, awareness and insight necessary to become one of the world’s greatest martial artists. Sokaku was the second child in of Sokichi which eliminated him from becoming the head of the Ryu. But then in 1875 his eldest brother died. Sokaku launched a major war in 1876 to return Japan to the feudal era. He and his family lost. He escaped in exile.

In 1891 the head of the Aizu clan of Kai province asked Sokaku Takeda to return to Kai and take over the Ryu’s leadership. Takeda stalled. In 1895 he began visiting Kai but it was not until 1905-1908 that Takeda took the position of the head of the Ryu.

But that wasn’t easy training. Imagine this powerful martial artist Sensei teaching in his manner; he demonstrated a technique once and once only; all students practiced it for the rest of the training. He got upset if they didn’t do it correctly. Sokaku Takeda’s other peculiarity is that he moved from place to place in Japan rather than staying at his home in Hokkaido (northernmost island of the archipelago). Deshi would follow him around all over Japan (when he would let them). His multiple loci led to wide promulgation of the art of his family art around the islands but with only a few really good practitioners (those that followed him around for years).

Sokaku Takeda kept the most fantastic records of who trained with him. (Why? No other martial artist has had this accurate of records especially when moving on from city to city continually.) It is reported that Sokaku Takeda had the record of EVERY student that ever trained with him even for one night. The list of students amounts to more than 30,000 individuals. It is little wonder that his family art is so prevalent in martial arts around the world.

For example, some say that Morehei Uyeshiba trained with Sokaku Takeda. Others say that he trained with Yoshida Kotaro. In either case the great art of Aikido which was originated by Morehei Uyeshiba in the 1930s is in the direct line of the Takeda family. Aikido, thus, can trace its history all the way back to the Gempei War (1080) and the Minamoto family.

Sensei Richard Kim studied with the great Yoshida Kotaro from about 1936 until the master’s death (1951?). Sensei Kim also knew and trained with Sokaku Takeda in Hokkaido in the presence of his instructor Yoshida Kotaro before the death of Sokaku Takeda in 1943. For approximately four years Sensei Kim was an uchideshi in the household of Yoshida Kotaro. His knowledge of Takeda aikijutsu is profound.

Sensei Kim moved to San Francisco in 1959 and opened the Chinatown dojo. Fourteen years later I began to train with Sensei Kim. Sensei Kim still teaches Aikijutsu but he rarely mentions it by name of the style. When Sensei Neville, Sensei Paul and I were in Concord for a seminar about five years ago sensei spend an afternoon teaching various Aikijutsu techniques but never mentioned them as derived from the Takeda art. He named the individual movements but not their origin. I guess a movement is a movement and any art can claim the movement. History is history; but what works works under any name.

Suffice it to say, at this point, that we are the inheritors of a proud line of martial arts. Although Sokaku Takeda’s menkyokaiden went to Hisa Takuma who is the originator of the Takumakai line of Daito-Ryu, not our line, we are still indebted to the Takeda line of Daito-Ryu. Yoshida Kotaro was undeniably a major influence of Daito-Ryu. For example, it was Yoshida Kotaro who convinced Sokaku Takeda to change the name of his family art to Daito-Ryu. Before that change the Takeda clan’s family art was known as Aizu no Oshikiuchi or simply Oshikiuchi. Sokaku Takeda changed the name of his family’s art to Daito-Ryu (Great Eastern School) after listening to Yoshida Kotaro’s reasons. If Yoshida Kotaro could exert such influence on such a great martial artist as Sokaku Takeda, Kotaro had to be well respected.

Well, I could go on and on, but Julie’s question was answered a long time ago and I have just been babbling.

The next time someone asks you where all your martial arts philosophical information comes from you can answer with a proud line of foreign names all the way back to the 850s AD. So what, you say….

Well, look outside of your-self for a moment and reflect on the pride of a long tradition of men and women who lived and died as martial artists. Remember the struggles, the victories and the defeats of individuals and armies. Remember the pride of the Sensei who for more than one thousand years have passed what little they have gathered of life and death onto their precious few deshi. …and then and only then after you have gotten outside of your-self, quietly and humbly add your own name to the end of the list.