Kenji Tomiki’s Teachings Art And Spirit

Recollections of a trip to Taiwan

For one week, from 12th to 18th December 1973, Tomiki Shihan led a group of selected students from Kanto and Kansai universities on a trip to Taiwan. We gave demonstrations in police academies, army bases, etc. every day and received a VIP welcome wherever we went. I remember the welcome party organised for us by the supreme commander of the Taiwanese armed forces. Shihan presented him with a picture that he had drawn himself. The commander was very proud and Shihan looked pleased.

He also met an international judo player (called Mr. Hayashi) and one of his students from Kenkoku University in former Manchukuo who was at that time a businessman. They both admired Shihan’s personality and way of life. Shihan looked truly happy and satisfied when he met them.

Unusually, the schedule gave us lots of free days. Mr. Hayashi visited Shihan in the place that we were staying in spite of being ill at that time. He took us deep into the town to the best place to eat eel. It was down an alleyway where Japanese tourists didn’t visit. I can’t say that it was a very clean place but the eel was absolutely delicious. I was fortunate and appreciated eating with Shihan. When he said goodbye to Mr. Hayashi, he said with an affectionate look in his eyes, “I hope you get better soon”. That left an impression on me.

Shihan’s decision

In the summer of 1975, I came to Osaka and lived in Kobayashi Sensei’s house for six years. Gradually, at about the time I started to understand the value and greatness of Tomiki Shihan, various inconsistencies arose inside of me and worried me day after day.

One of the reasons was the differences between the traditional kata practice of Ueshiba Sensei and the basics of breakfalls, posture, movement, etc. of Tomiki Sensei’s original randori practice system and the problems this caused as I was an instructor. The more serious I became involved with both, the greater the inconsistencies.

Should I compromise and if so how much? Or is it better not to? If, for argument’s sake, I do make a compromise then this will leave questions of safety in the development of randori in competition which means the risk of a big accident. Surely, isn’t this just like building the latest skyscraper on the foundations of a traditional wooden house? As the old saying goes ‘as a boy, so the man’, bad habits are very difficult to correct so isn’t it better to give bad habits a positive significance? Also, it is not essential to produce faultless people. On the times that Shihan came to Osaka I was excited talking about things like this and as always he nodded and listened quietly.

One day I received a letter dated 11th July. Part of it read, “From next year I want to establish Shodokan as the central dojo so that people from Tokyo and Fukuoka can meet and train periodically. I have asked Mr. Uchiyama in a separate letter. I have also asked Kobayashi Shihan to collaborate with us from now on.

Shihan’s request was answered by Mr. Masaharu Uchiyama, the Japan Aikido Association vice-president. In the following year on 28th March 1976 a central dojo with 80 tatami was finished and was called Shodokan. On that day Shihan spoke about the naming of Shodokan in his opening speech as follows:

“On the occasion of naming this dojo Shodokan it goes without saying that it is named after the current Showa period. Through a combination of a golden opportunity, favourable location and harmony amongst those involved, this dojo represents an important first step.”

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