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A Comprehensive Study, But Facts are Shaky
on 1 January 1999
This is truly an impressive attempt to cover all of the martial skills that the fuedal warriors of Japan studied. Unfortunately, their section on Aiki-jujitsu and Aikido has some serious errors. First, they claim that Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido was the only legitimate heir of the Daito Ryu school of aiki-jujitsu. This is incorrect. Tokumine Takeda, son of Sokaku Takeda (Ueshiba's Daito Ryu teacher for over a decade), was the heir of Daito Ryu. The current headmaster is Katsuyuki Kondo. There are also several other branches of Daito Ryu: Kodokai, Roppokai, and Takumakai, which were started by students of Takeda Sokaku who were actually senior to Ueshiba. Ratti and Westbrooke also stated that Daito Ryu no longer exists, and that we have no way of knowing today the techniques of the the Daito Ryu. Again, untrue. Daito Ryu is one of the most widely practiced traditional styles of martial arts (Koryu Budo) in Japan. Finally, they state with some authority that Daito Ryu descended from Prince Sadasumi. This cannot be verified, even by Daito Ryu practitioners. Like many oral tales, it is a history that people accept in the absence of confirming or contradicting evidence.
What is disturbing is that after twenty years, this information was never updated. Perhaps this was because Ratti and Westbrook did not use any original source, i.e. Japanese, material (at least I did not see any when I glanced through the glossary). Perhaps it was because they felt some need to promote aikido at the expense of Daito Ryu. It does not matter, really. Writing a traditional Japanese martial art out of any book that purports describe the history of Japanese martial arts is a gaffe that makes me wonder what else about the book they have gotten wrong.
I give the book three stars for effort, but let the buyer beware. When reading, don't believe anything until you verify, verify, verify.