Simplification or sportification

Old Waseda dojo

Complementary and alternative

Complementary and alternative are terms used to describe many kinds of practices or methods that are not part of mainstream system. You may hear them used to describe methods to improve the method. This is called “complementary” because they are used along with your current method. You may sometimes hear about methods that are supposed to be better than the original method. We call these “alternative” because they are used instead of proven methods. Mostly the value of these alternative methods is doubtful because they are not complementary with the current method. Maybe there is some value if used as a standalone method with a different goal to achieve.

There are numerous exercises and techniques to support every aspect of Aikido. But often You-can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees. So making choices will become a real challenge! Even the simple basic exercises take place in an infinite number of ways. Some of the elementary exercises are created by Kenji Tomiki and each deviation of the basic pattern is sometimes seen as a capital sin. However, did Kenji Tomiki commit a capital sin when he tried to create a competitive aspect in aikido training. After all, his teacher, Morihei Ueshiba always stressed the “impossibility” of having competitions in aikido.
This brings forward a question about “complementary or alternative” in Tomiki’s method.

Tomiki’s Aikido “complementary or alternative”?

To find an answer we have to delve into history of aikido or also called “aikibudo”. It was Morihei Ueshiba who popularized aikido or aikidbudo to a broader public, although it was mostly for influential persons in prewar period. The role of Kenji Tomiki is described in many biographys by different authors and like everything in the world, the different versions are not exactly the same. But in general, Kenji Tomiki was a major student of Morihei Ueshiba and had his own vision on Ueshiba’s art.
In an article written by prof. Shishida of Waseday University we find some information on the history of competitive aikido and a solution for the “impossibility of competitive aikido”.

A Historical Study of Competitive Aikido : the Developmental Process of Randori Method, The Annual Report of Physical Education 33 : 17-27, 2001

To overcome the problem, his talent (Tomiki) in judo, and a quietly humble personality, and widely cultured background were useful in saving aikibudo from misunderstanding. A former student of Kenkoku University, Mr. Seiichi Saito remembered and said, “It was possible because it was Mr. Tomiki. He used to often compare aikido to sumo, kendo, and judo in class.” (1/26/2000 Telephone conversation) This is an indication that Tomiki was trusted by many students. This probably was the only way he could take away prejudice and give proper understanding of aikibudo to those bright students at Kenkoku University.
At this period, Tomiki was concerned with the problem of how to classify and organize Ueshiba’s various excellent methods of skills to establish an instructional system. Tomiki was incapable of destroying traditional relationship between master and pupil by selfishly manipulating to disturb his teacher’s most important principles of aikibudo, or give presumptuous advice. Therefore, he kept the problem of forming a plan of instructional system to himself deep in his mind. When did Tomiki start moving toward developing aikido into a form of competition?
Sometime in post war period, Tomiki wrote, “I started to research modernization of aikido after I received aikido 8th dan in February of 1940.” It was probably after the official registration of Tomiki’s 8th dan. Tomiki must have been thinking about competitive aikido in his mind by then at the latest. But, considering Tomiki’s cautious personality and difficulties of the method, it might have been only a faint thought. It must have been a dilemma to decide on a fight form.

During a fight with bare hands like judo, if one comes close enough for the opponent to get hold of the neck band or sleeve, he would be thrown by judo technique. If they keep their distance, there will be no fight. There was another problem: interests in sitting technique or techniques against weapons will be lost by developing aikido into a competitive sport.

He must have doubted if aikido could be popularized by developing it into a competition. The process of developing aikido into a competitive sport was not easy.
It seems that around the early part of 1958, Tomiki started his actual research activity to develop aikido into a competitive sport with conscious decision to exclude randori technique. This was directly prompted by a severe criticism given that there was no competition of aikido in existence by the council of physical education department of Waseda University when Tomiki decided to set up an aikido club, at the University where he was teaching, and requested to the department of physical education council. At this stage, Tomiki, of course, was practicing only exercises of kata just like the way his teacher Mr. Morihei Ueshiba’s school was coaching aikido, and he did not have any definite plan to develop aikido into a competitive sport. At the council meeting, however, he explained the history, significance, and future of aikido, and by promising competitive aikido, be was allowed to start aikido club. This marked the beginning of ‘experimental stage’, and he recorded in 1969, “With devoted cooperation of the club members, through 10 years’ trials and errors, we have almost succeeded.”

The question arise, did Tomiki changed Ueshiba’s aikido by introducing a competitive element?
All depend on how we like to practise our aikido. If our purpose is focusing on “competition”, it is certainly an “alternative method” and it becomes an athletic event without one of the most important element in Ueshiba’s metod: AIKI.
Those practitioners who studied the non-competitive method of Tomiki’s Aikido, will remember Senta Yamada, Tsuneo Miyake or Takeshi Inoue. They taught us the original Tomiki Aikido, a method to improve aikido by adding some judo elements.

If you compare old style Tomiki Aikido with some original Ueshiba's students like Tadashi Abe, we can see a lot of similarities. Tomiki's Aikido can be seen as a "complementary" system to Ueshiba's method. 

The “complementary” elements

What elements are extra in Tomiki's Aikido?
"Simplified movements and exercises".
The contribution of Kenji Tomiki plays an important role in the sense of simplifying the many techniques and movements in the Aikido repertory. A small part of the original Ueshiba techniques can be discovered in Koryu no Kata. Those kata are covering different aspects of Aikido. Simplified techniques can be found in the so called "randori no kata" or "kihon waza". As usual there is more than 1 version of these simplified techniques.
By simplifying the movements and techniques, a student will acquire in an early stage a global view of the possibilities with Aikido. This also took place in other martial arts, Japanese and Chinese. In Iaido and Jodo, the Kendo Federation responsible for those martial arts created a simplified format as an introduction. Modern Kendo itself a simplifies version of older systems with a sword. Simplified versions of Iaido and Jodo can create an interest in the more complicated methods. Even Kodokan Judo can be viewed as a simplified version of older Jujutsu methods.
In Chinese martial arts, Taijichuan has a short version of the longer original versions.
The art of Yiquan has no formal sequences (taolu - kata) to study. Most notable is the basic training of the fundamental elements. After a while, training is progressing at a freestyle of training similar to a randori style of judo and……aikido.
Yiquan posture

Is simplified really simplified?

Although it is said Kenji Tomiki simplified Ueshiba’s Aikido along the lines of the Kodokan Judo doctrine, maybe simplified is a too simplified definition.
Kenji Tomiki saw the fundamental movements in Ueshiba’s Aikido and created exercises for practising the fundamental movements. Unfortunately most of those exercises are nowadays practised in a rigid format and lost the fundamental idea of Japanese martial arts: Jukozo.
In the article – the science of training – you will find some explanation about jukozo principle.
Simplifying has not always been a shortcut to understanding. We cannot deny the fundamental elements or movements, otherwise our martial art becomes a shallow image of the original.

Uchi gaeshi & soto gaeshi

About shobukaidojo

A passion for Martial Arts since 1964

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