Kenji Tomiki’s Teachings Art And Spirit

Shihan’s instructions

In March 1970, on the evening before leaving for Osaka, I paid a visit to Tomiki Shihan’s home. His wife kindly prepared some food and we drank beer which was unusual. All night long I listened to his far reaching ideas about competitive aikido.

“Nariyama, if the Kansai students participate then the dream of a national tournament will be realised. A good thing will always spread and after some years it will be like an avalanche. All of the students will doing it and then, of course, you will be very busy.”

I can’t describe the feelings of infinite strength that I felt deep inside while listening to these things and I renewed my determination. On 3rd November in the same year the 1st All Japan Student Competitive Aikido Tournament was held in the Okubo Sports Hall in Tokyo.

The most interesting part of the story is that he suddenly said the following, “When you go to Osaka don’t just teach randori to the students, learn Hirokazu Kobayashi Sensei’s style of aikido. Like me, he learned his aikido by studying hard with Ueshiba Sensei.”

Up until hearing these words I thought that I was simply teaching the randori system to the students in the Kansai area. In the same way that he learned techniques from Ueshiba Sensei, he said that I had to learn directly from Kobayashi Sensei. I didn’t think about it at the time and simply replied, “I understand”. However, I didn’t understand Kobayashi Sensei’s practice method or techniques at all and I also didn’t really understand Tomiki Shihan’s intentions but it made me grow up a little.

Eventually, during the evening we set out some cushions and relaxed. The varied conversation was endless. Anyway, I was full up with the wonderful feast and beer that I’d had and before I knew it I’d fallen asleep. The next thing I noticed was that it was morning. It was a mistake and I remember feeling dreadfully sorry.

Presence of mind

On 25th November 1972 the 2nd Japan Budo Festival was held in the Japan Budokan. This was an event surely worth a special mention. From the world of aikido, Kisshomaru Ueshiba (2nd head of Aikikai), Gozo Shioda (head of Yoshinkan) and Kenji Tomiki (head of the Japan Aikido Association) were present. It was the first time in history that they had met in the same building. However, the event didn’t take its intended course. In Tomiki Shihan’s teaching while we were practising randori, all of a sudden we heard the announcement “What is going on now, Aikikai do not acknowledge” repeated several times.

Also, one of the festival committee members, while having invited us there, at the same time denied that the content was aikido. The atmosphere was such that the younger university students who were watching almost surged forward from their seats.

However, Tomiki Sensei didn’t mind at all and continued to teach. Anyway, I didn’t calm down and as soon as we finished I asked him about this.

Shihan’s reply was simply, “The people who understand, understand prefectly. So you don’t need to worry.” I recall that I thought that was either his presence of mind or his concentration on what he was doing. Twenty years have passed since then and that was the first and last time these three people from the world of aikido had met in the same building. It is said that the spirit of aikido is harmony so I was very disappointed by this.

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