Sokaku Takeda (1859-1943)
Daito Ryu did not became widely known until the 19th century, when martial arts genius Sokaku Takeda began to teach it publicly. Sokaku was born in 1859 in Aizu during the last days of the age of the samurai. He received instruction in the traditional o-shiki-uchi arts of the Aizu clan from his relatives and from Tanomo Saigo (the last minister of the Aizu domain, 1830-1903). Sokaku is considered the 35th Grand Master of the Daito Ryu tradition. In addition to the Daito Ryu system, Sokaku studied several other martial arts including sumo, Hozoin Takada-ha Sojutsu spear, Onoha Itto-ryu sword, and Jikishinkage-ryu sword. He acquired firsthand combat experience in street fights all over the country.
Around the turn of the century, Sokaku began teaching the Daito Ryu system to select groups of military officers, police officials and aristocrats through seminars. Sokaku was based in Hokkaido, Japan’s remote northern island, but traveled through the country to teach. In the course of his travels, Sokaku defeated all challengers, including high ranking Judoka, and experienced fighters from a variety of arts. It is said that 30,000 martial artists received instruction at Sokaku's hands. Of this vast number, only twenty or so received formal teaching licenses from the Daito Ryu Grand Master. Several of Sokaku's students themselves became extremely distinguished teachers, founding new branches of Daito Ryu: Takumakai from Hisa Takuma, Kodokai from Kodo Horikawa, the techniques of Yukiyoshi Sagawa, as well as the techniques of Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.
Daito Ryu is the father of many Japanese martial arts. Stanley Pranin (Chief Editor of Aikido Journal and a high-ranking Aikidoka) states, "categorically the major influence on the development of Aikido is Daito Ryu, and it is difficult to find a movement in Aikido that does not originate in Takeda's jujutsu form.”