Daito Ryu & Aikido

Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
To an Aikido purist, the mention of the great influence of Daito ryu in Aikido is almost an insult. On the other hand, there are some Daito ryu enthusiasts who would cringe at the idea that Aikido had anything to do in the preservation of their art. Both statements are true, and neither of them necessarily diminishes the other.

It is true that Sokaku Takeda taught many students and paved the way for the survival of Daito ryu, but Morihei Ueshiba had a lot to do with the popularity of aiki arts during his lifetime. We can not deny that he had an impressive command of technique, a charismatic spirit and a dynamic and highly impressive way of performing these techniques. His demonstrations were fluid and elegant, while koryu bujutsu appears rough and rigid to the observer. The ukemi in pure Daito ryu is unflowing and rather abrupt, while Aikido's ukemi lends a feeling of power and continuity to the techniques that is no less than fascinating. It is very possible that without Ueshiba's contribution, Daito ryu would have been ignored by many. In a sense, both arts contributed to each other's survival and that seems to have extended until the present day.

Ueshiba's ways influenced some lines of Daito ryu. A certain degree of imitation is not hard to find in more recent variations of Daito ryu techniques. On the other hand, Aikido techniques that drifted too far away from its roots began to lose their edge and the fluidity in some cases diluted the principle behind the tecniques. Fortunately, this is not the case in every single one of them.

Daito ryu's small circle type of execution involves, apparently, less blending and the response is more direct, giving the impression of "unrefinement". Also, since the Daito ryu student is not require to "fly" with the technique, but to respond to it "as felt" a sudden drop is more likely to result, rather than an elegant flip. Aikido flowing response carries within it a weakening factor: too much response or ukemi thus no technique is ever properly finished (a deep hineri for instance). This is not the fault of the technique. A strongly executed Aikido technique with a sharp motion that creates the fall, produces a real response (not an elegant one, but a real one) and allows the student to properly apply a technique. There would be a decrease in elegance, but an increase in edge. Watching Ueshiba's performance of his aikibudo techniques brings back that true budo flavor that, somehow, may have been lost in some cases. Not all teachers have forgotten this type of technique, and it is a pleasure to see it being performed, because there lies the link between Daito ryu and Ueshiba's Aikido. There is no clashing in philosophies. There are no contradictions. It is wasteful and foolish to look for them. The value of one does not deny the virtue of the other.

A Daito ryu student would understand Aikido better by trying wider circles and motion. An Aikidoka would understand Daito ryu better by trying smaller circles in their technique and carrying through the intent and the feeling of "cutting". There are no conflicts, just alternatives.

In harmony, there is room for both, and we are thankful for it.


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