Aiki-Randori, the approach of Kenji Tomiki.

I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and possibility of judo being introduced with other games and sports at the Olympic Games. My view on the matter, at present, is rather passive. If it be the desire of other member countries, I have no objection. But I do not feel inclined to take any initiative. For one thing, judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment. Only one of the forms of judo training, so-called randori or free practice can be classed as a form of sport.
Jigoro Kano


Probably, Jigoro Kano knew very well he could not stop the sportification and competisation of Judo. The same story we can find in the sportification of Karate. Gichin Funakoshi was not a fan of “kumite”.
Aikido as a competition sport is the result of Kenji Tomiki’s way of thinking. He thought that by sportification, Aikido couldt be promoted in the same way as the promotion of the Western Sports. There is of course also the pressure by the Councel of Waseda University.


Randori or kumite* is a kind of sparring used by Japanese martial arts, but you will find similar training methods in non-Japanese martial arts.
To be clear, randori is not competition, although randori can be used in a competition format.
During sparring, focus is on the fundamentals of the method and includet stability, mobility and smart use of power.
Another feature of Japanese martial arts is the use of “waza” and “kata” to teach the important elements of the art.
Sparring or randori is the method to test the efficiency of your skills learned through the study of waza and kata.

*Although in karate the word kumite is usually reserved for sparring, some schools also employ the term randori with regard to “mock-combat” in which both karateka move very fast, parrying and attempting acts of extreme violence with all four limbs (including knees, elbows, etc.) yet only ever making the slightest contact. Total control of the body is necessary and therefore only the senior grades can typically practice randori. In these schools, the distinction between randori and kumite is that in randori, the action is uninterrupted when a successful technique is applied

Waza can be described in 2 ways

In general, waza can be practised in 2 ways

  • Hard techniques (Go), relying on athletic performance and muscular power. Hard, in martial arts terms, means using force mainly produced with the help of our external movement system.
  • Soft techniques (Ju), relying on internal resources of the practitioner. Soft, in the case of martial arts, signifies a yielding, accepting, or non-resistive.

Most of the martial arts using a combination of hard and soft techniques. Sometimes hard technique is dominant, sometimes soft is the dominant factor.
The engine of waza is movement and is called tai-sabaki or body movement. Tai-sabaki has 3 main components:

  • Koshi-sabaki – concerning the hara region
  • Ashi-sabaki – concerning the legs and feet
  • Te-sabaki – concerning the arms and hands

The integration of the 3 components is necessary to perform an efficient action. The study of kata is the most important tool in Japanese martial arts for studying fundametals.

Kata, collection of waza

Kata may be thought of as an old presentation of type of techniques and concepts.
The transfer of knowledge of the practice of kata can not be replaced by watching video clips without practice. Nevertheless, video and digital tools may be helpful in the absence of teachers.
And there’s also a concept of “feeling”. A teacher may give you the physical and mental sensation of waza. Of course, there are practitioners who have the capacity of kinetic awareness just by looking at the movements.

Kodokan Judo

Kodokan Judo Go-no-kata and Ju-no-kata are 2 examples of hard and soft techniques in 1 martial art. Although Kodokan Judo is promoting the “Ju” aspect of their art, when the competition side comes to the foreground many competitors forget the softness.
The “Go” aspect of Judo can be found in their approach of what is called “Olympic Judo”. Most of the Judo matches are dominated by the “Go” aspect. Of course we must remember, hard techniques also have some “Ju” influences.

Tomiki Aikido

Aikido is a martial art and the techniques has the label “soft”.
The goal of the soft technique is deflecting the attacker’s force to their disadvantage.
Soft technique doesn’t mean without power. The defender is using power in a very smart way. The “Ju” aspect is the dominant factor.

A special feature of Tomiki Aikido is the concept of randori. In fact not all the randori formats in Tomiki Aikido can be called “Aikido”, we better call it “Randori Kyogi” or “Sports Randori”.
During Sport Randori most of the practitioners change their mind from a soft approach to a hard approach. For some practitioners, winning or not losing becomes the goal.

The Philosophy of Competition (JAA NPO)
Sports Aikido was borne from the research on reorganization of Aikido from educational viewpoint made by Professor Kenji Tomiki who was the initial Chairperson of our Association. Tomiki Shihan preached the necessity of practicing “Randori” in parallel with the practice of “Kata” in order to make Aikido to serve modern education and to develop as a valuable national culture. “Randori” is the practice with which the players can compete mutually with their free intention. By studying “Kata” and “Randori” in combination, technical principles of Budo such as Shizen-tai (natural posture), Kuzushi (posture-collapsing technique), Yawara (flexibility in movement), Sen (way of taking priority in movement), Ma-ai (distance keeping), Metsuke (way of eye-focusing), and Tou-ho (sword method) can be internalized in oneself for the first time.
On the other hand, the competition was set for making it objective that the ability is cultivated through Randori practice and using it as a material for reflection toward further improvement of spirit and technique. The competition can be expected to have a nurturing effect on such as keeping calm, fighting spirit, mind of suppressing one’s desires and overcoming oneself, and being merciful and compassionate. Therefor it is not expected to fall into the harm of supremacy of victory in the competition, taking advantage of its purpose and features.

Winning is not the same as not losing

During randori, a mixture of hard and soft can be seen. If the level of the practitioner is insufficient, too early exposure to randori can create an attitude of “not losing the fight by blocking”. Of course, randori can be fun and is a magnet for many practitioners. The non-Japanese martial arts have a similar problem.
In Chinese martial arts, the pushing hands method is an often used method to test the skills of yielding and power explosion. It is transformed into a competition method. The perception of these events has nothing to do with martial art itself. Most of the time this is a muscular display where the strongest and heaviest has the largest opportunity to win. Avoid losing is carried out by blocking an opponent’s action using muscle power.

Aiki Randori-ho

The early practitioners of Tomiki Aikido had an advanced knowledge of Kodokan Judo. People like Senta Yamada (6th Dan Kodokan Judo) and Miyake Tsuneko (6th Dan Kodokan Judo) are well known by the older generation of Tomiki Aikido.
Both teachers broke away from mainstream Tomiki Aikido after the introduction of competition into Tomiki Aikido. Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba actively promoted the competitive concept. But for those who were high level Kodokan Judo, the creation of a new competition format was not a major goal for the study of Aikido.
When Senta Yamada came to the United Kingdom in the late 20th century, he remarked that there is a certain advantage in the “tanto-randori-competition”.

Before adopting the competition in Tomiki Aikido an experimental format randori was introduced to the students of the Judo Club called Aiki-Randori.

Text published for Aikido-Division – Waseda Judo Club (around 1950)

A way of Aiki-Randori
by Kenji Tomiki
Professor Waseda University
Physical Education

People who have learned Kodokan Judo or Aikido will benefit a lot from the atemi-waza and kansets-waza randori-ho.

Table of content
Section 1 General
Chapter 1 What is Aiki-Randori-ho
Chapter 2 The development of Jujutsu (or Budo) by “sportification”
Chapter 3 The importance of a renewed Budo (Bujutsu) in education
Chapter 4 The importance of sportification of (Budo) exercises
Chapter 5 Aiki Randori-ho and Goshin Jutsu (selfdefense)
Section 2 Techniques
Chapter 1 Warming up  (light callisthenics, flexibility and toning exercises, ukemi)
Chapter 2 Basics for Randori (posture, unsoku, tegatana, kumimasenai *, kuzushi)
Chapter 3 The techniques for Randori-ho (atemi waza, hiji waza, tekubi waza and uki waza)
Chapter 4 Combination and switching techniques (renraku henka waza) for atemi waza and kansetsu waza

*Kumimasenai : how to avoid to be gripped, punched or kicked

What is Aiki Randori-ho?

To revive old style jujutsu atemi waza and kansetsu waza, aiki randori-ho was created. Aiki randori-ho is modernized old style “aikido” and is a way to practise atemi waza and kansetsu waza.
Aiki randori-ho is following the same footsteps as my teacher Jigoro Kano, creator of Kodokan Judo. He developed Judo Randori by combining the best elements from Tenjin Shinyo Ryu and Kito Ryu.
Repeating the kata endless time was the old way of training, however randori training has the following advantages :

  • The emphasis is on making the will alive to investigate the mechanism of techniques, the content is more important than the outer form.
  • Modern sport education develops human character and improves the personality of the human being. Aiki Randori-ho is suited for this education goal.

To reorganize old style jujutsu into randori-ho, Jigoro Kano limited randori-ho to nage waza and katame waza and created the “kumu” method of training, grasping eri and sode (collar and sleeve). This method became the trademark of Kodokan Judo.
The downside of this method was atemi waza and kansetsu waza were almost entirely omitted. To use the full potential of old style jujutsu we must keep the atemi waza and kansetsu waza in the format of aiki randori-ho.

Aikido (old style) has its roots in the former Aizu-han, especially in the Takeda family, teachers of Daito-Ryu Aiki Jujutsu. My master Ueshiba who was taught by Sokaku Takeda, added original elements and the style was called first Aikibudo and later Aikido. He taught his art as an ascetic practice. (shindo-no-gyōhō)

The content of Morihei Ueshiba Aikido (not contemporary Aikido) could be assigned to old style bujutsu. It is in principle empty hand fighting (toshu), but sometimes against tanto, katana, yari and bo. The practitioners are able to use those weapeons by themself. In other words, it is a versatile martial art suitable for real battle. The training is just like old style bujutsu based upon repitition of the form.

Kansetsu waza are the most advanced in Aikido, above all others. Kansetsu waza is frequently used against tanto, katana, yari and bo.
To revive kansetsu waza in aiki-randori, I have added techniques from old style judo kata.
In contrast to the Judo Randori-ho Kumu-method (grasping the dogi), in Aiki Randori-ho I introduced Rikakutaisei, keeping posture apart. The meaning of rikakutaisei is using atemi waza and kansetsu waza when you are not grasped and avoiding punching or kicking.
The purpose in old style jujutsu of atemi waza and kansetsu waza was to inflict damage to the opponent. In Aiki Randori-ho the purpose of atemi waza and kansetsu waza is nage (throwing) or osae (holding), which makes no difference with the concept of Kodokan Judo nage waza and katame waza. Atemi waza and kansetsu waza must be performed in Aiki Randori-ho without the intention to hurt the opponent.

On Jujutsu and its Modernization

The next article is based on the older article (1950) and contains an overview of the methods for practicing Aiki-randori.

Shiai – Competition

Shiai is the testing of oneself. The phrase is made up of two Japanese words. “Shi” means “to test” and “ai” means to meet. It’s generally accepted that a shiai is a competition, but the concept of the word implies “testing” more than “fighting.”

Sadly, not everyone understands that concept. Winning a medal becomes important and sometimes the concepts proposed by the founders are ignored.
Investing in loss is not an option for those individuals. The good news is that not everyone is looking for medals and champions. Investing in losing can be very beneficial to improve your skills with the correct attitude and training. Not to lose competition through blocking must be avoided.
Many champions understand that winning is the result of training and the next contest again requires training and persistence with the right attitude.

Rikaku-Taisei, a game of distance

When there is less contact between the two, the muscular strength component becomes less important.

Tomiki, who meticulously analyzed all jujitsu techniques, proposed “rikaku-taisei-no-randori“, i.e., randori in the non-contact position, in addition to kumi-randori. Kumi-randori is the standard way of fighting in Judo.

Fighting from a distance, an expression with simple words but the content is a lot more complicated. In the situation of grappling, most of the people are successful when using a lot of muscle power. When there is less contact between the two, the muscular strength component becomes less important.

Kenji Tomiki once said the Ki of Kendo is one of the most important elements of Japanese Budo. Kendo in this case is not limited to “the sportive way”, but includes all the arts where weapons are used. (Kendo, Iaido, Jodo, Naginatado……..Yagyu Shinkage-ryu kenjutsu)

Taikan : a non-verbal way of communication

An unconscious bodily feeling process to create communication with an opponent. Without communication we cannot feel the intention and power of the opponent. Relaxation is a major component of the Taikan skill.

The ultimate intention of taikan is the feeling of the opponent’s Ki. We cannot explain Ki by words, only by non-verbal communication. Ki can be felt by an intermediate of the body. The more the ego can be pushed to the back, the better we can have Ki sensations. Feeling the Ki is closely linked to the ability of relaxing mind and body.
Ki is a living entity and gives shape to our world. Ki is not only spiritual or mental power, but also the energy which gives shape to the world around us, including our opponent in martial arts.
On a very primitive level, we can see, hear and feel the body of our opponent, on a more advanced level we can sense the more subtle forms of Ki.

Seme : pushing with Ki

In Japanese sword martial arts like Iaido, the concept of Ki-Ken-Tai Ichi or the concept of the integration of Ki, sword, body and technique, can be studied by using Seme or pushing with Ki.
It is the spirit which guides the body, but sometimes it is the body which guide the spirit by using the subtlety of the Ki. If the body (and mind) is relaxed, we are made aware of the Ki in the body and this Ki is guiding the body and also the spirit.

To study Seme, some postures and movements are utilized to express the concept of Seme. Don’t confuse Seme with a feint. A feint like metsubushi (blinding the eyes) is provoking a movement in the opponent (his spirit), while Seme is pushing the opponent in a position where he cannot move (his spirit).

Ma : the space for the “moving” KI

If you hold a sword and you concentrate on holding the hands on the handle, the space of your focus (and your muscular power) is very small. If the opponent hit your sword for example with a stick (jo) and at the same time project his Ki to control your spirit, your sword will be wiped away and you will expose yourself to his attack. This is the key to success in the “hiki-otoshi-uchi” of Shindo-Muso-Ryu Jujutsu.

If you hold the sword and you use the concept of Seme, your space will become much bigger and your spirit will not be disturbed by the movement of your opponent. The key is to empty the mind for better sensing the mind of the opponent.
Becoming aware of “Ki” is easier when you hold a weapon in your hand. It is more difficult to sense the subtlety of Ki when you are in a situation of “close combat” or grappling situation.

In the situation of grappling you don’t have the time to detect the subtle forms of “Ki”, you are confronted immediately with raw muscular power. Only when you bring “Ma” into your training, you can learn about Seme or pushing with Ki. The more skill you acquire in sensing the Ki, the better you will cope with the opponent.

Tomiki emphasized the “Ki of Kendo” and “The principle of judo” as the essence of Japanese martial arts. His view on randori in aikido is heavenly influenced by these thoughts. It was always his dream to create a full scope of randori.

Picture of Tomiki around the time he entered the dojo of Ueshiba.

According to Tomiki’s recollection of his experience 50 years ago (1927), Tomiki tried to grasp Ueshiba’s collars or sleeves when was asked to attack him. Ueshiba was not there at the moment he thought to do it. Tomiki tried it again. The same thing happened. Tomiki was thrown by him at the same time he was struck by a blow. Then, Tomiki’s wrist was twisted. After that, Ueshiba said: “why have you learned only grasping techniques?”
1977 – Tadayuki Satoh visit to Kenji Tomiki

The secret of aikido is in the use of “atemi”

When Tomiki tried to grasp Ueshiba, he was struck by a blow (atemi), then Tomiki’s wrist was twisted. This episode (1927) in the training of Tomiki with Ueshiba is the origin of “rikakutaisei”.

Don’t grasp the wrist or dogi of the opponent when the opponent is not disturbed in his mind. Maybe you can have some victory, but mostly it will depend on muscular power.

Yawara (Judo) Taiso, the art of fencing without a sword

Aikido is closely related to the use of the sword and Tomiki Aikido is not an exemption. Use of the tegatana resembles the use of the sword. Even in martials arts which are not directly linked to the use of the sword we can find teachers who are using a sword to teach ways to discover Ki. Below an article describing the use of weapons in Karate-do by Mitsusuke Harada, MBE (原田 満祐, Harada Mitsusuke, born 16 November 1928) is a prominent Japanese master of Shotokai karate. Harada holds the rank of 5th dan, personally awarded by Gichin Funakoshi in 1956.

Harada encourages his senior students to work with a heavy bokken and Bo Staff. What is the point of this? It promotes an understanding of how to use ones own body when not using a weapon. Not just from a technique point of view, but most importantly it gives the correct feeling necessary, the feeling of energy projection. Harada wields his Bokken using projected thrusts that transmit their focus outwards. Then at a given signal a student would remove the bokken and another would attack him. Harada, still using the feeling of the Bokken, would destroy the advancing oi-zuki in mid-attack using a Bokkenless thrust of his open hands. In his hands, Harada explains, is still his Bokken (even though it has been removed).