History of Tomiki Aikido

In feudal Japan, it was common practice to only teach martial arts to members of the family. Due to changing times and political events in the 1800’s, Takeda Sokaku began teaching the compilation of his family’s martial arts to non-family members. This art would come to be known as Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu (大東流合気柔術). Aiki-jūjutsu is known for affecting three styles of martial arts: hard, soft, and hybrid. Traditional jujutsu and aikido taken origin in this hybrid art due to their focus on catching an attack early and immobilizing the attacker. They also share an emphasis on throws, joint locks and manipulations, pins, timing, and balance to propagate efficient self defense, but also share the use of deadly strikes known as atemi.

In the early 1900’s, a young Ueshiba Morihei moved to the northern region of Japan and began training under Takeda Sokaku. Eventually, Ueshiba went on to develop the martial art of aikido.

Today, Aikido has a rich heritage as one of the most important and dynamic expressions of Japan’s long martial arts tradition. It is a graceful and sophisticated Japanese martial art that functions almost purely defensively as it teaches no kicks or punches and has relatively few aggressive moves.

The central themes of Aikido are to learn to defend without vengeance, to forgive your enemies and to harmonize with any attack. By using the attacker’s momentum, the Aikido practioner takes the attacker’s balance, controls his force, and ultimately neutralizes the attack. Aikido’s lessons of physical and mental self-discipline, focus and commitment can be applied throughout one’s lifetime. The unique blending of form, utility, and ethics is responsible for Aikido’s popularity today.

A New Style of Aikido Unfolds

Kenji Tomiki was born on the 15th of March, 1900 in Akita Prefecture. His first martial arts training began at the age of 6, when he took up a bokken (wooden Japanese sword), and soon after began studying kendo. At the age of 10, he began his training in Judo. His skills and dedication to training were such that, after being the captain of the Judo Team at Waseda University in Tokyo, he became an uchi-deshi (live-in student) of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. It was through his association with Kano that Tomiki Sensei came to be acquainted with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido.

In 1926, Ueshiba Sensei arrived in Tokyo, and asked to meet with Kano Sensei, that Kano might be shown the new art form that Ueshiba was developing (and which he would a decade later christen “Aikido”). Kano was much impressed by both Ueshiba himself, and by the system of budo that he was formalizing. In fact, he was so impressed that he offered his top Judo student to Ueshiba, urging Ueshiba to take that top Judo student under his wing and teach him the new art form. That top Judo student was Kenji Tomiki.

Tomiki Sensei went along quite willingly, as it was clear that Ueshiba had much knowledge to impart. Tomiki Sensei studied under Ueshiba’s personal direction for over a decade, and was such a diligent student that he was the first deshi to whom Ueshiba ever awarded a Menkyo, the much sought after teaching credential of the promotion systems of old style Japanese martial arts. It is roughly equivalent to an 8th degree black belt. (In later years, when Aikikai Aikido, Ueshiba’s style, went to a dan system, all old menkyo certificates were recognized as 8th Dan under the dan system.)

In the 1930’s, Tomiki Sensei was awarded a Professorship at Kengoku University, which the occupying Japanese government had set up in Manchuria. Though it is little known outside the martial arts community, Tomiki Sensei was a famous calligrapher. To this day, his brushworks are much sought after by collectors. Knowing that, one will be less surprised to discover that Tomiki was in Manchuria not as a Professor of Budo or Judo or Athletics, but of Calligraphy. He did, however, volunteer himself as the university’s Judo instructor, and made Aiki practice and principles mandatory for all of his students.

Kenji Tomiki’s style of Aikido is a style that strives to combine the competitive excitement of Judo with the spiritual serenity of traditional Aikido.

Kenji Tomiki (1900-1979) was perhaps more suited than anyone else in history to combine the disciplines of Judo and Aikido; during the 1920′s and 1930′s he studied intensively with both Jigoro Kano, the founder of modern Judo, and with Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido. Kenji Tomiki earned the rank of 8th Dan in both Judo and Aikido.

Tomiki Aikido

The history and development of Professor Kenji Tomiki’s system of Aikido is fascinating. We have included several writings (in PDF format) by Sensei Kenji Tomiki regarding budo development in Japan in regards to Aikido, Judo, and Jujutsu.  Seiji Tanaka wrote an article about his memories of Tomiki Sensei  at Waseda University in Japan.