“Hisa Takuma’s ‘Soden’: Preservation and Dissemination,” by Stanley Pranin

Above is a black and white scan of a sample page from Takuma Hisa’s famous “Soden” collection of technical photos of Aiki Budo and Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu taken from around 1933 through 1939. These photos cover the period of instruction of both Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda at the Asahi News dojo in Osaka during this period. First, a bit of background about the “Soden.”

By a stroke of good fortune, Hisa had the foresight and the means through the facilities of Asahi News to make a pictorial record of their aikijujutsu training. After each training session, the Asahi dojo members would systematically photograph the techniques practiced on that day. Yoshiteru Yoshimura, Heizaburo Nakatsu, and Kuniyoshi Kawazoe are the main individuals who appear in the technical sequences photographed. These photos eventually numbered more than 1,500 and were later assembled into scrapbooks with brief explanations by Hisa under the title of Daito-ryu Aikibudo Densho Zen Juikkan. These books cover some 547 techniques and are commonly referred to as the Soden by Hisa and his students.

The techniques taught by Ueshiba in the Asahi News period consisted mainly of suwariwaza, hanmi handachi, and tachiwaza. What Ueshiba was teaching was primarily basic techniques, however, his instruction also included some more advanced techniques of Daito-ryu aikijujutsu as evidenced by the hundreds of photos comprising the first six volumes of the Soden.

From “Remembering Takuma Hisa”

Sample of text darkened in Photoshop

As you can see, on many pages the handwritten text has badly faded and I feel we need to make the effort soon to preserve and restore this important record of the evolution of aikido and Daito-ryu technique before further deterioration takes place. I would like to ask the advice of readers, particularly those who work with photography, Photoshop, design, and related fields, about how best to go about this task.

Forgive the use of technical terminology, in what follows. The photos can be realigned and their tone curves manipulated in such a way as to improve their quality. The handwritten text is a bit problematic because the amount of fading varies from page to page. Of course, it is possible to darken the text tone curve to make the writing more legible, but this means darkening the background such that the selected area stands out from the rest of the page where the photos appear.

So my questions are the following:

– What would be the best way to make the text clearly legible, preferably it being possible to achieve this without having its background stand out from the rest of the page?

– What advice do you have from the historical/archival standpoint for the preservation and presentation of the “Soden”?

Please feel free to post your advice/comments below. I welcome the support of the aikido community on this project.


  1. François-Xavier Toledo says:

    I can try things using Matlab.
    The plan would be to define classes in your picture, for instance, text/backgroud.
    Once each pixel of the picture is in classes, the pixels labeled as text can be darkened without touching the background.

  2. I have sent you an email about the image correction.

    One solution could be to scan the image in hi resolution, and keep several versions of the document.
    One that keeps the image as it is today. And another, darkened version, on which you focus on making the text as legible as possible.

    Another approach can be to mask out the images, adjusting them separately (they have also faded). And then adjusting the surrounding page, focusing on making the text legible.

    In my opinion, preserving the legibility of the text is more important than keeping the background clean and white.

    BTW, you should scan these documents in the best resolution you can, and on greyscale settings.

    • Thanks very much for all your feedback. I agree that the legibility of the text is more important. Also, an original image of the page needs to be preserved as well.

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