Little is known about Daito Ryu Aiki Ju jutsu in the West. Even in Japan, it has long been considered a relic of a pre war era, at best the poor cousin of its modern day cognate Aikido, but nothing could be further from the truth.Daito Ryu has always been a conservative and some what secretive martial art. Its most famous exponent Takeda Sokaku only ever taught people of high social standing such as politicians, teachers, police or military people.
Before that the art belonged exclusively to the Aizu clan in Japan and was never allowed to be shown to outsiders. Takeda was probably one of the last true warriors. At the turn of the last century, he spent his time roaming Japan, taking on challengers and perfecting his sword and Ju Jutsu techniques against any one foolish enough to take him on. Although only 5ft tall he was feared and respected as a great Martial artist and continued to travel around Japan teaching and spreading Daito Ryu well into his 80s.
Takeda’s most famous student was Morihei Ueshiba, the originator of modern day Aikido. In fact with out Takeda Sensei’s teachings, Aikido in it’s present form, would probablly never exist today. Ueshiba Sensei studied the art from 1915 to 1937 and received instructors certification in the art (Kyoju Dairi) and also the Goshin’yo no te scroll, of which was the highest level of Daito Ryu awarded in those days. In fact up until the beginning of the second world war, Ueshiba Sensei actually taught Daito Ryu Aiki Ju Jutsu at his own dojo. Although it is true to say that there are some vauge similarities between Aikido and Daito Ryu, being they both begin and end with courtesy and thier final goal is the development of spirit, love and harmony, Ueshiba’s Aikido is a much weakened form of combat void of the original form. Aikido, which is a purely defensive and spiritually orientated Martial Art works on blending and harmonising with the opponent after he has initiated an attack where as Sokaku’s Aiki Ju Jutsu is a method of hand to hand combat, primarily concerned with repelling an attack immediately making ample use of strikes against anatomical weak points, joint dislocation, breaks ,throws and chokes.
Although very small and hard to find, Daito Ryu Aiki Ju Jutsu has remained remarkably intact, since Takeda Sokaku Sensei started disemminating the art through out Japan at the turn of the century. Periodically put on hold during the Second World War, the art in its original form is still very much alive in a small industrial suburb in the outskirts of Tokyo
The Daito Ryu Aiki Ju Jutsu of the Shinbukan Dojo in Tokyo might very well be one of the last martial art frontiers in the world to be untouched by commercilism and sensationalism. The Dojo it self is on the 3rd floor of Kondo Sensei’s construction company. The moment you lay eyes on the building you get the idea that there is something uniquely different about the contents of the building in front of you. Beside the entrance is a bronze moulded name plate, proudly showing the distinguished Takeda Clan family emblem, indicating to all that enter that this is a very serious place, and it is definatetly no sports or social club.
As you enter the building , you are met by a simple zen garden, water dripping from hollow bamboo into a still pond, like a steady heart beat, indicating life and movement.. As you go up the stairs, from floor to floor, the images and sounds of modern Japan, begin a subtle change. The clean and sterile, walls of ferro concrete mould into acute angles of age old rosewood timber, and the glaring neons and sounds of pachinko dulling to a low hum are met by the sounds of kiai and the thuds of bodies break falling. As you enter the dojo and step onto the hard tatami mats, your stomach lets out a twinge of nervousness, or is it fear, may be both.
The teachings are still true to the founder, Sokaku Takeda, uncompromised , efficient and deadly, not to be used with out responsibility. The Daito Ryu is an elite school, worthy of its fame. There is no mass production of black belts, and the dedicated student receives intimate instruction from the master and his top shihan. For the foreign student, the doors are now wide open. Kondo Sensei has been accepting non Japanese students since 1988. Though Kondo Sensei says that at first he was against taking foreign students he has so far been impressed with the dedication of the overseas students at his dojo. He feels that if some one really wants to learn Daito Ryu he will teach to the best of his ability, in the hope that the true essence of the art will continue for many years. But the dedication does not start and end on the dojo floor, for to be able to master the many techniques, you must first master the basics of the Japanese language, as no English is spoken.
Kondo Sensei himself has made a life long study of the Japanese Martial Arts. At almost 50 he has been studying Daito Ryu for over 45 years. His first teacher was Hosono Sensei, one of the advanced students of Sokaku Takeda Sensei. After Hosano Sensei passed away, Kondo Sensei trained briefly under Yoshida Sensei, also a senior student of Sokaku Takeda, and finally with the headmaster, the founders son Tokimune Takeda.. Kondo Sensei is now the only living Daito Ryu Master to hold the Menkyo Kaiden,a license, indicating that all knowledge has been transmitted to the receiver and, the Kyoju Dairi, an instructors certification in the art.
Kondo Sensei has been taught in a direct line from the founder Sokaku Takeda and is now the only person qualified to teach Daito Ryu. He feels a responsibility to teach Daito Ryu as taught by the founder, retaining its true value and authenticity, otherwise the teachings of the Takeda family will fade forever into antiquity. Kondo Sensei is an ardent admirer of the great swordsman and calligrapher Teshuu Sensei, and like Teshu Sensei believes in the concept of Shugyo, periods of intense training to strengthen the body and spirit. Sensei’s strict discipline and etiquette in the dojo coupled with his uncompromised approach to teaching the techniques of the founder has earned him the nickname Devil Kondo by some of his peers, but make no mistake about it, being a student at Kondo Sensei’s Shinbukan Dojo leaves you with an incredible feeling that you are experiencing something real, something tangible, a real piece of Japanese culture and martial history, not just a hotch potch of Judo and Karate techniques stolen from legitimate schools and called Ju Jutsu, which seems to be the trend of many Western based Ju Jutsu schools.