About the age of 30 I went to Engaru in Hokkaido. There I met Professor Sokaku Takeda of Aizu, teacher of Daito Ryu who taught me for 30 dyas. While I studied I felt something like inspiration. After inviting the professor to my house, I very earnestly pursued the real truth of the martial arts with 15 or 16 of my servants and disciples. Professor Takeda had opened my eyes to the real martial arts.
We recently published a long-forgotten interview of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba that contains the above passage. Morihei’s comment contains a very important bit of information: “After inviting the professor to my house, I very earnestly pursued the real truth of the martial arts with 15 or 16 of my servants and disciples.” What exactly is going on here?
At this point in time, 1915, Morihei was one of the leaders of a group from Tanabe in southern Japan, who was working to establish a settlement in the remote village of Shirataki in northern Hokkaido. He and the group from Tanabe had relocated to Hokkaido three years earlier and had struggled to build a community in this inhospitable climate.
Also, Morihei was a martial arts enthusiast and had heard of the reputation of jujutsu expert Sokaku Takeda who was conducting jujutsu seminars in Hokkaido and elsewhere. Benefiting from an introduction from a mutual acquaintance Kotaro Yoshida, Morihei seized the opportunity to meet Sokaku in person in Engaru, a nearby town, in the winter of 1915. On this occasion, Morihei remained to study for about 30 days, impulsively leaving behind his family and leadership responsibilities in Shirataki.
Soon thereafter, Morihei invites Sokaku to live in his house in Shirataki, and learns from him along with 15 or 16 of his “servants and disciples.” We don’t have precise information about how long Sokaku stayed in Morihei’s house, but we do know that a short time later Takeda would uproot his family and settle in Shirataki which became his residence for the rest of his life.
This rather surprising action on the part of Sokaku reveals the importance he attached to Morihei as his student of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu. In fact, an unpublished interview with the Founder states clearly that Sokaku had asked him to become his successor around this time. Sokaku certainly had high regard for Morihei’s abilities as a martial artist and considered him suitable character-wise to succeed him. Surely, Morihei’s study of Daito-ryu jujutsu during this period was intense and protracted and built the martial foundation upon which his later career rested.
An interesting side note: these 15 or 16 students also included Yoichiro Inoue, Morihei’s nephew, and other young men from Tanabe. It is quite likely that some of these same members trained in the judo dojo set up five years earlier in Tanabe for the benefit of Morihei and other young men to practice. Morihei’s father, Yoroku, and Inoue’s father, Zenzo, were the instigators of this initiative to channel the excessive energy of these young people in a constructive direction. Both Yoroku and Zenzo were in Shirataki at this time, a fact that histories published thus far have glossed over.
What is not explicitly stated here, but implied, is that Morihei had strong financial support in addition to being a talented student. His support base was primarily his father who was a well-to-do man, and Zenzo Inoue who was extremely wealthy. Morihei’s invitation to Sokaku to come live with him in Shirataki also meant that Takeda would stop his normal teaching activities to concentrate on teaching Morihei and his comrades. It would have taken a strong financial incentive for Sokaku to do this as his seminars were expensive and attracted mainly well-off students.
Even after Sokaku moved out of Morihei’s house, he established residence in Shirataki and built his own home which was located physically within short walking distance of Morihei as a map from that period confirms.
I have written a great deal about the later interaction between Morihei and Sokaku in Ayabe, Tokyo and Osaka in subsequent years, but I wanted to fill in some of the lesser known details of their early interaction in this article.