When you start researching the topic of aikido – firstly you discover its numerous directions. The most common and widely known among them are: the essential Aikido Foundation – Aikikai; Aikido Yoshinkan – the style created by Gozo Shioda master; Ki-Aikido – the style of Koichi Tohei master; Iwama Style – Morihiro Saito; Real Aikido – Ljubomir Vračarević. And only rarely can you find some information about Tomiki Aikido (Shodokan Aikido).

As a style, Shadokan Aikido was formed in 1960 in Waseda University, Tokyo by professor Tomiki Kenji. Name and actually the style itself is little known even to those who devoted many years to Aikido. In fairness it is worth noting that Kenji Tomiki was a great master and expert on the history of Budo.

Kenji Tomiki was born in 1900, in 1906 he started classes of Japanese fencing. Not only he began learning the traditional Kendo, but also the technique of bokken, which was rare for a child at the time. His success impressed the coaches and they recommended him to study Judo at the same time. Jenji Tomiki had his first trainings in Judo when he was 10, but his rigorous and daily Judo trainings began in 1912. Kano Jigoro becomes his coach and Kenji’s achievements become so great that soon in 1928 he gets 5th Dan in Judo Kodokan, the highest Dan in the school of Kano at the time. Subsequently Kenji Tomiki becomes the professor of Judo.

At the same time, in 1926, Kenji Tomiki becomes one of the first students of Morihei Ueshiba.

Tomiki Kenji

Tomiki Kenji

After starting to practice Aikido, within 13 years of persistent training talented Kenju Tomiki reached such success that in 1940 he became the first ever to be granted 8th Dan. All the other students of Ueshiba were awarded such high rank much later, only after the end of the Second World War. Already in 1940 Tomiki tried to create his own style of Aikido in accordance with the spirit of both coaches Kano and Ueshiba, to merge their systems and make Aikido a practice for developing the highest levels of the Kodokan. The result of this active analysis of both systems was the new kata of self-defence, introduced to Judo by Kenji Tomiki and named “Goshin Jutsu kata” (Kodokan Goshin Jutsu kata). Tomiki himself became the professor of Aikido in Kodokan and got a title of a respected Kodokan member. He stayed, nevertheless, a member of aikido school.

Most of the best Morihei Ueshiba students from the pre-war era entered the army in the late 30s, thus breaking their training careers. After the war only a few had returned to the training, the rest just kept in touch with the Ueshiba family. Among the students who returned after the war to the Hombu Dojo were Kenji Tomiki, Gozo Shioda, Koichi Tohei. The older disciples were joined by the young people who started practicing Aikido in the late 40’s or the early 50’s. A list of these students includes such well-known names as Morihiro Saito, Seigo Yamaguchi, Nobuyoshi Tamura and others.

Kenji Tomiki returned to Japan only in 1948, and at the same time he restored his relationship with the Aikikai. Tomiki joined the staff of his native Waseda University and taught there Judo and Aikido. There for the first time he started to voice his ideas of an introduction of competitions into the new martial art, which was met with disapproval by many aikidoka of those years. Since 1951 he became the head of the University’s Judo Club, although continued to study the aikido techniques. In the 1950s he sometimes conducted classes in Aikikai, and was a member of an informal group of senior disciples of Morihei Ueshiba, who were engaged in the promotion of Aikido in the early years after the war. His connection to the Aikikai ceased in 1958, when he, by the request of Waseda University management, implemented a competitive system into Aikido.

What the exact difference between Shodokan Aikido and other styles of aikido?

Throughout the life of the Aikido founder, the martial art was constantly changing. This change was going from hard to softer. According to experts, Aikido underwent major changes every 10 years. The greatest changes occurred between 1955 and 1968, when Aikido essentially became “the world’s gymnastics.”

First of all, it is worth noting that Kenji Tomiki started training from Morihei Ueshiba before the war, when the practiced style was called aiki budо and the trainings were quite hard, which strongly distinguishes it from the modern aikido.

Secondly, that distinguishes the Shodokan Aikido from the traditional aikido, it is the terminology, which for the most part is inherited from the ancient schools of Aiki-jujutsu. It is different from the terminology adopted in today’s classic aikido which purpose is to ease the memorisation. The main aspect that characterises Kenji Tomiki’s Aikido is the use of aikido technique in the open (long-reach) distance, and judo techniques in a close (short, critical) distance. However, the judo is not used in accordance with the principles of judo, but with Aiki-jujutsu, which main principle is “Tai sabaki” (body turning) with any opponent’s attack.

Competitions in Shodokan Aikido are divided into several categories (as well as can be either in pairs or in teams):

– free fight with one, two or three opponents (two rounds of 3 minutes);

– free fight with one, two or three opponents armed with knives (in this case of single opponent, after the first round they switch weapons); (Two rounds of 2 minutes);

– formal fight (kata) with an armed opponent;

– fight with an armed opponent on touching (defeating) with knife.

To make randori safe Kenji Tomiki introduced rules governing the actions of participants of the fight. First of all, he selected 17 basic techniques from a huge arsenal of technical elements which he was taught by Morihei Ueshiba. These techniques (and their combinations) allow to suddenly and powerfully get the opponent off balance, and then gently and effectively finish the action in one of 3 ways: overturning the “enemy” (5 atemi Waza), the impact on the joints (9 kansetsu waza) or doing “throw” (3 uki Waza). In case of using a brute force, the use of prohibited techniques and violation of the requirements set by the rules participant gets penalties (losing points), up to disqualification.

It needs to be noticed, that Kenji Tomiki, primarily set itself the task to develop a method of training in aikido for people who have never done any kind of Budo before. In fact, the first disciples who came to Ueshiba already had an experience of training in Budo, so their trainings in Aikido had a very improvisational character. But in the post-war years, the occupation forces of US banned the teaching of any kind of combat system in Japan, Aikido was the only kind of martial arts, which had no ban. In the post-war period, many of those who came to the Aikido gym had no experience in training. Consequently, the development of new teaching method was beginning to be considered, which included kata (formal exercises) and randori (sparring).

As a result, in 1960 the master officially announced the creation of its own style, after which the ways of Shodokan and traditional Aikido never crossed.

On the 9th of March 1975 after the official recognition of this Aikido direction created by Kenji Tomiki, Japan Aikido Association (JAA) was founded as the official governing body. It was formed by Kenji Tomiki together with the former members of Waseda University Aikido Club, Kokushikan, Seiji and members of social clubs.

Previous eponymous organization founded in 1966 and cantered around Waseda University Aikido Club was eliminated.  Now days, there are many university and public clubs, large and small, subordinate to JAA. Among them, the greatest contribution to the history of competitive aikido was made by Waseda University and the Central School Shodokan.

Waseda Aikido Club was formed in 1958. It became the basis for the development of competitive aikido, and its goal was to spread this style in the country and abroad. Shodokan was founded in April 1967 as the first Kenji Tomiki’s dojo, exclusively for research and teaching his aikido. Today Shodokan has a 81 tatamis large training gym, located in part of a five-story modern building. It was granted on the 27th of March 1988 by Masaharu Uchiyama – Vice President of JAA and a great fun of Tomiki.

The first aikido randori class was held at the University of Momoyama Gakuin University (Momoyama gakuin daigaku) on the 10th of October 1966. The class was led by Kenji Tomiki, Hideo Ohba and students from the Kanto area for students from six universities in Kansai who practiced Aikikai with Kobayashi Hirokazu. One of the students who attended this session was Tetsuro Nariyama.

The next year, on the 31st of March 1970, Kenji Tomiki conducted a short course in the New Japan Dojo headed by his friend Hamano Masahiro, the owner of 9th dan in judo. As a result, the interest of students grew rapidly, and the new style became very popular. Thanks to the understanding of Kobayashi, support from Masaharu Uchiyama, the delight of guests and students of aikido enthusiasts, it was made possible to consider holding the first national championship. The First Student Championship of Japan was held on the 15th of November 1970.

In March 1970, Tomiki retired from Waseda University. He refused to take up another teaching position, preferring instead to concentrate on training his Aikido style. The new instructor, Tetsuro Nariyama arrived to Osaka from University of Kokushikan. Tomiki occasionally visited Osaka and instructed Nariyama and others. Nariyama was teaching in Shodokan, but at the same time he learned from Hirokazu Kobayashi, who was teaching at the local university. He was helping Kobayashi to conduct trainings and had the opportunity to introduce randori to his students.

Kenji Tomiki’s adherence to Aikido and his contribution to the development of this kind of Budo are visible in his speech at the opening of Shodokan. Also it is visible in his calligraphy “mushin mugamae” and the emblem of Shodokan and JAA. All these original documents can be seen in the central hall of Shodokan.

Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, had a great idea about the preservation of all ancient budo, including aikido, into his Kodokan system. Kenji Tomiki intended to perfect the Aikido system, which he learned from Morihei Ueshiba. The meaning of Shodokan is “place for learning the way.” The first hieroglyph – “Sho” is taken from the name of the Showa period, in which Shodokan was founded. The second hieroglyph – “Do” (Way) is derived from the Kodokan Jigoro Kano.

Tomiki hoped that Shodokan will become an active centre for Shodokan Aikido. Today it is the central dojo for the JAA and the whole world of competitive aikido.

Although the Kenji Tomiki’s contribution to the development of Aikido cannot be overestimated, he is the more known in the world of Judo. In 1978, Kenji Tomiki was assigned the 8th dan in Judo.

Kenji Tomiki died in 1979. At that time, he had 8 dan in Aikikai Aikido and 8th dan in Judo. Master never assigned any ranks to himself, so he had no levels in Shodokan.

The second president of the Japanese Association of Aikido is Hideo Ohba – senior student of Kenji Tomiki, and an owner of the 9th dan. Hideo Ohba was born in 1910 in the village of Nakagawa, Akita Prefecture. During his school years he attended classes at the local judo club, and by the end of high school he became the captain of the school team. In 1931 he met with Kenji Tomiki master who came to the college as a teacher. In the same year, Hideo Oba was tested for the 2nd Dan in Judo by the Kodokan school rules. In 1942 he got a fifth dan in aikido from Morihei Ueshiba, after which he began teaching aiki-budо to police.

Hideo Ohba

Hideo Ohba

After the war, master continued to teach judo and aikido. From 1950 to 1953 he conducted trainings in Kodokan dojo. In 1960, Hideo Oba was already the owner of 6th dan in Judo and 6th dan in Aikido. He worked as a teacher at the Department of Physical Education in Waseda University. The master put a lot of effort to promote Tomiki aikido both in Japan and abroad. He conducted numerous workshops at various university clubs in Japan, and also in the UK, USA and Australia.

In 1978, Hideo Oba was awarded 9th Dan from the Japan Aikido Association. The intensive work carried out by Sensei Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba had led to Tomiki Ryu becoming quite popular in European countries and the United States. The last years of his life the master was often sick, but the time outside of hospital he spent training in the dojo. After his death in 1986, his place in the university of Kokusinkan was taken by Tetsuro Nariyama. He became technical director of the Japan Aikido Association, and was appointed one of Shodokan style leaders.

Kenshi Uno

Kenshi Uno

Currently, the president of JAA is a granddaughter of the founder – Masako Tomiki, and until 2014 Vice President – Kenshi Uno, 8 th dan Tomiki Aikido and 3rd dan Kendo.

In 1960 Kenshi Uno enrolled the law faculty of the University of Waseda. During his studies he became a member of the University Club of aikido and trained directly from Shihan Kenji Tomiki. All his life he devoted to the development of Aikido in the world, and Kenshi Uno was the one, who introduced post-Soviet countries to the style of Shodokan Aikido. In 2001, Uno Sensei wrote the book “Competitive Aikido – the thought, theory, technique”. The book was published in Russian, Japanese and English, and is the first book in Russian, which talks about competitive Aikido or Tomiki Aikido. Also Shihan Kenshi Uno is the curator of the Russian, Ukrainian and Georgian federation competitive aikido. Since 90s Uno Sensei visited Russia and Ukraine, holding workshops and certifications. In recent years, he was assisted to do this by his colleague – Chief Instructor of the Japan Aikido Association – Satoh Tadayuki.

Sato Tadayuki, 6th Dan Aikido, was appointed to be a Shihan in Aikido of Waseda University in 2007. This post has been vacant since the death of Professor Tomiki in 1979. Sato is an expert in his area in particular in the relationship between aikido and judo (Tadayuki Satoh is Sato Gohatiro’s son, who had an 8th dan in Judo). Gohatiro Sato was a friend of Kenji Tomiki, who learned judo with him at the Waseda University club.

When Tadayuki Satoh was 14 years old, he met Kenji Tomiki for the first time. In 1977 Tadayuki enrolled to Waseda University and started practicing both aikido and judo (what was permissible, as Tomiki was Shihan of both clubs), and continued until the second year, after having decided to only stay at the aikido club. Tadayuki frequently visited Tomiki Sensei for a more complete and detailed study of the martial art of aikido.

At present, Tadayuki Satoh, is the technical director of the Kharkiv Tomiki Aikido Federation.

As for the Ukraine, today there is only one federation representing Tomiki Aikido – it is Kharkiv Tomiki Aikido Federation, which is the official branch of the Japan Aikido Association (JAA) since 2000.

The president of the federation Oleg Shapovalov has 4th dan Tomiki Aikido, is a master of sports in sambo, and master of sport in shooting.

He is the instructor of hand combat, and an instructor in Qigong. Education – higher technical (Kramatorsk Industrial Institute), specialisation – mechanical engineer.

Second higher education – pedagogical (Kharkiv National Pedagogical University named after G.S. Skovoroda), an education manager, practical psychologist. During the existence of the Ukrainian Federation of Tomiki Aikido, from 2000 to 2016, Oleg Shapovalov had prepared more than 30 black belts.

Тадаюки Сато и Шаповалов Олег Леонидович

Satoh Tadayuki and Oleg Shapovalov