Kondo Sensei asked me to write and let everyone know that the original ‘Daitokan’ building in Abashiri, Hokkaido has been demolished and is now a vacant lot.
I went there with Kondo Sensei in October of this year 2015. Sensei told me that the original Daitokan building was dismantled only approx two weeks after our visit. (Mid November) Now it is no more and it is just land space.
I was very Lucky to see it in time.
The original Daitokan was established by Soke Tokimune Sensei in 1954. For almost forty years it was the Hombu Dojo. In 1993 owing to the death of Soke Tokimine Sensei Daitokan was closed and no more training occurred.
I take this opportunity to write about my trip with Kondo Katsuyuki Sensei to Hokkaido. Here goes.
As many of you know I have made many trips to Japan to study Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu with my teacher Kondo Katsuyuki Sensei.
This year it was the 60th Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Headquarters convention and was held in Abashiri, Hokkaido.
I have wanted to make a pilgrimage to Hokkaido for many years now, ever since I learnt that the Takeda family grave is there and that it is the home of the original ‘Daitokan’. I mentioned this to Sensei and he said best to wait until he was going up there, which I did.
So on this my 19th trip I arranged to travel with Kondo Sensei and the members of Shimbukan Hombu Dojo to Hokkaido.
It was pretty exciting to visit Hokkaido and visit the place where Soke Tokimune Takeda and of course his father Sokaku Takeda spent so much time.
So we traveled from Tokyo to Hokkaido. We got on the train with the local Shimbukan Dojo members to the airport and we finally arrived in Hokkaido.
We caught the bus into town (Abashiri) passing the apparently ‘World Famous’ Abashiri prison. I hadn’t heard of the prison before but it did look very bleak and I was glad I was not in it.
We all helped to prepare the sports hall where the seminar was to be held. Everyone pitched in to lay mats, clean and put up the various Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu regalia. The whole experience was fascinating. Watching and being part of this whole thing in another language and of course culture is rewarding and deeply satisfying. I’m always intrigued at the cultural differences, norms and interactions and Japanese teamwork is a wonderful thing to be part of. Even just this ‘set up’ of the hall was one of the highlights of the weekend.
We then did some training (well I didn’t as I am still recovering from shoulder surgery, but I practiced seiza, listening and seeing, all of which I am very bad at). Kondo Sensei taught the seminar and he went into great detail regarding the various types of ‘Aiki’. The various Daito Ryu scrolls. The type of training he experienced at the original ‘Daitokan’. How Aiki is incorporated into the Hiden Mokuroku set.
I stand to be corrected here as my Japanese level is very low But my impression was that Tokimune Sensei taught the Jujutsu version of many techniques, but Kondo Sensei incorporates the Aiki from the other advanced scrolls to include in the Ikkajo set in particular. This is my interpretation and limited understanding. I’m still learning and making investigations in all this. So please forgive me and again that’s my poor interpretation.
Anyway after lunch we went to see the Takeda clan grave. It was freezing cold, windy, overcast and some rain. Typical Abashiri weather I suspect and a somewhat dreary day. Very appropriate for this grave site pilgrimage I thought and I found my mind imagining training in this freezing weather and the type of life it must have been like for those who’ve passed before me. We took turns in burning incense and making a prayer.
We returned to the training hall and did some more training. Afterwards I traveled with Kondo Sensei to visit the original ‘Daitokan’. I was pretty excited to be finally visiting it. Unfortunately it was dark by then (higher latitude). We found Daitokan and it was sadly rather ramshackle and rundown. Tall grass had overgrown around it. I wanted to get closer and asked if it was ok and if there were any snakes (Yes I live in Australia). Sensei laughed and pushed me towards the grass to get a closer look and a photo. So after all this time I finally got to see the original Daitokan. Our namesake. The Dojo we are named after. It was good to see it and feel the area. I felt a tinge of sadness, this historic and significant building was rundown and not in use. I felt deeply honoured to have its name and a strengthening in spirit to carry it forward.
That evening we had a double dinner. One at the hotel in which everyone, yes every member of the seminar introduced themselves and said whatever they thought relevant and some very nice words from folk. I was privileged to meet some of the original Daitokan members and it was nice to be wished well in our training. This was the pre-dinner and after we went to a local restaurant specialising in Hokkaido seafood which was as you can imagine fabulous. (and Hokkaido beer of course : ) Hokkaido may be cold and wet but the food is really delicious.
Next day was demonstration day. Each Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu chapter had opportunity to make a display. I couldn’t train and strangely this turned into an advantage in a way as i was able to watch, really watch. It was even more interesting to see each group demonstrate. I tried to note the etiquette along with of course the techniques shown. As a group leader here in Australia its not easy to understand the nuances and etiquette around Embukai ( and of course all etiquette in Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu). I must make special note of these things as they are rare events and part of what sets Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu apart is its military style formation and precision.
In addition to this of course was the array of Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu techniques on display. And most strikingly the difference in each groups energy and effect. Kondo Sensei took the opportunity to again remind us all regarding some of the more important principles of DTR and really some basics, which as we all know are the most important but difficult to do well.
Highlight of course were the Shimbukan Display and Kondo Sensei’s brother and Kyoju Dairi Kondo Masayuki Sensei.
Then awards were given out for some outstanding students. Students who had improved so much and students who had displayed excellence. It was really nice to see my training partners and fellow students doing so well in their training. They all inspire me to keep training and trying my best.
Then it was time to pack up. It was a little sad as it had been such a great seminar. I don’t know about you but for those of us in Budo especially perhaps in western countries we are very much the exception than the rule. To be around all your like minded training friends and folk as ‘mad’ about Budo as yourself is very cool : )
Sensei travelled back to Tokyo but I stayed and traveled to Asahikawa with my Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu buddies and went on a fantastic sightseeing trip though Hokkaido. It turned into a bit of a holiday which was a nice change from the intensity of training. Injury it seems has its own unusual rewards.
I feel very fortunate to be able to do these things and be part of this incredible group.
Thank you for taking time to read this. The spirit of Daitokan lives on and we will do our utmost to live up to this historic Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu name.
Study Group leader. Sydney, Australia