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.
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).
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.
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.