Contemporaries of Nitta Sensei: Sempai, Dosei & Kohai

Muto Mitsu

Muto Mitsu was a senior of Nitta Suzuyo.  She met Kobayashi Seiko in the 1930’s and began training with her then.  She worked as a dressmaker/seamstress, and had at least three children.  She also studied Shinto Muso-ryu jo with Shimizu Takaji, after he told her that he thought the two ryu had a lot of similar movements and were, therefore, compatible.  In her later years, Muto Sensei taught at the Shinjuku ward gymnasium.  She was the first Toda-ha Buko-ryu teacher of Meik Skoss, and sole teacher of Larry Bieri and Mabuchi Seiko  (the latter a very powerful teacher of Tendo-ryu naginatajutsu).

Sasaki ______

Sasaki-san was another of Nitta Suzuyo’s seniors, receiving an okuden menkyo from Kobayashi Seiko.  She started training in the 1930’s.  A very severe woman, she was no longer training when I met her in the 1970’s.

Yamaguchi _______

Yamaguchi-san studied briefly with with Kobayashi Seiko until the latter’s illness.  She then continued as a student with Nitta Suzuyo, eventually receiving the rank of okuden. She was prominent in embu for a period of a few years in the early 1970’s, frequently partnering with Nitta Sensei.  She discontinued training in the late 1970’s.

Aikawa Mineo

Aikawa-san was a remarkable man.  He was a fishmonger, therefore, socially, of very low class, and he had the extravagant arrogant humility of some such men.  He was passionate about budo.  He was one of the senior students of Sugino Yoshio in Katori Shinto-ryu, a personal friend and training partner of the senior Watanabe Sensei of Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, one of the original ten students of Shioda Gozo in Yoshinkan aikido, as well as a student of Kunii Zenya of Kashima Shin-ryu (which he joined after losing a dojo busting expedition which he’d undertaken when Kunii sensei publicly derided aikido).

For at least some period after World War II, Kobayashi sensei and her students trained at the Sugino Dojo. The connection between Kobayashi sensei and Sugino sensei, both founding members of the Kobudo Shinkokai, was very deep. One of Sugino Yoshio’s senior students, still alive today, stated that there was a period before Nitta sensei was formally designated as Kobayashi sensei’s successor, that Aikawa-san was the ‘custodian’ of the ryu (戸田派武甲流の預かり). The explanation of this is that there was some question as to who was going to be Kobayashi sensei’s successor: Muto sensei, the elder, or Nitta sensei. While Kobayashi sensei decided, appointing a male member of the school was an adroit political act, inhibiting dispute, but clearly placing him in a caretaker role.  Aikawa-san received okuden menkyo from Kobayashi Seiko (unsigned, due to her illness),  and afterwards,  continued training as a student and collaborator with Nitta Suzuyo.   

He was the last generation successor of Kasumi Shin-ryu.  He told me that it was keidomyaku bujutsu, a speciality of ripping and tearing at the arterial junctures of the body.  He said his teacher, a butcher, used to practice ripping muscle fibers from sides of beef with his finger tips.  Finally,  he was also  my senior in Araki-ryu.  He quit, however, after getting in a fist fight with another student (he was 65 years old – he was justified,  in that he had been defending himself, but he felt he shamed himself by losing his temper, and quit).

I very much wanted to learn Kasumi Shin-ryu from him, but when I requested it, he loudly proclaimed that he was a fishmonger, not a teacher, and in his typical dramatic humility, stopped coming to train in Buko-ryu shortly thereafter.

Nitta sensei told me that he inspired her to consider anew the combative efficacy of each technique in Buko-ryu kata, and she experimented with him on different ways of executing the kagi-tsuki techniques  (one time almost losing an eye when he thrust too deeply without directing the weapon above her head).  With some pleasure, she noted to me  that in almost all cases, after such experimentation, they found that the way she had learned from Kobayashi sensei was, in fact, the most effective, both combatively and for training purposes.