Also known as Shodokan Aikido, the style (ryu) of Aikido as originally distilled and taught by Kenji Tomiki (1900–1979) places an emphasis on free-form randori (sparring) as compared with other styles of aikido. The training method requires a balance between randori and more stylized kata training along with a well developed set of training drills emphasizing principles both specific for randori and for general aikido development.
Tomiki Aikido utilizes basic principles of Judo, applying them at a greater distance from the opponent. Evasions, throws, Joint locks and manipulations, as well as certain strikes are integral parts of the system. As a “Do” or Way, as contrasted with a “Jutsu,” the style is intended for use by those who wish to learn to effectively defend themselves from an attacker, while not relying upon the aggressive countering of force with force.
Tomiki Aikido, as taught locally, teaches one to break the balance of the attacker, through various means, and taking advantage of the off-balanced position of the attacker, to evade, throw, or lock such attacker into submission – thus controlling the situation while using the least amount of force necessary to protect oneself and still remain safe. This approach is also compliant with the current laws regarding self-defense.
A very-condensed history lesson explains much about both the techniques and development of Tomiki Aikido. Professor Tomiki began kendo training at age 6, and judo at age 10. Excelling in these, he was captain of the Judo Team at Tokyo’s Waseda University. He then was uchi-deshi (live-in student) of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo.
In the same span of years, Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of what he would eventually call Aikido, was formalizing a new style of budo. In1926, Ueshiba Sensei arrived in Tokyo, asking to discuss and demonstrate his art to Kano Sensei. Much impressed, Kano offered his top Judo student, Tomiki, to Ueshiba as uchi-deshi in order that Tomiki might learn the subtleties of the new art form. Tomiki studied directly under Ueshiba for more than a decade, becoming the first deshi to whom Ueshiba ever awarded a Menkyo, the much sought after teaching credential of the promotion systems of old style Japanese martial arts. It is roughly equivalent to an 8th degree black belt.
Tomiki was a professor at Kengoku University in Manchuria, which the occupying Japanese had set up prior to WWII. Following the ending of the war, Tomiki became a prisoner of Stalin’s Red Army there. While confined, he conceived of a blending of Kano’s Judo and Ueshiba’s Aikido. Late in life, Sensei Tomiki was known to call his Aikido “Judo from a distance.”
Learning from Sensei Kano, Tomiki knew that teachers were human — What was practiced was what actually worked, with techniques that did not work for all persons, whether young or old, tall or short, strong or weak, being discarded as flawed in principle. Kata and randori were combined in practices to develop, support and reinforce the learning and internalization of these principles.
To this end, the thousands of techniques of ueshiba’s original system were limited, and categorized based on a few classes of body positions and movement principles. This resulted in a vast reduction in the number of techniques which need be learned, as necessary variations would naturally emerge from the practitioner’s muscle memory of such principles.
Emphasis is placed on doing a relatively-few techniques well, and being able to modify them at need, rather than knowing multitudes of techniques in theory but being unable to properly execute them under pressure.