Otake Risuke, the late Shihan of the oldest continuously practiced martial art in Japan (Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu), ended his books about martial arts with poems and sermons about our responsibility to our parents and fore-bearers.  This idea is deeply embedded in Japanese culture and Budo in a manner that we as Westerners have a hard time grasping.  We have a responsibility to those who came before us and those who have taught us.

Tomiki Sensei’s Aikido, though developed by him,  is deeply beholden to his two teachers, Jigaro Kano Sensei of Judo and Ueshiba Sensei of Aikido. Both of their influences run throughout the system. Kano was a deeply conservative individual whilst committed to modernizing Japan, Ueshiba was far more focused on the preservation of historic art and the furtherance of the shinto/new religion but he emphasized the spiritual ends of practice.

 Kano was focused on updating the practice of and preserving the traditional grappling arts.  This led to his development of competitive randori for the practicing of gripped throwing and pinning techniques.  He did not feel he had developed a good method for practicing at the extending range of striking or an individual moving to get to grip range. He wanted Tomiki sensei and other students to train with Ueshiba because he saw the Daito Ryu Aikibudo he practiced as embodying the best techniques at that range. Kano was always concerned that his students develop in a balanced manner by emphasizing the structured kata that would instill proper body motions within the practitioner as well as randori to test those techniques in a resistant situation.

Ueshiba sensei’s system of Aikido developed out of the Daito Ryu (Great Eastern School) of Sokaku Takeda Sensei as a distillation of the many techniques passed on there.  It’s unknown exactly what style of grappling Sokaku trained (he stated it was a family system not taught to outsiders) in but combined with his skill in Ono-ha Itto Ryu Kenjutusu (Takeda was a prodigy – receiving menkyo kaiden at 18 years of age) seemed to have developed into the style he called Daito Ryu once he began publicly teaching for profit.  The emphasis on range and the use of  sword as a basis of the techniques is emphasized.  In his Budo Renshu text, that he gave to students when he considered them ready to be instructors, the last poem he included was:

‘When you instruct

  Emphasize the strike and thrust

For all the secret teachings

  Are to be found in simple basics’   (Budo Training in Aikido, pg 19)

The core tenets of Tomiki’s system drew from both the structure, pedagogy and techniques of Kano’s Judo and other classical arts Kano taught while seeking to apply the techniques of Daito Ryu that operate at the range.  Initially it appears that Kano and Tomiki were both looking to develop a system that could be added alongside Judo randori to allow the striking and closing techniques to be added to Judo making it a more rounded system.  Following Kano’s death and Tomiki’s time in the Russian Gulag the new leadership of the Kodokan did not want to seek to integrate a new system into the Judo they had received from Kano.

The 3 Principles and 6 Concepts are the governing ideas that make up Tomiki’s system of Aikido and Foundational Practices that are performed, drawn from both Kano and Ueshiba.  The 3 Principles, Ju no Ri (Gentleness), Shizen Tai (Natural body posture) and Kuzushi (breaking balance/structure) derive from Kano sensei. Kano referred to them collectively as seiryoku saizen katsuyo – “most efficient – minimum force”. (Mind over Muscle, Jigaro Kano pg 43).  This idea is often abbreviated as Seiryoku-Zenyo governs the tactics of Judo and Tomiki Aikido where the goal is always to find the most efficient manner of achieving success. The 6 concepts are derived from Ueshiba’s Aikibudo and underlie all of the technical corpus.  The Foundational Practices are a distillation of the fundamental techniques of Aikido into extremely complex but easy to introduce practice that can be done in a half hour or so.

The 3 Principles – “Most efficient – minimum force”

Ju no Ri – The principle that by avoidance or by responding in a non-competitive manner in our application of force.  By yielding, avoiding or approaching from a non conflicting line we are able to use force in a manner that causes the opponent to waste their energy or be unable to resist our application of energy. 

Shizentai – by training ourselves to move with proper posture we are able to quickly move our bodies out of the way of force and generate our own force in an efficient manner that connects our entire structure and weight behind each technique. Ideally it should lead to a state where you move in the most balanced manner at all times and techniques will be expressed that are appropriate without preplanning.

Kuzushi – taking balance.  By applying force when an opponent is moving or when he has just finished moving but not yet stabilized his structure you can most efficiently disrupt his balance.

The 6 Concepts – all derive primarily from Ueshiba’s Aikibudo

Maai – distancing.  Training seeks to develop a keen awareness of the distance at which others can be a threat to your body and at which you are able to effect theirs.  Your maai unarmed is better known to you because it is fixed and you use it daily, but when any tool is added it can dramatically change that distance.  The height and mobility of each training partner effects their maai and serves as an ongoing tool for practicing

Metsuke – eye contact. One’s perception of the surroundings is vital to detecting movement and attack as well as allowing one to move in a manner that doesn’t place oneself at a disadvantage.  A soft focus that perceives the entire situation is the goal.

Seichusen – center line. A multifactorial idea that covers both offense and defense.  Your centerline is an imaginary axis through your center. In reality it can be thought broadly as in the frontal direction between where our hands are if extended forward.  This is the area in which you can most efficiently apply force as our muscles are adapted to generate forward energy. This is also the location where our vital organs are located so that an unsophisticated opponent is likely to attack on this line as well.  We attack, defend, and move within this frame

Tegatana – hand sword – in Aikido the use of the arm as if it were a rigid blade is the most common visualization and tool for applying our energy to the opponent.  Unlike other styles kicking, hooking and tripping is not emphasized in Aikido

Toitsu Ryoku –  unified power. The use of the body contact to apply the whole of your force to an opponent. It can involve contact at multiple sites, but following kuzushi the partner’s body will have a line of tension that is keeping their distorted structure falling, by applying force to that meandering skews of tension we can lock or topple the opponent.  If we were in a self defense situation then striking that pretensed area will damage the opponent most effectively.

Ido Ryoku – Locomotive force – whole body movement allows you to attack the opponent’s weakened structure with your entire body

Fundamental Techniques – based on the pedagogy of Kano these drills were developed to help develop the 3 and 6.   – These foundational techniques only take a ½ hour or so in every class, but they contain the entirety of the art.  Everything we do in the kata and waza are expressions of these basic movements with an opponent. 

Basic Warm ups – serve to move the body and prepare it to be ready to move

Unsoku – footwork drills – moving with a balanced and integrated body helps teach seichusen, ido ryoku, ju no ri, all while maintaining shizentai

            Tegatana dosa – hand swords teach tegatana, toitsu ryoku, ido ryoku, seichusen and shizentai while integrating those basic body movements that will become the eventual kuzushi and throws that are later practiced. All the randori and kata techniques use these basic motions.

            Tegatana Awase – Sticking drill – teaches ma’ai, tegatana, metsuke and movement while maintaining shizentai

Shote Awase – Push Drill – learning to accept and ground force and how to project and drive through – teaches and reinforces all six of the concepts at once

Breakfalls – reinforce gentleness and suppleness of body allowing one to take force and dissipate in the most efficient manner

The randori techniques and the kata that we perform all are applications of the fundamental movements contained within these starting drills.

            Tomiki moved to create an art that is uniquely based on his experiences training under his teachers.  His art remains deeply indebted to both Kano and Ueshiba and their influence can be felt seen expressed throughout the art that created.  We, too, reflect our teachers in many ways and seek to express in new ways what we have learned from them and what has been handed on to us.



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