Daito Ryu – Common Principles

Takeda Sokaku DaitoryuI thought I would post the following comments on Budo principles from Kondo Katsuyuki sensei, a well-known Daito-ryu Aikijutsu teacher. Although he is addressing Daito-ryu, I feel his ideas and principles are applicable to Karate-do as well.

Daito-ryu Akijujutsu – Hiden Mokuroku Series Part 1
Ikkajo Tachiai by Katsuyuki Kondo

Basic Principles

1. Rei Courtesy: In old days, words such as burei (disrespectful) and shitsurei (inexcusable behavior) were used. One who lacks rei, that is one who was disrespectful would be risking his own life. For example, in the old days one was sure to put his sword on his right side when he was invited into a room and sit down. If he put his sword on his left side he could draw it at any time. It was disrespectful to put his sword on his left side. That meant being shitsurei or engaging in impolite behavior. With your sword on your left, you can draw it at any time and this shows you have an intention to fight the other person. Ihave heard that once a person was attacked and cut and died because his sword was on his left side and he happened to touch it by mistake. Therefore this kind of disrespectful behavior could endanger ones life.

2. Mitsukei Eye position: The characters for mitsukei mean where to fix one’s eyes. I think this includes all things such as the power of piercing eyes, insight and the capacity to read another’s mind. The power of the eyes is the best way to control others without fighting. We should practice with this principle in mind. Originally I think mitsukei was a kind of practice where you read, predict, and discern another’s movements through the fixation of the eyes. Naturally I think in this kind of training, various things such as kokyuho are included to achieve this end.

3. Maai Combative distance: In old Japan firearms were not used but the bow was. Thus there was the maai appropriate for the arrow, maai for spears, swords and finally the shortest maai, or distance, for jujutsu. The question of increasing the space between you and your opponent and how to reduce the distance constitutes a very important matter in the martial arts. How to assume maai, how to shorten it, how to increase it. Often times when you think you have the proper distance, it really is appropriate to your opponent. Please keep this upper most in your mind when practicing.

4. Kokyu Respiration: Kokyu consists of two characters, breath out and breath in. So breathing out is very important. So, breathing in is training for breathing out. We cannot live without breathing in, so breathing in is done naturally. Therefore it is important how to expel air from our bodies. Also, we teach with respect to kokyu that breathing out is YO (yang) and breathing in is IN (yin). For example, when we visit shinto shrines we see the two deva kings on either side of the temple gate. If we look at their mouths, one has a wide open mouth and the other a tightly closed mouth. And in shinto shrines there are stone guardian dogs at the entrance with open and closed mouths. It is said that they represent the AH-UM utterance. The open mouth is AH and the closed mouth his UM. The UM utterance is certainly a yang expression, when we exert and effort we indeed emit a kiai or in order to exert all of our strength, we close our mouth and produce the UM sound and hold our breath. This is yang. When we breath in, it is yin. If we practice and we practice breathing sufficiently we will be able to perceive and read an opponent’s movements. Studies on kokyuho include the kokyuho of Buddha and the work of Hakuin dating from the late Edo era. Kokyuho has been an object of study in modern times as a method of health. Proper breathing is a very important principle of martial arts.

5. Kuzushi Breaking balance: This includes atemi and other things such as kiai [which] are naturally a part of the concept. Kuzushi in Daito-ryu includes the idea of Aiki, that is, how to emit Aiki energyand break the opponent’s balance. You should place great emphasis on practicing this principle.

6. Zanshin Continuing Awareness: The last concept is zanshin. The characters used mean to remain with the mind or I have also heard it referred to as remain with the body. However, I would not say remain with the mind but give out all of one’s self, engage all of one’s strength and spirit by facing and responding to the situation at every moment. I understand the term to mean giving all of one’s self until there is nothing more to give. I mentioned kiai in the beginning and now I have included it as part of kuzushi.