Kenji Tomiki’s Teachings Art And Spirit

Complex techniques

About the same time there was some special training with a Daitoryu Aikijujitsu teacher in the small dojo in the Japan Budokan and we joined in immediately. During his demonstration he showed a technique that left an impression on me in particular. He was spread-eagled face up on the tatami with four people holding his ankles and wrists and in an instant these four people were thrown off. We had difficulty believing this because it was difficult enough against just one person in randori practice or a match. It was a very strange spectacle but the talk of all my fellow students was that it didn’t appear to be a fake technique. Later I asked Tomiki Shihan about it and his unexpected reply was, “I can do that anytime!”. However, straight away I didn’t believe him and doubt remained somewhere in my mind.

In July 1979, more than ten years later, the 2nd All Japan Competitive Aikido Meeting was held following on from the previous year. It was organised by the JAA and took place in Shihan’s home town of Kakunodate in Akita prefecture. He had only just made a comeback from abdominal surgery in August of the previous year and taught with bandages wrapped around his abdomen. I was nominated as his uke for both days. It was an opportunity for him to show me the technique that I had been shown more than ten years earlier by the Daitoryu teacher. He did it very easily and without effort. Once again, needless to say, I was astonished at the depth of techniques.

I shiver when I recall the morning practice on the second day. During the get-together on the previous evening I drank the delicious local sake until dawn which resulted in a very bad hangover and an intense headache. In addition, I had eaten several bowls of rice with my favourite green soybeans picked from a local field which resulted in a swollen jaw. My physical condition was in the worst state. Well, the practice began and Tomiki Shihan who was unusally excited threw me with a strong and wonderful shomen ate but I felt that it was a cruel technique. Even so the number of breakfalls increased and for some reason the effects of the alcohol disappeared and somehow I managed to finish. He was convalescing at that time and in his physical condition it was a miracle how he could have that sort of endurance. Maybe he knew how long he had left to live because he died five months later.

Teaching attitude

On 10th October 1969, Tomiki Shihan and Oba Shihan travelled to the Showacho campus of Momoyama Gakuin University in Osaka with aikido club members from Waseda, Kokushikan and Seijo universities. Here they started to introduce randori to seven Kansai area universities.

While returning to Tokyo, after a short time, Shihan said something like, “The Kansai students look like they really want to do randori. Will you go to Osaka for me?” It was a real honour to be recommended but as I already had an unofficial job offer I couldn’t give an immediate reply. For the first time, my father and I had a man-to-man talk. I talked frantically about my enthusiasm and dreams of doing aikido. My father talked about how his wishes as a young man were never fulfilled. He encouraged me by saying, “You are only young once.” Shihan’s recommendation was the trigger for me and I committed myself to Tomiki Sensei so that I could lead a life of aikido.

In the autumn of 1969, when I had just become a 4th year student, I decided to go to Osaka as an instructor to spread randori to the Kansai area university students. It was normal not to attend practice as a 4th year student but I continued to practise which did not please the club leaders.

In those days Shihan was in charge of the course in budo theory in the Physical Education Faculty so I attended the lectures. When he lectured his voice was calm, quiet and very easy to listen to. However, most of the students attending the lectures were face down on their desks asleep, talking to the person next to them or doing something that had nothing to do with the lecture. The only ones listening seriously were the few people in the front row.

About that time, on one of Shihan’s lecture days, I accompanied him from the university to Umegaoka station. In a coffee shop in front of the station he treated me to his favourite apple pie and choux cream. My mind danced as I listened to his deep ideas and far reaching plans for his competitive aikido.

However, on that day while taking our seats, I said, “Sensei, it’s about a lecture some time ago, no one was listening and they were mostly asleep. I think it was pointless and a waste of time”. If I think about it now, it was a very impolite thing to have said. As always he listened silently while nodding his head. Finallly, he said, “Nariyama, even if one student is listening with all their effort, I’ll do it”. As a young man these words had a big impact on me and left an impression. They are etched in my mind and alive now in my teaching spirit.

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