Moving Through Jūjutsu Toward Aiki
Aiki is not a martial art. It is a way of doing martial arts. So, Aiki can be present in any martial art – from Tae Kwon Do to Brazilian Jiujitsu, kendo to sumo.
Aikidō is really learning Aiki through jūjutsu. The art itself is a means to a deeper understanding of body dynamics and movement.
The Origin of Jujutsu
War (Bū) was a state of being in Japan during the Edō Period (1603-1868). At the top of their society was the Tennō, or emperor, but the real political power lay with his military commander, the Shōgun. Below the Shōgun were hundreds of landholders called Daimyō. Each daimyō ruled lands and castles, and to protect these, the daimyō had a warrior class known as the bushi (warriors) or as they are known today, samurai (servants).
The samurai devoted their lives to the perfection of warfare, particularly the sword. Each clan of samurai had their own particular way of fighting, bujutsu. If one needed to fight empty-handed, this was jūjutsu.
Takeda Clan and Daito Ryu
The Takeda clan served the Minamoto clan during the Edō Period, but when shogunate was ended in 1868, the new emperor announced the haitorei, a ban on wearing swords that left the samurai without a place in society. According to family legend, they continued to practice their own unique jūjutsu and pass the knowledge down from father to son.
The scion of the family was Sōkaku Takeda (1859-1943) who began teaching the jujutsu outside of the family, calling it Daitō Ryū Aikijūjutsu. Takeda developed a reputation as an impressive fighter and taught his art widely.
O Sensei Morihei Ueshiba
Takeda’s most prominent student was Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969), an idiosyncratic and idealistic man who had a natural aptitude for fighting arts. He was already well-established when he began training with Takeda in 1915. For a time, Takeda lived with him.
Ueshiba was licensed to teach Daitō Ryū and he did so wherever life took him. After Takeda’s death and the end of World War II, he rebranded his version of Daitō Ryū as Aikidō.
Jigoro Kano and Judo
Roughly contemporary with Takeda, Jigoro Kano saw the potential for jūjutsu as sport as well as a self-defense system. He incorporated many styles into his own system, which he called jūdō.
Jūdō became popular in Japan and throughout the world. Many of Kano’s students moved to other countries and trained foreigners.
One of Kano’s third generation students was an imposing young academic, Kenji Tomiki. As a university student, Tomiki studied jūdō and then, through a series of events involving both Kano and Ueshiba, he began training in Daitō Ryū Aikijujutsu during the summers. Eventually, Tomiki received both a menkyo kaiden (full transmission certificate) from Ueshiba as well as a senior rank in jūdō. For many years, Tomiki taught both arts, but he came into conflict with Ueshiba and struck out on his own.
The Unique Character of Tomiki Aikido
Because Tomiki trained under both Kano and Ueshiba, he had a unique perspective on the techniques he learned. He eventually coded most of his understanding of Aiki into a curriculum that he taught at Waseda University until his death in 1979.