Morihei Ueshiba first learned Daito-ryu jujutsu from Sokaku Takeda in Hokkaido in 1915. Morihei mastered much of the Daito-ryu repertoire that consisted founder hundreds of techniques. Their association would last more than 20 years and the curriculum of Daito-ryu supplied the technical basis of aikido. Sokaku was succeeded by his son Tokimune who in turn was the teacher of Daito-ryu’s Katsuyuki Kondo, Menkyo Kaiden.
Editor Stanley Pranin recounts his first meeting with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei and their long association
My association with Katsuyuki Kondo Sensei of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu began in 1987, Kondo Sensei was “told” by Tokimune Takeda Sensei, son and successor of Sokaku Takeda, to coordinate with me and participate in the 3rd Friendship Demonstration in Tokimune’s place.
Kondo Sensei was not particularly pleased with this idea, and from the outset, seemed very suspicious of me and my motives in “courting” the Daito-ryu world. He was also very surprised that Tokimune Sensei would cooperate to the extent he had with Aiki News, and make open so much documentation to a little-known foreigner from the aikido “side of the fence.”
His coldness towards me was very evident when we were first introduced by Tokimune Sensei at a Kobudo demonstration in Tokyo. Following our first meeting, I was invited to Kondo Sensei’s home shortly thereafter for what turned out to be a “grilling.” I was met by Kondo Sensei and one of his ranking instructors, and the two of them proceeded to ask pointed questions of me in order to ferret out my motivations in staging this Friendship Demonstration in which Daito-ryu would be sharing the stage with aikido instructors.
Who was financing the demonstration? Did Aiki News expect to turn a profit from the event? Was Aiki News going to market a video? How much would we charge? These were the kind of questions I was asked. It was all very direct, and I was quite uncomfortable to be caught in this situation.
Then, it was my turn to ask a few questions.
Were they aware how Sokaku Takeda had been portrayed in aikido publications? Did they know that Morihei Ueshiba’s Daito-ryu training experience was being described as “minimal,” and that Daito-ryu was simply “one of several martial arts” that influenced aikido?
My line of questioning seemed to pique their interest and make them feel a bit more at ease in my presence. I had anticipated this sort of thing happening, and came armed with a bunch of historical documents. I then showed them the altered “chameleon” photo of O-Sensei which shocked them.
At this point, Kondo Sensei’s attitude towards me changed dramatically. He started pulling out books and documents from his bookcases and we soon found ourselves sitting on the floor strewn with all manner of books, photos, letters, notes, etc. He had found a fellow historian and researcher, a rare happening indeed!
The ice having been broken this way, it was apparent that we were destined to become good friends. And so it happened…
Kondo Sensei gave a wonderful presentation at the 1987 Friendship Demonstration. Also, we went on to do technical videos and a book together that helped open up Daito-ryu to our aikido audience, and the martial arts community at large.
We have been friends ever since 1987 and have done things behind the scenes together which have been very important to me in my research odyssey.