The “Sensei” Enigma

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo.
In collaboration with Tim Wolput……as the illustrator and provider of ideas .
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Enigma comes via Latin aenigma from ancient Greek ainigma. Hidden in this is the word ainos “narrative, fairy tale”.
Enigma mainly translates as “riddle” but it is also referred to a coding device.

The Enigma machine is a cipher device developed and used in the early- to mid-20th century to protect commercial, diplomatic, and military communication. It was employed extensively by Nazi Germany during World War II, in all branches of the German military. The Enigma machine was considered so secure that it was used to encipher the most top-secret messages.


The purpose of being a Sensei

Sometimes you will read that a Sensei is a rolemodel. But what rolemodel?
Defining rolemodel is as muddy as the relationship of Sensei-Tori/Uke.

In the past when Japanese martial arts were introduced into Western society, a Sensei was a superhuman. Sensei could beat everyone and had an answer to all the questions.
When Chinese martial arts were imported, the same happened with the equivalent of a Sensei. The Chinese use the word Sifu.

Nowadays, Sensei became more human and is not any more superhuman. Although some groups still rever their Sensei almost in a divine manner.

So, what is a Sensei?

A Sensei is an educator and a motivational role model. This is the starting point.
To become an educator and a motivator, you need to have knowledge and skills of the subjects you like to teach. This is the first item to take into account.

Do you know your subject and do have have skills?

Although in the beginning of this post the definition of Sensei:
“person born before another” or “one who comes before”
As a Sensei you must believe in yourself and you need the knowledge and practical skills of the subject you like to teach.

Teaching Japanese martial arts is mostly done by the “Kata” method.
Knowing and practising the Kata is a lifetime work. The study of a Kata is never finished, you will always find something new .

But what is a “Kata”?
Kata an be seen as “the method” to teach people how to perform a certain task or job. We can distinguis 2 kinds of kata.

  • Kata in a narrow sense
  • Kata in a more broader sense

In Kodokan Judo, 2 kinds of Judo were mentioned by Jigoro Kano.
The cultivation of a strong physical body (through rentai-ho) and the development of contest skills (through shobu-ho) together resulted in kyogi judo, or judo in the narrow sense. Kano intended that judo practitioners were also to go on to achieve a higher level of self-actualization through shushin-ho and thus achieve kogi judo, or judo in the wide sense.

Kano’s ideas are not unique because on other fields we can see the same concepts, the method in a narrow sense and the method in a wider sense.

It is believed that Budo can cultivate both the mind and body. However, if the meaning of Budo is unclear, then it is impossible to know what to train and indeed what method to utilize. In identifying Budo, it is important to understand why Judo (“the way of Yawara/Jujutsu”), Kendo (“the way of the sword”), Kyudo (“the way of the bow”), Aikido (“the way of Aiki”) and the like, are considered to be Budo (“martial ways”). To aid this clarification, the difference between “Michi (way)” and “Jutsu (technique)” should be known. Good guidelines and tuition have become indispensable for this aim, but if each person does not grasp what Budo is individually during practical training, then focus, concentration and discipline in Budo is not achieved.

Meiji Jingu – Tokyo

Relationship Sensei and Tori/Uke

Sensei is literally translated as “person born before another” or “one who comes before”. In general usage, it is used, with proper form, after a person’s name and means “teacher”; the word is also used as a title to refer to or address other professionals or persons of authority.
Tori is the one who performs the technique –
Uke is the one who receives the technique.

Sensei and martial arts

In modern Japanese martial arts, specifically Kodokan Judo or similar systems, tori is the one who performs a technique against the training partner, or uke. Sometimes tori is associated with winning, while uke is associated with losing.
The difference between the two people is very obvious during “Kata” or so-called formal exercises. During “Randori” or sparring, the difference becomes misty because each person may be Tori/Uke as an individual.

When one of the practitioners is also the teacher or the Sensei, the situation becomes more muddled. How the teacher gets to be the loser if the sensei act as Uke?
Such a situation is the perception of someone who don’t understand the classical methods of Japanese martial arts. It is very difficult to compare martial arts seen as a sportive activity (for example aikido-kyogi or sports-aikido) and martial art (Budo/Bujutsu) as a development of your body and mind.
Some martial arts of course, can be practised as a sport activity and as a method for selfdevelopment.

Martial arts with a strong Budo/Bujutsu connection have a different name for Tori and Uke, but from an educational point of view the words have the same meaning when a teacher is involved.

  • Shidachi – someone who performs the technique
  • Uchidachi – someone who receives the technique

Uchidachi is leading shidachi with sincere attack. This allows to learn proper body movement, battle distance, appropriate mindset, and perception of possibilities. In the past, the role of Uchidachi was reserved exclusively to expert practitioners who were able to carry out meticulous techniques and possessed the right spirit and an understanding of their role.
The roles of uchidachi as senior and shidachi as junior are always maintained, though the role of uchidachi is played by someone at a lower level. The mindset of uchidachi is always sincere but humble. Kata is practised so that they can learn to give and receive together. This is what makes possible the improvement of technique and the development of the mind.

Shu-Ha-Ri & Jo-Ha-Kyū

Shu-Ha-Ri roughly translates to “to keep, to fall, to break away”. (From Wikipedia)

Shu (守) “protect”, “obey”—traditional wisdom—learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs
Ha (破) “detach”, “digress”—breaking with tradition—detachment from the illusions of self
Ri (離) “leave”, “separate”—transcendence—there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural, becoming one with spirit alone without clinging to forms; transcending the physical

Shu-Ha-Ri is related to another Japanese phrase -Jo-ha-kyū (序破急)- to define the strategy someone uses during practising his art in his life. This concept has to be seen as a macrocosmic and microcosmic event.

Jo-ha-kyū (序破急) is a concept of modulation and movement applied in a wide variety of traditional Japanese arts. It essentially means that all actions or efforts should begin slowly, speed up, and then end swiftly. This concept is applied to elements of the Japanese tea ceremony, to the samurai sword art of Kenjutsu, to the bamboo sword training art of kendō, and to other martial arts, to dramatic structure in the traditional theatre. (From Wikipedia)

Shomen-ate Kata

When performing kata, there is a structure that we cannot ignore. This structure contains all the basic concepts for performing an effective movement related to an opponent.

Jibun no tsukuri and aite no tsukuri are the building blocks proposed by Kenji Tomiki. Each method of “tsukuri” can also be divided into more distinct parts necessary for an effective technique. These elements have to be integrated in your actions.
The danger exists of giving too much attention to an item with the result of less efficiency due to a lack of fluidity and integration in the overall action.

For instance, the first technique of “Basic 17” in the Aïkido Tomiki system.
When Tomiki wrote “Judo and Aikido”, the first movement with the front hand is just a sweeping action.

A Sensei’s duty, explaining the alternative

Alternative in this case is another view about executing a certain technique. This is a different use of the term ‘alternative’. In another article, the term “alternative” is used in a different sense: The simplification of Ueshiba Aikido.

After striking Uke’s arm, the opponent is destabilized as in the picture. The danger exists of having a too mechanical technique as a result of a tunnel vision.

“Tunnel Vision”, a  metaphorically way of expressing the reluctance to consider alternatives to one’s preferred line of thought.

Original or alternative?

Look at the picture of Tomiki and Ohba when executing sweeping the front arm as explained on the page of Tomiki’s new method of randori (Judo and Aikido). Uke’s balance is directed more forward.
The posture of Uke is different as in the picture with Shishida. Uke’s balance is directed to the side and slightly back.

Hitting the wrist or sweeping the wrist are 2 alternatives of many solutions. A good sensei will insist on one method for beginners. Later on, multiple possibilities can be used for advanced persons.

Senta Yamada is clearly demonstrating a sweeping action.

Practising – The Sensei Way

As said before, a Sensei acts mostly as Uke in the traditional way of martial art training. Unfortunately, many sensei only perform “mouth” waza or embu with a willing partner. In order to be a Sensei, you have responsibilities to your students. You should communicate with them through your mind and body. Teaching your student is a bodily experience and speaking is just an add-on to give some additional guidance.
Many Sensei are older than their students and as a result, the “personal” training program is slightly different from that of the student.

From a western point of view, we have to take into consideration that an older body needs a different physical training program.
From a more holistic perspective, the concept of “Ki” has to be taken into account. We cannot deny the existence of bioelectricity (Ki) and the ability to manipulate Ki in some exercise programs.
Hachi Danken or eight brocade exercises is but one example. Another important training tool for senior and experienced practitioners is the Ritsuzen method, the way to stand like a tree.

And keep in mind, Tomiki’s Tandoku Renshu*. Of course, a deeper understanding is needed to understand and acquire the skills of this unique training method.
Tomiki’s Tandoku Renshu is not performed as college students do. It is practiced according the older methods, for example, taught by Senta Yamada.
And of course, you must take into account your own experience.

*Original Tandoku Renshu

Tomiki Aikido Syllabus – Basic Framework Training Tool.

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo. 
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Study Group Tomiki Aikido – Shobukai Dojo Syllabus
This article outlines the “basic framework” employed in the Shobukai Dojo. The emphasis is mainly on “how to move the body” and “how to control the opponent”.
Members of the Shobukai Dojo study how to move the body and the methods of control of the opponent before being able to proceed with Tomiki Aikido Kata.

What Is a Martial Art Syllabus?

A syllabus is a document that presents all the necessary information on a martial art course. It lists the topics you will study while you practice martial art.
The course programme is a working document and a personal document. The syllabus can be used as a guide for the instructor as well as for the dojo.

Living Syllabus 

A syllabus is not fixed and basically a “living syllabus” can be updated as often as the teacher considers it necessary. This creates a vibrant, living document that students can interact with. Of course, the interaction between the instructor and the students is a major factor in updating the program.
Unfortunately, the emphasis is sometimes too much on a programme given by an international institute which does not allow much interaction between the institute, the instructor and the students. In this case, we cannot refer to a “living syllabus”.

An international institute program can be basically a policy guide to be used to generate a “living syllabus” for the local group.
So you can find a different program among the local groups while teaching the same concepts and principles.

Shobukai Dojo Syllabus

A Tomiki Aikido Syllabus can focus on various options for study and training, depending on the kind of dojo students.

  • Grading tool
  • Competition as the main goal
  • Sparring (randori)
  • Bodywork, efficient body movement
  • Self-protection and self-defense
  • Movement therapy
  • Other goals

The Shobukai Syllabus is based on the ideas and concepts of Kenji Tomiki and his nearest followers. There is an influence of other Aikido methods and Bodywork of independent instructors.

The program is built around various types of core concepts.

Basic arm movements

Our hands are one of the most important tools of our body. Tegatana translates into “sword hand”, but also includes the arm.

Basic arm movements can be performed either stationary or dynamically.
The stationary method emphasises the use of the “Koshi” synchronized with arm movements (tegatana). A dynamic version is integrating footwork.

Basic arm movements are based upon the basic arm movements developped by Kenji Tomiki.

The Stationary Method

The 1st part of the videoclip gives a overal impression, the 2nd half focussing on the use of the koshi.

The Dynamic Method

The integration of footwork into the tegatana exercises is the first step for practising “hakkei” or sudden power.

Hakkei Tegatana Dosa

When practising tegatana dosa in a stationary or dynamic way, movements are relatively big. The performance is quite slow and with no explosive power.
After several years of training, sudden power or Hakkei may be introduced.

Footwork – Unsoku-ho

In the Tomiki Aikido method a formalized exercise is wellknown by most of the practitioners. Because the focus is more on the pattern or in which direction to move, the most basic ways of footwork is in the backround. In the syllabus, the basic ways of footwork (ayumi ashi, tsuri ashi and tsugi ashi) is mentioned as a basic exercise. The different methods are integrated in the dynamic tegatana exercises.
When practising footwork, the arms are hold high and the intention is to hold a big ball between the arms. The arms are not used to push or pull, the power comes from the footwork initiated by the koshi.

Ayumi Ashi forward

Ayumi Ashi backward

Tsugi Ashi

Testing the solo exercises

Sometimes during training, the instructor can test the posture and movement of the student or to give feedback (interaction). All the movements of the solo-exercises can be tested.

Some testing examples

Testing posture and tsugi ashi

Ko-mawari testing

Kumi Kata (Judo)

The definition of Kumi Kata is grip fighting. The word “grip fighting” means to take a grip that will give you an advantage over your opponent. But also not to allow your opponent to take a comfortable grip to be able to counter.

The mastery of Judo Kumi Kata is a critical component for any judoka to succeed in modern judo. Without this skill being very well developed it is difficult to see how any judoka can experience the ability to throw ones opponent cleanly, effortlessly and with grace and beauty.

Ridatsu ho & Seigyo ho

Grasping the wrist in Aikido is a kind of strategy skill similar to the strategy skill of Judo Kumi Kata. Without this skill, we are not able to perform kuzushi and waza.
Tegatana kihon dosa (basic hand and arm movements) can be used as a setting up for gripping skills and controlling the opponent: Seigyo ho
On the other hand, kihon dosa can be used as a defensive action when the opponent is grasping you: Ridatsu ho

Both methods will depend on a correct and powerfull gripping skill.

The are different ways to grasp the wrist of opponent.
The purpose of grasping the wrist is to control the opponent action.

The comments of holding the sword, the golf ball and the soft tanto apply also for grasping a wrist.

Some examples of grasping the wrist

The example shows an offensive way to capture the wrist of the opponent. When the opponent performs an offensive movement, you can apply a basic arm movement and then grab the wrist.

How to seize

A strong grip can be catogorised in 3 major metods. See picture.

In essence, grasping the wrist in Aikido is similar to grasping the hilt of a sword. 
The basic rule is to grip firmly with the middle finger and thumb, keeping contact with the base of the little finger.

A study performed by The University of Western Ontario on the Individual finger strength and published in Journal of Hand Therapy gives the following results:
The percentage contributions of the index, middle, ring, and small fingers to grip were approximately 25%, 35%, 25%, and 14%, respectively.

While the ulnar side of the hand (ring and little finger) is taught as the dominant side when holding the “tsuka” of a sword, there is a lack of control if you don’t use the middle finger and thumb. When you start grabbing with the middle finger and thumb and index finger, the ring and the little finger, you will have a strong grip with many possibilities of precision.

3 important points

  • Base of little finger
  • Middle finger
  • Thumb

Exercises to develop correct wrist grabbing

Using Thera Band Flexbar

Soto gaeshi & uchi gaeshi
As mentioned earlier, both movements can be used both offensively and defensively. When you grip a wrist to apply a technique, Soto gaeshi or Uchi gaeshi may be applied. An exercise with the Flexbar almost gives you the feeling of gripping a wrist with a certain resistance.

Holding a golf ball.
Holding a golf ball is a good exercise to power up the middle finger and thumb.
Index, ring and little finger just close, but do not put pressure. Do not tighten the ball or you will lose control of the ability to manipulate your hand and arm movements.

Other examples of grasping

  • Holding tsuka
  • Grasping softanto (soft training dagger)

Holding tsuka
Hold the tsuka with the middle finger, the thumb and the base of the little finger. Index finger and ring finger close without any pressure.

Holding softanto (soft training dagger)

Soft tanto is a safe training tool used during sparring (randori). Frequently used in a Tomiki Aikido training program.

More pictures
European Championship Antwerp 2014 – Zuiderpershuis

The same comments apply as for holding the ball or holding the tsuka of a sword.

Kihon no katachi – Basic Aikido Techniques

Kihon no katachi is not the ju-nana-hon no kata or ju-go-hon no kata (an early version of kihon no kata), but it is a collection of basic aikido techniques usefull during friendly sparring (randori). It is a basic techniques syllabus.
There are 4 different kinds of techniques in Tomiki Aikido. All techniques start from a “tegatana awase” situation.

  • Atemi Waza
  • Hiji Waza
  • Tekubi Waza
  • Uki Waza

Atemi Waza

Kihon dosa or basic movements is the source for succesfull applying atemi waza. The philisophy behind atemi waza is explained in differents posts on this blog.

  • Shomen ate
  • Ai gamae ate
  • Gyaku gamae ate
  • Gedan ate
  • Ushiro ate

Hiji Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills are necessary to apply a skillfull hiji waza.

  • Oshi taoshi – straight arm push down
  • Hiki taoshi – straight arm pull down
  • Ude gaeshi – entangled arm
  • Ude hineri- entangled arm
  • Waki gatame omote – elbow lock
  • Waki gatame ura – elbow lock

Tekubi Waza

The use of “seigyo ho” or seizing skills for control are necessary to apply a skillfull tekubi waza.

  • Kote Hineri (uchi gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Hineri
  • Kote Gaeshi (soto gaeshi)
  • Tenkai Kote Gaeshi

Uki Waza

Generally, this type of waza is translated as “floating techniques”. Basically, kuzushi or balance disturbing is performed as a throwing technique. All examples of wrist grabbing can be used to throw the opponent.
We distinguish 3 area

Kihon no katachi describe 3 major throws using Uki-waza skill.

  • Mae otoshi
  • Sumi otoshi
  • Hiki otoshi

Sparring or Randori Ho

  • Kakari geiko – continious predescribed attacks, no resistance
  • Hikitate geiko – continious predescribed attacks, escape possible for uke
  • Randori geiko – both can attack and defend
    • Dojo sparring
    • Shiai format

Example kakari geiko

Tanto randori – competition format

Judo Taiso, a scientific vehicle for Aikido

Judo Taiso
The first character 柔 is headed in general as “Ju”, but an alternative reading is “Yawara”. You will occasionally find the term “Yawara Taiso”.

This article is in general based on different documents provided by Teruo Fujiwara and Fumiaki Shishida. Certain information is also gathered from discussions in the Tomiki Aikido Study Group.

Judo Taiso, the road to Kyogi Aikido

It is unclear about Keji Tomiki’s motives for creating an Aikido competitive format. From different sources, he struggled to create what he called later “the second randori method”.
Kenji Tomiki is famous or infamous as the creator of Competitive Aikido. But I believe that his greatest contribution to the world of Aikido is the creation of Judo Taiso (Yawara Taiso), a scientific approach to Aiki-techniques.
The scientific approach has to be seen as a structured training program that can be understandable and practiced around the world. This approach is an educational learning process where teacher and student working together to find solutions to every problem encountered during the structured training process.

On the other hand, he also thought to find a place for Aikido in the school’s physical education by adhering strictly to kata as separate from physical exercises.
Basically, this was not a real issue. Unfortunately for him, to become a regular and recognised group at Waseda University, there was the requirement of the competitive element to become acccepted as an official club.
This, of course, had become a very difficult problem for him to solve the problem of a competitive format. When faced by a member at the board meeting of the Department of Physical Education of the University of Waseda this issue became very urgent.
In 1960, at the conference of the Japanese Academy of Physical Education, he presented “The methods of systematic practice of Aikido according to the Waseda style”. Tomiki reported that “I have implemented a system of practice that allows participants to do “randori” even while maintaining the “rikaku” posture. This means participants are no allowed to get hold of each other. There is also a restriction from the many Aikido techniques to 15 basic techniques (striking techniques and joint techniques).”

Some thoughts from senior students.

Some senior first-generation students, who were not involved in Waseda University sports policy, had different opinions on the issue of competition.

Tsunako Miyake Born 1926 – …
6th dan Tomiki Aikido-JAA; also 6th dan judo and 6th dan jodo. Teaches judo at the Budokan School, Tokyo. Early student of Kenji TOMIKI and Hideo OHBA, responsible for the initial training of high-ranking instructors: Takeshi INOUE, Kinuyo SAKAI, and Mitsue YAMAGATA.

In the interview with Miyake sensei, some of the comments can come across as provocative

Senta Yamada (1924-2010)
“The late Yamada of Hakata lived and trained with both Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba.

Senta Yamada (1924-2010)“The late Yamada of Hakata lived and trained with both Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba. Yamada did not approve of competition in Aikido, being of the opinion that it would make Aikido lose its roots in the same way that he felt competition Judo has little connection with its roots and good basic movements. Senta Yamada was a live-in student of Morihei Ueshiba in Wakayama after the war. Later he made the remark about some advantages of doing tanto aikido randori.

Study Group Tomiki Aikido discussion with Adrian Tyndale)

Teruo Fujiwara (graduated in 1958)

The time when I studied under Tomiki-shihan in 1956-1958 is called ‘the age of Judo Taiso’. The main ways of moving the body and hands were picked from Aiki skills, then simplified and abstracted and organized as the exercise forms. These forms are ‘Judo Taiso’. The plan of making ‘Judo Taiso’ is that by doing them repeatedly, we can learn Aiki as if we learned hundreds of thousands of skills which can benefit our bodies in a positive fashion. ‘Judo Taiso’ is the valuable legacy of Tomiki-sensei.

Tomiki-sensei wrote in the pamphlet Judo Taiso (published as the text of regular subject physical education in April 1957) that he made ‘Judo Taiso’ as the way to practice Aiki, which couldn’t be a sport, and that when practicing aikido, we must study for correctness and beauty, rather than strength. That is why our time is called ‘the age of Judo Taiso’.
I could study the beauty of Aiki following Tomiki-sensei without hesitating but there were many students interested in the strength of Aiki. It may be natural for young men who would like to study martial arts. Tomiki-sensei said that they must satisfy their desire for strength by practicing the other skills in ‘Judo Taiso’ but they didn’t always follow his suggestion.
In 1958, Aikido Club which was previously not an official club (in early times, Aikido Club was a part of Judo Club. Tomiki-sensei was also the shihan of Judo Club) was granted official status in the Department of Sport and Physical education at Waseda University. As a condition of becoming an official club, Aikido Club was required to practice as a competitive sport. There is no doubt Tomiki- sensei was considering how to develop aikido into a competitive sport as the ultimate goal, yet, he did not expect the situation to become an urgent matter. It was this requirement that forced Tomiki aikido to step into ‘the age of sport: Randori’.

Today Sport Aikido is moving toward completion step by step. However, the skill level of Sport Aikido is not the same as our ‘age of Judo Taiso’. While we must accept that wrong forms will happen in sport, Randori, ‘Judo Exercise’ is useful as the model for checking and correcting them. I think that such a correction will bring sport Randori higher, with beauty and grace. For the beginner, ‘Judo Taiso’ is the proper guidance of skills. I think it is necessary that beginners learn to perform the correct postures and beautiful movements by training in ‘Judo Taiso’. This method will help them avoid incorrect forms in future Randori practice.

Why Judo Taiso?

Judo Taiso, an Aikido approach seen from a Kodokan Judo perspective
Starting in 1952, at Waseda University, judo taiso was implemented as regular education course. In 1954 Tomiki put together the basics of Judo Taiso in a pamphlet, what he called “a practice handbook”. According to this book, judo taiso is defined as “Basic principles of a technical system of striking techniques and joint techniques, using judo principles.
The “striking techniques and joint techniques” mentioned here are found in the system of judo techniques established by Jigoro Kano, and the “striking techniques and joint techniques of aiki ju- jitsu” are nothing more than the techniques of aikido. In other words, Tomiki thought of judo and aikido as the same thing theoretically and technically; judo taiso was nothing more than the set of physical exercises derived from the synthesis of the two. 

Fumiaki Shishida

Kenji Tomiki attributed three features to Kodokan judo in the broader sense (around 1950).

  1. Judo as a sport in which one practices randori techniques in a competitive manner.
  2. Aikido as practiced through ‘kata’.
  3. Judo taiso as an instructional method to promote atemi waza and kansetsu waza not found in Judo as a sport.

He stated, “In the ancient style of jujitsu, movements of punching, striking kicking, throwing, pinning, choking, and locking joints were not differentiated but integrated in perfect harmony. “Competitive judo came to be by organizing some those skills to fit into physical education by developing them into physical exercises for randori. So, I thought of developing the “techniques of aiki” into physical exercises because we could not use this method to transform it into a competitive sport”

In 1957, Tomiki addressed the following two issues regarding the viability of aiki techniques in a school physical education program.
What reason can we find to place striking techniques and joint techniques that have been excluded from judo competitions as functioning components of a school physical education program? and how can we practice excellent striking techniques and joint techniques unless we apply them in competition?
Since, by their nature, striking techniques and joint techniques do not fit with the methods of «randori», we must get to the bottom of things (these techniques) by pursuing «kata». But it is difficult to improve the techniques of Aiki by practicing only kata, as would be done by practicing judo by randori. “Therefore, by extracting the essence of the structure and organising the techniques in the style required for physical education for an easier repetitive practice, judo taiso is born”.

From the Waseda Aikido-Bu website

In 1952, Judo Exercise was adopted into the regular physical education curriculum at Waseda University. In 1961, when Hideo Oba-shihan, an ardent Tomiki supporter, and one of Tomiki’s oldest and best students, became a part-time instructor, it seems that the title the program was renamed aikido.

Waseda University Aikido Club was founded in April 1958 and then aikido was practiced as one of regular subjects of physical education in our university. To decide the foundation and practicing aikido, the council of physical education (composed by each chief of faculty, each chief of sport club, and professors in the department of sport and physical education) set the condition of explaining or handing information of these things;

1. The historical and traditional meaning as Japanese martial arts
2. The meaning as modern physical education and the system of practice
3. The possibilities of spreading worldwide in the future

Especially, the strict opinion was “Is it possible that they have games as a sport in aikido?”
As lessons in the history of kendo and judo have shown, it is the duty of martial arts in modern times to have instances of wining or losing, which allow students to test their skills, reflect and improve their skills, all while practicing with each other under safe conditions. If actual combat was the only way to measure ability in aikido, then aikido could not be the martial art of peace. So, the council permitted the founding of the Aikido Club and agreed to adopt aikdo as part of the regular physical education curriculum on the condition that aikido be practiced as a sport. (Tomiki, The Past, Present and Future of Aikido—congratulating the 20th anniversary of founding Aikido Club, 1978)

Some historical facts about Aiki-Randori no kata

Takeshi Inoue on the creation of “Basic Kata” and “Koryu no Kata”

In about 1958, we practiced mainly the unsoku, tandoku undo, yonhon no kuzushi (the original version of the present nanahon no kuzushi) as well as the jugohon no kata (fifteen technique kata). In around 1960, the junanahon no kata (17 technique basic kata) and the roppon no kuzushi were created and then the dai-san no kata was devised as a kata of classical techniques. During the mid-60 Ohba Sensei and others worked on the creation of the kata forms of the dai-ichi (first) to dai-roku (sixth), which we presently practice as the koryu no kata, in order to work on techniques for demonstrations and for purposes other than randori. What Ohba Sensei particularly stressed in formulating these kata was the organization of different techniques in such a way that students could learn connections between techniques easily and naturally. After he had organized the techniques to some extent, Ohba Sensei reported to Tomiki Sensei and demonstrated what he had done for him. He received some advice from Tomiki Sensei and then added corrections to the kata. (“Bujin Hideo Ohba,” Kyogi Aikido Soseiki no Ayumi; Ohba Hideo Sensei o Shinobu, p. 67)

Takeshi Inoue – Shomen Ate – Uke: Eddy Wolput

Basic 15 Kata

From Shishida’s Study

In December 1962, in the Waseda University Aikido Club publication Tomiki wrote, “During this year, my research advanced from ‘randori’ [practice] to ‘competition’ and I announced it at the Waseda Sai Festival.” On the other hand, he also stated, “The completion of ‘aikido randori methods’ is very difficult. I hope all you club members will forge ahead from here with greater effort, remembering that we have many unsolved problems, and the amount of our training has been small.” As shown in this remark, he understood that there were many unsolved matters, but as far as the training system, from randori to competitive matches, was concerned, there was considerable development during the Showa 40’s (1965-).

In his Guide to the Techniques of Aiki of 1950, Tomiki divided the instructional system for the techniques of aiki into smaller headings:

a. Basic Motion (posture, movements, breaking an opponent’s balance, dodging method, method to sweep off an op- ponent),
b. Basic Techniques (10 techniques),
c. Exercises of Natural Posture (stepping exercises, stretching exercises, turning exercises, exercises for joints),
d. Exercises to break an opponent’s balance.

Of these items, a, c, and d were reorganized in the Judo Taiso editions after 1954 as
Basic Motions (a), Individual Exercises (c), and Mutual Exercises (d). Item b was similarly placed in the 1954 edition of Judo Taiso and in Aikido Nyumon [Aikido Primer] (1957) as the 15 techniques of Basic Kata (Chart 1). The 15 Basic Techniques, as seen above in the Academic Conference report, were similarly established.

Basic 17 Kata

The current Aiki Randori no Kata has 17 techniques.
Hideo Oba, Tomiki’s best disciple, made the following statement in the July 1961 issue of the Aikido Club Magazine: “The 17 techniques of the randori no kata have been established by Tomiki Shihan”. Mr. Atsushi Fujihara, who entered the university in 1959 and was a junior in 1961, stated that he recalled practicing 15 techniques of kata but that these were later revised and additions were made to create the 17 techniques of kata, although he could not remember the exact date (2/16/01 fax and telephone conversation). Mr. Kenji Uno, who became a member of the Ai- kido Club around the spring of 1961, remarked that in May of that year, at the new members’ training camp, there were 17 tech- niques of Randori no Kata (2/17/01 telephone conversation). This all leads to the assumption that, at the latest, by May of 1961, the 17 techniques of Randori no Kata had been devised and were established and being instructed.

More on Basic Kata

According to Mr. Teruo Fujiwara, who entered the university in April of 1954 and graduated in the spring of 1958, during his student days the techniques were quite fluid. According to the notes taken when he was a student, out of the 8 tekubi-waza, only 6 of them, 4 techniques of kote-hineri and 2 techniques of kote-gaeshi, were actually practiced and learned as kata. A total of 13 techniques were practiced, including 3 atemi-waza and 4 hiji-waza.
Since throughout Tomiki’s writing from 1954 he consistently referred to 15 techniques, in Tomiki’s mind, the basic techniques consisted of 15 techniques. Mr. Tamiyuki Okahara, a 1961 graduate (2/14/01 telephone conversation), Mr. Takao Tsurumi, a 1962 graduate (2/17/01 telephone conversation), and the aforementioned Mr. Atsushi Fujihira, a 1963 graduate, and many other then-club members stated that they practiced ‘Basic Kata’ repeatedly, but their memories are not precise as to the number of techniques. Mr. Tamiyuki Okahara said that after Mr. Teruo Fujiwara graduated, he practiced chudan-ate and ushiro-ate with younger members (though they then called it ‘ushiro-otoshi’, he said), and he also practiced, among the hiji-waza, waki-gatame.
Waki-gatame was a technique not mentioned in Tomiki’s writings until 1960. It seems that there probably was no emphasis on the memorization of the number of techniques as 15 techniques, as Mr. Fujiwara stated that various techniques were studied and developed “fluidly”, with the 15 techniques as the core. Further, Hideo Oba’s statement in the second issue of the Aikido Club Magazine (December 1962), “Sensei worked without rest on his ideas to establish the 15 techniques of Basic Kata, the 17 techniques of Randori no Kata, and also the Kata of Ura-waza” demonstrates that the working foundation was undoubtedly the 15 techniques.
Tomiki was using “basic technique” and “basic kata” interchangeably. I suppose it was because he thought that basic technique was practiced as kata, and when the principle of the process was established, it became defined as kata. The reason he expressed the 15 basic kata, which must have been established by 1958, as basic technique in the records of the 1960 Academic Conference Presentation could be that he interpreted the content of basic kata as basic technique. Late in his life, in 1978, Tomiki published the booklet “About Aikido Competition”, in which he listed the basic 19 techniques as separate from the 17 Randori no Kata techniques. From 1967, tanto-randori was getting popular, replacing toshu-randori.

From Judo-Taiso to Kata and Randori

We may consider the Mutual Exercises of Judo Taiso, which Tomiki recommended, the same as the practice of “Basic Kata”. But club members did not seem to follow his recommendation, and they put rather more emphasis on training in kakari-geiko. This training method was continuous repetitions of uke attacking tori, with tori executing a technique. This kind of practice was intended for students to master the techniques by repetition and at the same time, by continuing it until they became utterly exhausted, to strengthen their mental power. But Tomiki did not like it when it was done by momentum. He believed in strictly adhering to kata.

Training consisting mainly of kakari-geiko started to change in 1958, when Mr. Fujiwara graduated and the Aikido Club was permitted to form. Mr. Fujio Morimoto, a former captain who graduated in 1960, wrote; “When we became seniors [1959], the methods of randori were adopted earnestly, which had been our long-cherished dream. It took 3 or 4 years before we saw those types of methods of randori being accepted. Now, even though the methods of randori are not perfect, it has become the characteristic of Waseda University Aikido.” This tells us that from 1959, the earnest competitive methods of randori (competition in which participants fight bare-hand to bare-hand atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza) were put into practice.

The origin of Basic Kata

The origin of the 17 techniques of the Randori no Kata relative to the 15 techniques of Basic Kata is very vague and there is no writing by Tomiki on this subject, and so far we have almost no reliable eyewitness accounts. In my view, given below, Tomiki devised ways to combine the techniques of aikido with Kodokan judo’s randori and kata techniques to compile its central core.
The 15 Basic Techniques, which were announced officially for the first time in the 1954 edition of Judo Taiso, became the fulcrum for study of various techniques in a fluid manner at the Waseda University Aikido Club. The character of the Basic Kata was maintained from the 1957 edition of this publication until the 1960 Physical Education Academic Conference report material. I surmise that by May of the next year, additions and corrections were made and the 17 techniques of the Randori no Kata were conceived and established. The 17 techniques of the Randori no Kata were formed by presuming randori matches, introducing 3 new techniques of uki-waza and 1 technique of hiji-waza, and re-organizing the 8 techniques of tekubi-waza into just 4 techniques. Tomiki researched and structured these techniques to conform with the techniques of aikido, but used the framework of the randori and kata techniques of Kodokan judo.

Basic Techniques or Basic Kata?

Some years ago, in a Study Group Tomiki Aikido discussion with Fumiaki Shishida, he mentioned the idea of “a stiff demonstration of Basic 17”.
If we look at the pamphlet of Senta Yamada about training program, we can read:
Judo Taiso – Kihon no Katachi.
Katachi means “shape” and is the outer form of the kihon (basic) demonstration. In fact, what Shishida tried to explain was a rather very basic, almost rigid demonstration of basic techniques.

The basic format of techniques (kihon no katachi) has to be practised in a fluid format as the step-up to the different methods of aiki-randori.
By using a fluid format, effective applications of basic kihon can be formed and eventually new techniques will be created.
Of course, there will be always the competition rules-book which can stop people from being creative.

An outlook for non-competitive practitioners.

Judo Taiso is greatly influenced by Ueshiba’s Aikido. The training structure of Kodokan Judo is integrated and makes Judo Taiso more accessible for beginners.

Judo Taiso method is basically a training method for learning the proper body movements when performing atemi waza and kansetsu waza.

Senior practitioners can integrate their personal ideas how to improve their body movements without losing the original concept of Judo Taiso

What is Judo Taiso? 
Judo taiso is a modern gymnastic training-system to learn atemi waza (striking techniques) and kansetsu waza (joint techniques). These fundamental  movements  are the expression of the power and rhythm in atemi waza and kansetsu waza.
The Tandoku Undo are exercises to develop good posture and balance. The judo principle shizentai-no–ri (principle of natural posture) is clearly expressed in these exercises. In these exercises the use of the handblade is a reflection of the many aiki-jutsu atemi-waza and kansetsu-waza learned from Morihei Ueshiba. 
The first 3 movements are foot movements using tsugi ashi (shuffle). The next 8 movements are foot movements (unsoku ho) combined with hand movements (tegatana soho). 
The Sotai Undo are exercises which uses the kuzushi-no-ri principle of judo (breaking balance principle). In these exercises the use of good posture, proper balance, correct movement and use of the handblade are further explored. Basically we can say the sotai undo are balance breaking exercises using the handblade.

(Judo reference material by Teruo Fujiwara – 2005 – former student of Kenji Tomiki)

Kodokan Judo is centered around the idea of “kumi judo” or the fundamental Kumi-kata grips, these are asymmetrical grips by 2 opponents.

Sotai undo (Judo Taiso) start from a situation where opponent is grasping the wrist either in an aigamae situation or a gyakugamae situation.

Why grasping the wrist is explained in another article on this blog.

Starting from the concept of grasping the wrist, the randori method can be introduced. This method has 3 modes:

  • Kakari geiko – cooperative free practise
  • Hikitate geiko – cooperative free practise with flexible resistance
  • Randori geiko – free practise with flexible resistance

Other methods can be introduced to make the Aiki-Randori less or more dynamic or powerfull depending on the level of practitioners.

Judo Taiso is not Kata

As mentioned in previous paragraphs, Kenji Tomiki used 15 basic techniques as the core of his Judo Taiso system.
What is called Aiki-Randori no Kata (Basic 15, Basic 17 or ….) can be seen as a formal presentation of techniques which can be used safely during randori.
Remember the 3 features which Kenji Tomiki attributed to Kodokan Judo (as a kind of complete Budo). He mentioned the training of Aikido through Kata.
Koryu no Kata is the ideal method for to fulfill this requirement. These kata include the use of knife, sword and stick.

It is advisable to see Judo Taiso as a training method and not as a kind of fixed Kata. Of course, for senior practitioners, kata is not really fixed as a rigide structure.
Judo Taiso has to be a very flexible training tool and has to be supplemented by Randori and Kata.
This is not the “ultimate truth”, because this doesn’t exist. Some people can be very happy with only practising Judo Taiso as a gymanstic method. Others can be attracted to Koryu no kata and of course, some can be full of Randori.

Aiki-Do, the way to Aiki?

Aikido or Aiki-Do?

There are many explanations for Aiki-Do and from a historical point of view we have to look a the lineage of the many educational lines of Aiki-Do.
Morihei Ueshiba can be credited to be the founder of Aikido and was a student of Sokaku Takeda, the founder of modern Daito Ryu Aikijutsu (or Aiki-Jujutsu). Morihei Ueshiba modernized Daito Ryu and therefore changed the mechanical but also the philosophical concepts.

Is there a difference between Aikido and Aiki-Do?
The distinction between the two can be summarized as follows:

  • Aikido: the martial art created by Morihei Ueshiba, based upon a concept of natural rhythm, a free flow of personal expression that offers no conflict with nature.
  • Aiki-Do: a method to learn the skill of aiki which is to provide a method of hand-to-hand combat.

According to Japanese Martial Arts scholar Don Draeger, the personal view of Sokaku Takeda on aiki is:

The secret of aiki is to overpower the opponent mentally at a glance and to win without fighting.

Morihei Ueshiba modernized Aiki-Do, sometimes called Aiki-Budo or other names, in such a way that the concept of Aiki is different from the Daito Ryu Aiki concept. The concept of Aiki by Morihei Ueshiba is explained in “Aikido” by Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the son of Morihei Ueshiba. This book is written under supervision of Morihei Ueshiba.

Aiki is the expression of Truth itself. It is the way of calling people together and reconciling them with love whenever they may attack us.

Our interest of course is in the lineage of Kenji Tomiki. He was a student of Morihei Ueshiba for his Aikido (previously AikiBudo or other names) and this is the reason why there is a link with the Daito Ryu lineage. But can we conclude Tomiki Aikido is Daito Ryu? In my opinion, Tomiki Aikido has some Daito-Ryu influence via Morihei Ueshiba, but is not following the Daito-Ryu syllabus and therefore the movement patterns will be very different.

Another person who has an influence on Tomiki’s Aikido is Hirokazu Kobayashi from Osaka. Some of his student are claiming Kobayashi was a Daito Ryu shihan. But this seems a controversial assertion. To learn more about the link between Kobayashi and Daito Ryu, you can read an article by Guillaume Erard.
Tetsuro Nariyama, shihan of the Shodokan Dojo in Osaka has a great influence on the modern version of Tomiki’s Aikido and he was for many years a student to Hirokazu Kobayashi. During the time he learned from Kobayashi, he introduced Tomiki’s randori method to university aikido clubs under Kobayashi’s control.

Explanation by Kenji Tomiki

Kenji Tomiki gave an explanation for 2 important words, Aikido & Aiki.

  • Aikido: the old saying goes, “It is the spirit that carries the mind and controls the body.” The people of ancient times believed that man’s mind and body and consequently his strength were under the control of the spirit.

  • Aiki means making your spirit “fit in” with your opponent’s. In other words it means bringing your movements into accord with your opponent’s. After all it means the same thing as the “principle of gentleness,” for it is an explanation of the principle from within.

The perception of Kenji Tomiki is a “pragmatic” one, and most people approach his method very technically. In my opinion, Tomiki explained Ueshiba’s Aikido according the ideas of Kodokan founder Jigoro Kano, but tried to keep the spiritual message of Morihei Ueshiba. Tomiki seems to use almost non-religious words to explain a spiritual message. By using a non-religious language, some Western people are very highly attracted by the logic he used to explain his Aikido understanding. Other people regret the absence of a kind of aiki-mystery in the method.

But is this just a perception or maybe we don’t understand Tomiki’s message?

gleeson judoThere is an interesting quote of Tomiki in Geof  Gleeson’s book: Judo Inside Out:

  • When training in aiki jitsu under Professor Tomiki he often used the symbol of prayer, the placing of two hands together as signifying the purpose of prayer and religion – the duality of God and man, the yin and yang, becoming one.


Human Lifelong Activity

If we try to understand Aikido in a pragmatic way but as a lifelong activity, we cannot just build our understanding on techniques, exercises or technical kata. We have to find out the elements which can be used as criteria for Aikido as a human lifelong activity. I am not referring to the 3 principles of Judo used by Tomiki (Natural posture, Breaking the posture & Principle of Gentleness) because they are included in the Fundamental Elements.

Yōso – Fundamental elements

Yōso literally translated as “principle”, but in the context of our study we use “essential element”. Of course this is already discussed in other articles on this blog. But I would like to stress the importance of this way of thinking: A human lifelong activity.

This is only possible if we change our way of thinking from raw muscular power into a method based upon physical & mental skills, creating an Aikido method for everybody. This method is using technical skills to control attacking power of an opponent by using fundamental elements without raw muscular power.

What are the fundamental elements in the method which can be practised by everyone?

  • Ma
  • Hyoshi
  • Aiki

Ma : distance & time interval

Distance :

  • distance between 2 opponents or more
  • the distance to step to the opponent to control him, for example grasping the wrist

Time Interval :

  • the relation between distance and time
  • big and small movements and time relationship

Controlling the distance and the time to bridge the distance doesn’t need excessive muscular power, only our natural way of moving is needed. The relationship with the principle of natural posture is evident.

The exercises unsoku-ho & tandoku undo are a very basic training tool to practise how to move in a natural way. When a training partner is involved, we are confronted with the distance and the relationship with time when moving into a safe zone after a movement of the opponent. The concept of “rikakutaisei” is her involved.

Hyoshi : cadence, rhythm, tempo

  • cadence : Cadence is the total number of repeated movements (cycles) taken within a given period of time.
  • rhythm : creating movements within a pattern (waza). You create rhythm by repetition of similar movements with a variations pattern
  • tempo : the speed of a movement cycle

Learning the skill to change hyoshi with the purpose to control the opponent. There are 2 opportunities:

  • Changing the own hyoshi to create an opportunity to control the opponent.
  • Changing opponent’s hyoshi to create an opportunity to control the opponent.

Repetitive training is a basic method to learn the concept of hyoshi an includes the following parameters:

  • cadence : the total number of repetitions in a certain time
  • rhythm : repetitions of a movement pattern without changing the choreography
  • tempo : the time to perform 1 movement pattern, which is repeated several times at the same speed

Combinations of cadence, rhythm and tempo can be used.


Aiki (in aikido) is the skill to read correctly the Ma & Hyoshi of the opponent and controlling his actions. Reading the opponent is called “yomi”* and comes from “yomu” which is “to read”. We can read before or during the actions of the opponent. When this reading is correctly done, the use of power will follow the laws of natural movements with the body. No tension is required to apply power. Therefore it becomes a lifelong activity.

The concept of reading goes far beyond the use of the eyes. The total body can be seen as a sense organ and will be used to “yomi” correctly the Ma & Hyoshi of the opponent. It is most important to “un-tension” the body if we use it as a “yomi” sense organ.

Shigeru UemuraSome advice by Shigeru Uemura, former ShitoRyu karateka
In internal martial arts we advance by releasing the muscles, in other words by falling. When we release the muscles, an energy linked to gravitation is released. With the muscular relaxation, the movement is immediate, in a single time, this movement is much faster than with the muscular system which is done in two stages.
It is by releasing the weight of the body that we move. By synchronizing the muscular system, the tendinous system, the nervous system and the bone system, which makes it possible to move with high efficiency.

By following this advice the skill how to move is improving which has a great influence on reading and anticipation of opponent’s movements.

* Sometimes Yomi is referring to a kind of fortune-telling.