By Yutaka Amatsu sensei (Hiden 8th dan), December 2001.
Among his many Daito-ryu students Hisa san loved me most, not because I was the best practitioner but because I was a journalist at the Asahi Newspaper. Hisa san was chief of the General Affairs Department of the Asahi Newspaper and wanted to teach Daito-ryu to its journalist. To his regret no journalist studied. Hisa san was almost 70 years old and had almost given up his dream to educating men who are ”good at pen and sword”. To his great joy I became a student of his. Hisa san told me ”Don’t call me teacher, call me Hisa san or Hisa yan”. ”Yan” is used between equal-level friends. I called him Hisa san.
I had practiced judo in my junior high, high school and university days. When I started Daito-ryu it was 4 or 5 years after my graduation, as I was still young and flexible, it was not so difficult to master the basic of Daito-ryu techniques (wasa). As I advanced very quickly, Hisa san was pleased and thought very highly of me. I have studied Daito-ryu for 14 years. In the early days I learned from Yagi Shiro, Utsunomia Mamoru and other Asahi seniors. Utsunomia already had kyojudairi (the qualification of teacher) and was the best practitioner at the Asahi. We practiced from noon till 1 o’clock every day. Hisa san just watched when Utsunomia taught us, and he seldom gave his comment. At 1 o’clock when Utsunomia went back to work, Hisa san taught me ”To do it like this as it is better”. I asked him ”Shall I tell Utsunomia?”. Hisa san replyed ”No, Utsunomia is a kyojudairi, he should create his own waza, I should not teach kyojudairi this is good or this is bad”.
Hisa san lived in Tokyo then, he came to Osaka to teach me at least once a month and stayed in Osaka for a few days at the shortest and to about a week at the longest. While he was in Osaka he came to the Asahi dojo everyday and taught me enthusiastically. When I was 2nd dan or 3rd dan he gave me Soden (a 9 volume set of books that explain all Daito-ryu wasa through photographs and explanations) and told me ”I give Soden only almost to menkyokaiden level students, but I’ll give it to you because I want to teach you everyday but I can not, hence think Soden as your teacher when I can not teach you”.
About 10 years later I wanted to know what menkyokaiden-wasa was (I didn’t want a menkyokaiden certificate, I only wanted to learn menkyokaiden-waza) and asked Hisa san to teach me. This was Hisa san’s answer ”You can not be promoted to menkyokaiden degree by learning from others, menkyokaiden is a degree that can be obtained only through one’s effort. I at least was promoted to that degree, hence Takeda Sokaku taught me menkyokaiden-waza as evidence. I will teach you those waza when I recognize that you are a menkyokaiden-man, to me you are a few years immature yet”.
One day I went to Hisa san’s home in Tokyo, he said seriously ”I have been wanting to teach you menkyokaiden-waza even though you are still a little immature to be taught, but since you are the only man I want to teach menkyokaiden-waza to, I will teach you now”. I learned menkyokaiden-waza of nikajo. I said, ”This is a very precise waza, but I think I will be able to invent this, if I contemplate it seriously”. Hisa san was pleased and said ”You have a good attitude, so you will surely grasp it. Find another menkyokaiden-waza which consists of less than 10 wazas. When you think you have found one, only one is all right, come to me and I will teach you all that I know”.
I was mainly taught one-to-one at Hisa san’s home. Hisa san was aged and could not move freely because of an after-effect of a disease. After teaching me only 2 or 3 wazas he had to take deep breaths and looked very tired. I told him ”I can understand through my brain, please lecture me according to Soden”. I am the only man who has been taught all of the wazas in Soden, but I forget many of them because I learned them through my brain and not through my body.
I quit Daito-ryu when I was 42 years old because I wanted to be a good journalist. To become a good journalist I had to study hard hence having no time to practice Daito-ryu. Twenty years later I retired from the Asahi Newspaper and I am practicing Daito-ryu again now.
Even after I made up my mind to quit I could not tell Hisa san for about 2 years. In 1978 the Nihon Budokan (Japanese martial art center) and Ministry of Education of Japan did a films series of ”Original martial arts of Japan”. Daito-ryu was nominated as the first one to be filmed. I decided that on the day of filming it would be the best day to tell of my quitting. On that day Hisa san had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. I thought I had no time to confess to Hisa san but at the hospital I did, of course I got the permission of the doctor.
Two years later Hisa san passed away in Kobe city (near Osaka). I lived in Tokyo and didn’t know Hisa san was in critical condition. Two days before his death, his family called me ”Please come, our father is in critical condition and always calls your name”. I rushed to Kobe but was too late, Hisa san did not even open his eyes.
At the funeral his family said to me ”Our father surely would want you to carry his coffin”. I carried it and said in my mind ”Hisa san I am very sorry, you gave me a lot kindness but I gave nothing”. I made all efforts to hide my tears.
Generally speaking, martial artists have a tendency to put too much importance on spiritual matters, but Hisa san thought pragmatically.
Since I had practiced judo, in my early days of learning Daito-ryu I always criticized wazas that Hisa san taught me from the viewpoint of judo. One day Hisa san told me ”All these wazas were created by many excellent people over a long time, so it’s impossible to invent all of them by yourself in a short time”. In this ways Hisa san thought rationally and pragmatically.
When he was young Hisa san had big powerful arms, my arms are not as strong, so I always asked him, ”May I change this waza like this to fit my body?”. Hisa san valued my way of thinking highly. When he gave me 6th dan and kyojudairi Hisa san told me, ”When you started to learn Daito-ryu you always criticized the wazas that I taught, your way was right. I give you kyojudairi today, from now on don’t depend on me don’t trust me. Doubt all what I have taught you. As long as you depend on your teacher you can no surpass your teacher”.
Hisa san wrote and said that in June of 1936, when Takeda Sokaku came to the Asahi Newspaper, Hisa san had a match with him and was defeated and then became his student. It was unbelievable. In 1936 Takeda Sokaku was 76 years old and Hisa san was 40. In the photos you can see the difference in the two men. How could such a big 40 years old and once Sumo grand champion be defeated by such a small old man. I asked Hisa san. Hisa san told me as follows.
Hisa san took Takeda to the dojo and asked him to teach the Asahi Newspaper’s guardsmen. Watching Takeda teaching, Hisa san judged that Takeda’s wazas were same kind as Ueshiba’s. But Takeda’s were much more developed than Ueshiba’s. Judging from Takeda’s age Hisa san believed that Takeda must have taught Ueshiba, and decided to become Takeda’s student. Hisa san said, ”Daito-ryu teaches only kata (how to do) and does not have matches, hence anyone who knows Daito-ryu will understand that the match is a joke”. I said to him ”This joke will not stay joke for a long time, someday it will became true”. Now it has become almost true. Hisa san thought pragmatically but many martial artists don’t.
Takeda Sokaku’s eimeiroku (notebook with acquaintance’s name) is usually thought as a monzincho (notebook with student’s name), but is not a monzincho. In the eimeiroku there is the name of the head of the City Affairs Section in Asahi Newspaper. I said to Hisa san ”You told me I was the first journalist who learned Daito-ryu but you are not correct”. Hisa san replied, ”Takeda sensei admired the Head of the City Affairs section of the newspaper and was eager to meet him. One day I introduced him and the head gave Takeda sensei his business card. Takeda sensei was pleased very much and asked me to write down the head’s name in the eimeiroku (Takeda Sokaku didn’t know the letters) and I wrote it down”. Therefore I am sure, in the eimeiroku there are not only student’s names but also famous men’s names that Takeda Sokaku met.
Takeda Sokaku respected soldiers and policemen very much, hence there are many names of soldiers and policemen in the eimeiroku. Of course some of them are students but some of them are people he just met. If he had really taught so many police leaders then today there must be some Daito-ryu waza in police arresting techniques.
Why Takeda Sokaku stayed at the Asahi and taught workers so long is because of the stable revenue, I suppose. According to records, the Asahi paid three people’s certificate fees, Hisa Takuma’s menkyokaiden, Tonedachi Masao and Yoshimura Yoshiteru’s shihandai (next to menkyokaiden). The Asahi also paid the fees for every seminar; Takeda Sokaku decided which members could attend those seminars. Only the excellent students were permitted.
When Hisa san received menkyokaiden from Takeda Sokaku, he required Hisa san to support Takeda Tokimune, Sokaku’s son. This is why on Hisa san’s business card it began with general manager of Takeda Tokimune’s aikibudo and not menkyokaiden of Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu.
When Nihon Budokan and the Ministry of Education of Japan asked Hisa san to help them with the filming Daito-ryu, Hisa san ordered Utsunomiya and I to do enbu so that he could gave the excuse to Tokimune, that it is the Asahi people only who are doing the enbu.
Soden’s photographs were taken not by photographers of the newspaper but by the members of the General Affairs Department. Photographs were sorted and kept in envelopes. When were they edited for Soden? Maybe between the latter half of 1942 and the first half of 1944. Hisa san told me that after Japan became inferior in the Second World War and when the American airforce attacked the Japanese mainland every day and night, it was necessary to edit and to carry these valuable photographs safely. Japan became inferior in the middle of 1942 and Hisa san left the Asahi in July of 1944. The explanations for Soden were mainly written by Hisa san but Yoshimura Yoshiteru and other high-grade students wrote some of them.
In the fifth volume there are taninzudoris (the techniques to defend yourself form the attack of plural enemies), until the fifth volume all wazas are for beginners and middle grade students. I asked Hisa san ”Why are there such high level wazas like taninzudori in the fifth volume?” Hisa san replied ” You immature student, as the taninzudori are not high level wazas, they are not a martial art, they are just performances for enbutaikai. People who don’t know what a real martial art is, are surprised and think Daito-ryu is splendid. They are a form of propaganda”. When Nihon Budokan and the Ministry of Education did the filming of Daito-ryu, Hisa san was against doing taninzudori but we less experienced students did. From the first to fifth volumes explanations are detailed but the sixth volume has no explanation. All students give up here. I was the only student who asked Hisa san to explain. Hisa san kindly wrote them down. Recently, I printed them on my personal computer and gave to other teachers.
The seventh, eighth and ninth volumes have only simple explanations. Hisa san asked me to rewrite them into detailed ones. I asked him to teach all of them to me, as they are too difficult to understand only with these simple explanations. Hisa san taught me all of the difficult wazas. I am the only student who was taught all volumes of the Soden but I quit Daito-ryu before rewriting them.
Hisa san told me. There are two types of Daito-ryu, one is Takeda Sokaku’s and the other is Ueshiba Morihei’s. Takeda Sokuku’s is the original one but for making Daito-ryu popular Ueshiba Morihei’s is better. As it is softer and more beautiful. Takeda’s is more painful and not as beautiful. He taught Ueshiba’s style in his dojo because students were all citizens, whereas he was teaching me Takeda’s because I was a journalist at the Asahi.
One difference between Takeda’s and Ueshiba’s is that in Takeda’s you use your legs. A leg is more powerful than an arm hence attack the enemy’s arm with your powerful legs. The objective is the joints, and to attack them with you leg. When enemy is standing and moving freely it is difficult to attack the joints with your legs, so throw the enemy down to your feet and use your legs. Hence Takeda’s has no throw away technique. Hisa san always said, ”Don’t throw the enemy away. When you throw him away it is difficult to use your legs, moreover if the enemy can do ukemi throwing away has no meaning. You should smash the enemy down to you feet. This is Takeda Daito-ryu’s basic principle.” Among the many students only I was taught menkyokaiden-waza (but a part of it) which uses your legs. Hisa san said, ”Takeda’s uses arms too but it is not atemi, it is just a trick to distract the enemy’s attention. The objective is the joints”.
After he gave me kyojudairi Hisa san taught me, ”As soon as you smash down the enemy kick the enemy’s side or step on his face or stomach then attack joints, this is Takeda’s principle”. I asked him why he hadn’t taught me this important principle first. He replied, ”The objective of Daito-ryu is to attack the joints, we kick and step on the enemy in order to attack the joints. If I had taught you to kick first you would have been interested in how to kick and would have lost real objective, joint attacking”. Like this Hisa san thought and taught pragmatically. After volume 6th of the Soden there are many wazas that require the use of legs.
According to one of the Asahi newspaper’s seniors, Takeda Sokaku taught more advanced wazas but Ueshiba Morihei’s wazas were sharper because he was younger. For Hisa san Takeda was a teacher but Ueshiba was like friend.
Hisa san’s zanshin (keep cautious after defeating the enemy) was not very beautiful, as he rose both his hands up into the air just like he had been ordered to freeze. One day I told him this and this is what he told me. ”Is your enemy always only one man? Doesn’t he have any friends? Zanshin is to keep cautious not only to visible enemies but also to invisible ones. One or two enemies might be hiding behind something and might attack you from behind. Samurai lived in this situation, hence zanshin is the most important waza in order to survive. I raise both hands to tell the invisible enemies clearly that I am keeping cautious to their attack. If you are concentrating only on the visible enemy, if he has friends you will be defeated easily.
In 1979 Mr. Utsunomia and I did enbu at the All Japan Original Martial Arts Festival. I did enbu as if an invisible enemy was planning to attack me from behind. After we did enbu an old gentleman came to me and said ”Thank you very much, I saw real zanshin after a long long interval, thank you so much”. I asked Hisa san ”Who is he?” Hisa san said, ”I don’t know, but he must be an excellent martial artist because he understands your excellent zanshin”.
When teaching aikiwaza Hisa san practiced it very slowly. However slowly I did it, Hisa san said, ”Takeda Sokaku did it far more slowly”. Hisa san taught me that once your master aikiwaza in this way, you would be able to do it very quickly. When I practiced like this my waist often tired.
Hisa san’s wazas are effective in defending yourself but do not fit enbu. Today those who do Hisa san’s wazas are becoming fewer and fewer. We do enbu quite often; therefore wazas that fit enbu are preferred.
I prefer judo, but did Daito-ryu so hard and so long because Hisa san taught me. If my teacher had not been Hisa san I would no have done Daito-ryu so much and so hard.
Written by Yutaka Amatsu, Hiden 8th dan.
About the author:
Amatsu sensei (Hiden 8th dan) was teaching Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu in the Takumakai organization until his passing in 2013. The article is based on his interview published in the Japanese Aiki News magazine n°129. He kindly rewrote the same story in English, and gave us permission to publish it on the Fudoshin homepage in December 2001. He was a very generous teacher, and every time we visited him in Japan he would teach us 5-6 times a week at the Asahi Shinbun dojo, in the same place where Hisa sensei had been teaching him.