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Sokaku Takeda (武田 惣角 Takeda Sokaku, October 10, 1859 - April 25, 1943) was known as the founder of a school of jujutsu known as Daito-ryu aiki-jujutsu. Born in the Aizu domain (modern-day Fukushima Prefecture), Sokaku grew up in a time of war and civil strife and was able to witness both first hand while still a young boy. The son of Takeda Sokichi, a man of samurai class who worked his farm and taught at a local school in a Buddhist temple, it is believed that Sokaku received his first martial arts training from his father who had a dojo on their property. Sokichi was apparently expert in the use of both sword and spear, and had once been a sumo wrestler of some rank (see ozeki). It is believed that Sokaku was exposed to the teachings of Hozoin-ryu Takada-ha and Ono-ha Itto-ryu, schools of spear and swordsmanship respectively.

Sokaku then left to go on a period of austere training where he traveled, fought and trained at the schools of many teachers, a not uncommon practice of the time. Reputedly, Sokaku spent some time as a live-in student of Kenkichi Sakakibara, headmaster of the Jikishinkage Ryu and considered to be one of the most famous and skilled swordsmen of the era. Unfortunately there exist no known historical documents to confirm this relationship and so it is a matter debate. What is known, however, is that Sokaku engaged in many matches and duels with both shinai and live blades and was considered a swordman of great skill in a period of time when such things were beginning to be forgotten.

With the outlawing of the samurai class and the prohibition against carrying swords, apparently Sokaku decided to emphasize the empty handed, jujutsu oriented, techniques of his ancestor's art. These apparently were 'oshiki-uchi', or secret teachings of the Aizu clan, up to that point. These, along with other skills he had acquired, were combined to create an art which he christened first 'Daito-ryu jujutsu' and later 'Daito-ryu aiki jujutsu'.

Sokaku lived a somewhat itinerant life, traveling the length and breadth of the country giving seminars in martial arts to military officers, police officers and martial arts enthusiasts, often of high social standing. He left extensive records of those he taught in the 'eimeiroku' and the 'shareikoku' which were attendance and fee ledgers of those who attended and paid for lessons from him.

Taking over the role of headmaster of the art was Sokaku's son, Tokimune Takeda, who established the Daitokan school in Hokkaidō to promote the art and re-christened it 'Daito-ryu Aiki Budo'. Tokimune is said to have contributed much of the teaching system which exists for the art today; naming and classifying the techniques and further simplifying the weapons component of the system. He emphasized the Ona ha Itto-ryu portion of the weapons curriculum over other elements that Sokaku taught to some advanced students.

Sokaku's highest ranking students were Hisa Takuma and Masao Tonedate, both security officers for the Asahi newspaper in Osaka, whose own students established the Takumakai and the Daibukan.

Other important students of Sokaku's were Yukiyoshi Sagawa, who some believe was the most talented of his early students, Kodo Horikawa (Kotaro), whose students established the Kodokai and the Roppokai, Kotaro Yoshida, Hosaku Matsuda and Tomekichi Yamamoto.

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 today.

Hosaku Matsuda was taught by Sokaku, who in turn taught Yoshiji Okuyama, who in turn founded the Hakko Ryu Jujutsu school. Okuyama taught Michiomi Nakano, who later as Doshin So, founder of Nippon Shorinji Kempo. Choi Yong-Sul claimed to have trained under Sokaku as well, and Kisshomaru Ueshiba confirmed that his father had participated in seminars with Choi; however, this is hotly contested by some.

The influence of the teachings Sokaku Takeda are readily discernable in the physical techniques of aikido, Hakko Ryu, Nippon Shorinji Kempo, hapkido and judo's 'goshin-jutsu' self defense kata (via Kenji Tomiki) today.


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