Master Sokaku Takeda (1859–1943) was known as the reviver and founder of the martial art Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu.
He was born in Aizu and grew up in a time of war and civil strife. He was the second son of Sokichi Takeda, a samurai of the Takeda clan who worked his farm and was a teacher at a local school in a Buddhist temple.
Sokaku's mother, was Tomi Kurokochi who was a daughter of Dengoro Kurokochi, a Yari and Kenjutsu master.
Sokaku received his first martial arts training with his father who had a dojo at their home. Sokichi was an expert in sword (kenjutsu) and spear (yari), and had also been a sumo wrestler with the rank of ozeki.
In 1873, Sokaku Takeda traveled with his father to the dojo of his father's friend, swordsman Sakakibara Kenkichi. There he stayed on as a live-in student and immersed himself in training.
He mastered many skills including sword (ken), staff (bo), half-bow (hankyu), short-staff (jo), and throwing darts (shuriken). Later he also received a license (inka) in the spear arts of the Hozoin-ryu.
Takeda visited dojos throughout Japan to test and polish his martial skills. He also deepened his spiritual connections through constant visits to sacred places for prayer, devotions, and ascetic training.
His sword skills were unparalleled and he was greatly feared.
From around 1875, he spent ten years as a guest in the Kyoshin Meichi-ryu dojo of swordsman Momonoi Shunzo.
Around 1868, Saigo Tanomo became a Shinto priest (Hoshina Chikanori). In 1875 Sokaku visited him to study for entrance to the priesthood, and while there, received instruction in the arts of oshikiiuchi from Chikanori.
Although he decided against becoming a priest, he visited many times, and under Chikanori's instruction is said to have perfected miraculous skills of understanding another's mind and thought.
In 1898 Chikanori wrote a poem in Sokaku's enrollment book, saying the age of the sword had ended, and it was time to pursue jujutsu.
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Sokaku Takeda began identifying himself as a practitioner of both Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu and Ono-ha Itto-ryu. He traveled around Japan teaching both arts and came to be recognized as the reviver of Daito-ryu.
Sokaku was a small man, but his eyes were piercing and his techniques were of the highest level. He is said to have been able to sense a person's past, present, and future even before being introduced.
Among his more well-known students were Tsugumichi Saigo, Hidetaro Shimoe, Yukiyoshi Sagawa, Kodo Horikawa, Morihei Ueshiba, army and navy officers, judges, police, martial artists, and prominent individuals.
He is thought to have taught around thirty thousand people during his life, the signatures and seals are all entered in his enrollment books.
In his later years Sokaku focused his activities in Hokkaido. He passed away in 1943 at the age of 83 while teaching in Aomori Prefecture.
His most famous student was the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba and it is the popularity of this modern martial arts form that is responsible for much of the interest in Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu today.
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