(by Okabayashi Shogen Sensei)

The Daito-ryu Era

Thirty years have passed since I began training in Daito-ryu. During that time I've loved the style as much as any one. The fact that I choose to become a professional Daito-ryu instructor, despite having more than a sufficient income from my job and knowing I would bring poverty to my life, clearly demonstrates my dedication to the style. I became a professional instructor because I felt it was impossible to master the art using only the free time available in one's life. Despite the existence of expressions like, "train until you die," I also felt it would be a mistake to end one's life without fully realizing the benefits of training.

I was also convinced that it would be possible to achieve proficiency in the art in a fraction of the time usually required if only a fundamental theory of training could be developed. I came to believe that the mission of a professional teacher was to develop such a training method, and enable people to master the art using only their free time. Unfortunately, no such theory existed. In addition to this lack of theory, I was at a dead-end in my own training. Although I received the teachings of both Hisa Takuma Sensei and Takeda Tokimune Sensei and was also recognized as a first-rate Budo-ka, when it came to actually using Daito-ryu I had reached a technical impasse. However, this impasse only strengthened my resolve to find a solution to my dilemma. Even in 1985 when Takeda Tokimune sensei took me into his confidence and taught me the entire ura-waza I still felt disheartened. While the techniques felt magnificent, I was unable to achieve a sense of unity between them and my body.

When I say I reached a dead-end with the techniques I don't mean that I didn't understand or couldn't use them. Rather, it is my way of expressing my frustration with the fact that I was unable to achieve a sense of harmony between the techniques and my body. For me this was an extremely serious problem. Although I was a professional instructor teaching at many dojo which I had opened under the Takuma-kai, in my heart I was embarrassed by the title "Kyojyu-dairi." While I could definitely perform the techniques effectively, I was unable to execute them at what I felt was the absolute necessary speed; this was the largest dilemma I faced. Since I thought my dilemma was due to a lack of training I tried numerous different training methods to overcome it. Unfortunately I was still unable to make any progress.

I discovered the source of my troubles when I came across some notes I made when I was younger. At the time my passion for skiing had me hiking in the mountain valleys during the summer time looking for snow and a potential place to ski. Including my skis I usually carried at most forty kilograms on these hikes. Even with this lightweight, however, I found myself being easily passed on the trails by the bokka; people who hauled supplies and mountain equipment up the valleys. On average the bokka carried in excess of 150 kilograms. I was so impressed by the grace and ease with which they passed me that I watched their movements; making notes of my observations as well as the things I talked about with them along the trail. These notes are what finally led me to the source of my troubles.

I was told that in the past bokka carried more than 300 kilograms. In a similar manner, the bushi of the Sengoku era marched for more than 100 kilometers at a time wearing heavy helmets and armor. There is no mistaking that the method the bushi used for moving under such heavy weight is the same as that of the bokka. The key to moving like the bokka lies in using the bones and heel to prevent your center of gravity from passing directly above whichever foot is planted on the ground. From these notes I began to examine how the bones and skeletal structure are used in movement; and quit relying on muscle and strength. By training in this manner I gained an internal sense of the "hito e mi" body movement often discussed in martial arts literature.

Using these experiences as my guide I developed a way to express this internal sensation with words. I verified my findings through in depth research of some 400 different techniques: 200 from those transmitted to Takuma Hisa Sensei by Takeda Sokaku, the Goshin no te, Aiki no jutsu, Hiden Ougi, and the 118 Shoden waza. Through this investigation I realized that the reason I had been unable to achieve a sense of unity between my body and the techniques was not because of a lack of training. It was because the body movements used during the time the techniques were created (and by the people who created them) are different from the body movements we utilize today.

After many years of training I finally came to understand that, although the techniques have been transmitted down to us in form, executing them effectively requires the use of the body movements of the masters who originally created them.

The Hakuho-kai Era

Under the Hakuho-kai I formalized two sets of exercises to teach the proper way to use the body in the techniques. For the lower body I created seven exercises called "Ii, Ro, Ha, Ni, Ho, He, To;" and for the upper body I created an additional five exercises called "Chi, Ri, Nu, Ru, O." In addition to providing a better understanding of how to use the body in the techniques, these exercises are an excellent method for accelerating the learning of Aiki Budo.

Using my experience as a professional instructor I then began to substantiate and classify the various kuden (oral teachings), techniques, and training methods I had experienced up to that time into categories such as good/bad and right/wrong. This classification helped me discover which items were excellent traditions and which were traditions steeped in mysticism, and in some cases, ignorance.

While it is easy to be impressed by mysterious "secret techniques" and "hidden teachings," I learned that these things work primarily through the conviction of people place in them and not because of any theoretical reasons. While the true power of mental and secret techniques may indeed lie in the confidence and faith the user puts in them, for the most part the faith that people put in them is blind. Such blind faith can lead to many negative consequences; especially when it comes from misguided intentions.

The central theme of the Hakuho-kai era was recreating the movements of the masters of the past in every aspect of training; both physical and mental. Some techniques, however, do work better when performed with modern-day body movements. Although modern body movements will sometimes work better for a particular technique, they are still not suitable for dealing with the lightening fast attack of a katana. The original techniques of Daito-ryu become especially distorted the more one practices them with modern body movements. This leads to a problem: while on the surface practicing and transmitting the techniques using modern body movements appears correct, the techniques that are actually passed on to future generations end up being very different from their original forms.

My mission as a Kyoujyu dairi of Daito-ryu was to continue researching the techniques using the body movements that Takeda Sokaku and the Japanese Bushi before him possessed. In time I became able to reproduce the movements of the Bushi by working backwards from the various elements contained in the techniques. As a result of my research I began to feel that, if I were able to verbalize the things I was feeling in my body, it would be possible to accurately transmit the techniques to future generations in spite of our modern day body movements. Verbalizing these sensations would also simplify the learning process; reducing the amount of time required to acquire a sense for aiki techniques. The end result would be a system that enabled more rapid progress in learning the art. During the Hakuho-kai era I devoted myself to the development of such a method.

Under the Hakuho-kai, students became able to replicate the body movements possessed by the creators of the waza through constant pursuit of the most effective line of movement in the techniques. The fundamental principles that form the waza were broken down into the five upper body exercises and seven lower body exercises mentioned before. In addition to these exercises I also established three aiki no kata that did not previously exist in Daito-ryu. These exercises improved the ability of students to use muscle in a sensory capacity rather than as a source of power; facilitating more rapid progress in learning the art.

In addition to the development of a unique training method, the Hakuho-kai era was a time of doubt. Blind faith was set aside, and only things that demonstrated sufficient proof of containing a sound theoretical basis were incorporated into the curriculum.

The Creation of Hakuho-ryu

Under the Hakuho-kai I formalized a training method based on rules discovered from the pursuit of lines of movement in the techniques, and revived Daito-ryu in its original form as a kobudo. However, if it had only been a matter of incorporating a method for acquiring a sense of aiki and the body movements of the masters of the past into the Shoden curriculum, then it probably wouldn't have been necessary to change the name of the style. The reason for changing the name of the style when the popularity of Daito-ryu was actually growing was not because of the development of some special training method. Rather it is because the philosophical and historical foundations of the style have diverged from those of Daito-ryu.

There are a few other minor reasons for making this change. Since I intend to teach Hakuho-ryu in a scientific manner as a kobudo, it is necessary to make a distinction between it and other schools that emphasize the mysticism surrounding Daito-ryu. In addition I want to avoid being confused with groups that practice the techniques using body movements that are different from those of the founders of the style and masters of the past; as well as groups born from totally different origins that are Daito-ryu in name only. I also want to avoid spending time answering inquiries about the differences between these branches of Daito-ryu and the Hakuho-kai.

Regarding the shift in the philosophy of the style, the driving force behind my pursuit of Budo has been my desire to merge Budo with humanity. I believe the self defense applications present in aikijujutsu are the perfect means for accomplishing this goal.

It goes without saying that the starting point of budo lies in gaining control of fear. Various methods were born for achieving this purpose. Unless one completely controls fear one will be unable to use and enjoy the techniques because their actions will cause unharmonious, excessive responses; which will in turn lead to the appearance of the violent nature of Budo.

Since escaping fear is also a fundamental principle of humankind, Budo and humanity are the same in this regard. In addition to this guiding principle; which leads people to avoid things they dislike (such as fear) and seek pleasant, comfortable things; or to endure things they dislike in order to reach greater levels of comfort, there is another fundamental principle of human action: the desire to love and be loved.

In Bujutsu, however, no such fundamental principle regarding the desire to love and be love exists. As a result the merger of humanity and Budo is impossible. Bujutsu, a wartime activity involving life or death risk taking, gave birth to a method for properly living one's life by pursuing techniques meant to destroy others. This Bujutsu was sublimated into Budo during the Tokugawa era, a period of 300 years of peace. Despite it being a feudal era where the individual was killed in order to protect society under the bakumatsu system, it was a time of peace not usually seen in the world. Without constant involvement in wars education could take place. In fact, the evolution of Budo into a study subject in schools was a major cause of the change from Bujutsu to Budo.

No matter how much you preach the path of Budo, however, its violent nature does not disappear. In order to get as close as possible to the path of Budo that I am seeking it is necessary to extinguish this violent nature form Budo.

Budo teaches us to have a non-combative spirit. However, it also teaches to use the techniques necessary to win if one is caught up in a fight. In short, the state of "Wa Sen Ryo Yo" forms the foundation of Budo. Since this state has become the defacto esthetic beauty of budo, there is not much that can be done to change this situation. In "Wa Sen Ryo Yo" one endures when bullied or attacked; layering patience on top of more patience. One endures to the limits of ones endurance, then endures even more. Finally, when one reaches the point where any one would agree that no one should endure so much; when this point of "consensus" is reached, it is acceptable to engage in violence and counter-attack.

Since I believe that it is natural to merge the fundamental principles of Budo and humanity I think it is necessary to move Budo away from the "Wa Sen Ryo Yo" idea of self-defense to something that truly embodies non-violence. I would define Budo to be "something that possesses the techniques for attaining non-violence." I feel Hakuho-ryu fulfills these requirements.

But is it really possible to have Budo that doesn't contain violence? No, it is not. Therefore, the original concept of Budo; its very meaning, must change- similar to the way Bujutsu developed into Budo. Without this transformation it is impossible to achieve non-violent Budo. So what in the world is Budo that doesn't have a violent nature? The answer lies in its original form, the kobudo.

The Bakufu was designed as a method for continuing the existence of feudalistic society through Confucian concepts, and Bushido is a mixture formed by taking just the right amounts of Shinto and Buddhism and combining them in similar proportions. By wrapping fundamental values regarding sincerity and the truth of the human heart with the open-mindedness of Shinto and inquires of Buddhism into the nature of man, Bushido struck a balance between suitable portions of the "hard" and "soft." I have led some 90 different open seminars in foreign countries and found that Budo and Bushido are well-liked all over the world. I feel the reason Budo is so well received as a characteristic part of Japanese culture is because it holds this proper balance.

Since Bushido was practiced in a feudalistic society, to a modern person such "proper balance" would probably seem like the strong faith of a stubborn minded person. The values of the feudal era were relatively uniform and did not recognize variety. Since only the vertical hierarchy of doing things for the family, for the clan, or for the country was recognized, Bushido was an idea that fulfilled the important function of controlling the frustration of the Bushi class (who were not free as individuals) by making it easy for them to accept their destiny. In short, it was a set of values that believed serving the public was correct even if it meant you would die doing so.

However, there was one small group of people that existed differently from this norm. In contrast to the Bushi who made a virtue of sacrificing themselves for their families and clans, these people lived with a free heart and mind. They were not influenced by the ideas and environment that surrounded them. They are the people who changed the era. Similar to Galileo Galile, they pursed truth without being swayed by religion or custom. One of the highest teachings of Budo is the ability to change; to accept change and adapt to it, and these were the people who focused only on this reality. I have focused my attention not on things like the traditional values of Budo and words like, "Bushido is the discovery of dying," but rather on this small group of people: the masters who developed the techniques.

The mechanism for reaching absolute non-violence lies in the activity of these masters' hearts, minds, and bodies. They discovered, as a theory for controlling fear, the method for arriving at a state of nothingness. In order to reach this state of nothingness it is sufficient to sweep away all worldly thoughts, and to sweep away all worldly thoughts it is sufficient to concentrate on only one thing. These masters realized it is sufficient to concentrate on the very moment of change; the moment one is beneath the sword, the time one confronts an opponent.

The truth I seek in kobudo is not something that has become tradition from custom and compromise. Nor is it the darkness of a certain era, blind faith in something one can't understand, or progress that impedes the improvement of humanity. The path I seek is the very same kobudo that the masters of the past studied; absorbing themselves in the labor of discovering and building on each truth one at a time despite the surrounding environment of ambiguity, close-mindedness, and mysticism.

These masters made it possible to enjoy a world without restrictions on the heart, mind, or body. They enjoyed an existence of total freedom, and since this is precisely equal to human nature they became true humans. Even with their body placed beneath the blade of an opponent attacking with the intent to kill them they were free. They had become persons whose bodies, minds, and hearts were free from attachment of any kind. These are the people who I call the masters of the past and, as a teacher of Hakuho-ryu, revere and respect. Masters such as these would never say things like, "A Budoka is?", or "a religious person is?," or "The true path of faith is?" They would merely laugh and say it is sufficient for one to affirm the here and now; this very moment, and enjoy life.

Takeda Sokaku is called somber things like the last Bushi, but he was also very mischievous, liked to talk a lot, and made many failures. Since one does not fail if one never attempts new things we can say that the failure ridden Takeda Sokaku was a true challenger. Sometimes when he said he was going out to train he would go to a hot-spring and party with geisha. At those times he was practicing the fact that training is actually relaxing. In a similar way, the priest who chases off children at play is not a high priest at all. A true high priest would probably join the children in their fun. Since the mind of a high priest in meditation is the same as that of a child immersed in a game how about trying to practice Budo in a similar, natural manner? While there is nothing wrong with presenting a serious outer appearance, the philosophy of Hakuho-ryu is to be at peace and be having fun in one's heart no matter what type of somber outward appearance one may have. Hakuho-ryu Aiki Budo is not only about rough outer appearances, but also about freeing the mind.