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.