Author: Bret Gordon
Since becoming the headmaster of American Yoshinkan Aiki Jujutsu on January 12, 2020, I have posted several pictures of Steven Hatfield sensei and I where we are listed as "Sendai Soke and Soke." Of course, this is not a very common term so several people have asked what the term "Sendai Soke" means, does this mean we are both Soke, and if so then who is the head of family for the system?
Sendai Soke 先代宗家 is the retired headmaster of the system, a title used while that person is still living. When Hatfield sensei stepped down as headmaster, this became his position. I have also officially named him as a Komon 顧問 (advisor), but his title in the hierarchy of the ryu is Sendai Soke.
This is not a title we came up with on our own, and has been used in several other ryuha as well when the previous headmaster is still alive yet the art is completely passed down to another. The title is used in both gendai arts, such as Enshin Itto Ryu Bujutsu (Machida Kenshinsai is the Sendai Soke now that his son Machida Fudoshin runs the art), and koryu arts such as Hokushin Itto Ryu Hyoho, which is currently under the leadership of Otsuka Ryunosuke (born Lösch Markus) who first studied the art in 2010 and was named the 7th Soke in 2016. From the official Hokushin Itto Ryu website (click here):
"On the 26th of March 2016 Ōtsuka Yōichirō appointed his dōjō-yōshi (foster-son) and menkyo-kaiden, Ōtsuka Ryūnosuke Taira no Masatomo as his successor, and made him the 7th sōke of the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō. Since that time, Ōtsuka Yōichirō officially retired and became sendai-sōke (previous headmaster). Despite his retirement, he still actively supports and advices the several keikojō in Tōkyō and also visits the honbu-dōjō from time to time. Nowadays, the Hokushin Ittō-ryū Hyōhō is solely led by Ōtsuka Ryūnosuke, the 7th sōke, in Japan and abroad."