Aiki-jujutsu is a form of jujutsu which emphasizes “an early neutralization of an attack.” Like other forms of jujutsu, it emphasizes throwing techniques and joint manipulations to effectively control, subdue or injure an attacker. It emphasizes using the timing of an attack to either blend or neutralize its effectiveness and use the force of the attacker’s movement against them. Daito-ryu is characterized by the ample use of atemi, or the striking of vital areas, in order to set up their jointlocking or throwing tactics. Some of the art’s striking methods employ the swinging of the outstretched arms to create power and to hit with the fists at deceptive angles as can be observed in techniques such as the atemi which sets up gyaku ude-dori or ‘reverse elbow lock’. Tokimune regarded one of the unique characteristics of the art to be its preference for controlling a downed attacker’s joints with one’s knee in order to leave one’s hands free to access one’s weapons or to deal with the threat of other oncoming attackers.

Aiki concept

Takeda Sokaku defined aiki in the following way:

The secret of aiki is to overpower the opponent mentally at a glance and to win without fighting.

Tokimune speaking on the same subject:

Could you explain in a little more detail about the concept of aiki?

Aiki is to pull when you are pushed, and to push when you are pulled. It is the spirit of slowness and speed, of harmonizing your movement with your opponent’s ki. Its opposite, kiai, is to push to the limit, while aiki never resists.

The term aiki has been used since ancient times and is not unique to Daito-ryu. The ki in aiki is go no sen, meaning to respond to an attack.

… Daito-ryu is all go no sen—you first evade your opponent’s attack and then strike or control him. Likewise, Itto-ryu is primarily go no sen. You attack because an opponent attacks you. This implies not cutting your opponent. This is called katsujinken (live-giving sword). Its opposite is called setsuninken (death-dealing sword).

Aiki is different from the victory of sen sen, and is applied in situations of go no sen, such as when an opponent thrusts at you. Therein lies the essence of katsujinken and setsuninken. You block the attack when an opponent approaches; at his second attack you break his sword and spare his life. This is katsujinken. When an opponent strikes at you and your sword pierces his stomach it is setsuninken. These two concepts are the essence of the sword.

Classification of techniques

Daitō-ryū techniques involve both jujutsu and aiki-jūjutsu applications. Techniques are broken up into specific lists which are trained in sequentially. That is, a student will not progress to the next “catalogue” of techniques until he has mastered the previous one. Upon completion of each catalogue, a student is awarded a certificate or scroll that lists all of the techniques of that level. These act as levels of advancement within the school, and is a system that was common among classical Japanese martial arts schools that predates the awarding of belts, grades, and degrees.[23]

The first category of techniques in the system, the shoden waza, although not devoid of aiki elements emphasizes the more direct jujutsu joint manipulation techniques. The second group of techniques, known as the aiki-no-jutsu, tends to more strongly emphasize the utilization of one’s opponent’s movement or intention in order to subdue them usually through a throwing or a pinning technique. A list of the catalogues in the Tokimune branch’s system and the number of techniques contained within follows:

Catalogue Name No. of Techniques
1 Secret Syllabus (Hiden Mokuroku) 118
2 The Science of Joining Spirit (Aiki-no-jutsu) 53
3 Inner Mysteries (Hiden Ōgi?) 36
4 Techniques of Self Defense (Goshin’yō-no-te) 84
5 Explanation of the Inheritance (Kaishaku Sōden) 477
6 License of Complete Transmission (Menkyo Kaiden) 88

Officially the Daitō-ryū system is said to be comprised of thousands of techniques, divided into omote and ura (literally ‘front and ‘back’) versions, but many of these could be seen as variations upon the core techniques. In addition Sokaku and Tokimune awarded scrolls denoting certain portions of the curriculum such as techniques utilizing the long and short sword.

To the list above the Takumakai adds the “Daito-ryu Aiki Nito-ryu Hiden”. The Takumai also makes substantial use of the photographic documents of techniques taught at the Asahi Newspaper Dojo by Morihei Ueshiba and Takeda Sokaku, which are compiled into a series of eleven training manuals called the Sōden.


Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido.

Today Daitō-ryū is the most widely practised school of traditional Japanese jujutsu in Japan. The large interest in this art, which has much in common with the many less popular classical Japanese jujutsu schools, is due largely to the success of Takeda Sokaku’s student Morihei Ueshiba, and the art that he founded, aikido.

Aikido is practised internationally and has hundreds of thousands of adherents. Many of those interested in aikido have traced the art’s origins back to Daitō-ryū, which has increased the level of interest in an art which was virtually unknown a few decades before.Today’s goshin jutsu kata, or “forms of self defense,” preserve these teachings, as does Tomiki’s own organization of Shodokan Aikido.



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