Aikido Competition

Shiai competition with a rubber dagger is very popular in Shodokan Aikido.
Shiai competition with a rubber dagger is very popular in Shodokan Aikido.

Aikido Competition an oxymoron, because traditional styles of Aikido do not have any competition at all.

But some do, namely the schools of Tomiki-style Aikido. They allow Shiai or Competition but only under the most carefully-controlled conditions.

So this is what split Tomiki style aikido (Shodokan Aikido) from the other styles of Aikido.

The founder of  Aikido, O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba was strongly opposed to having any competition in Aikido. He believed it fostered a bad attitude in martial art students.

(Morihei Ueshiba is the bald gentleman wearing a hakama who is sitting down in the photo on this page. Kenji Tomiki sits next to him and Hideo Obah – Tomiki’s assistant – stands behind him, on the right, next to an unidentified Aikido student.)

Kenji Tomiki (L), Morihei Ueshiba (R) and Hideo Obah (back R).
Kenji Tomiki (L), Morihei Ueshiba (R) and Hideo Obah (back R).

O-Sensei did not want his Aiki students to get inflated egos.

However, Kenji Tomiki, the first student of Morihei Ueshiba to be awarded an 8th Dan black belt rank by the founder, was also a high-ranking Judo teacher.  (Tomiki was a student of  Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, as well).

Kenji Tomiki was a Professor of physical education. He reasoned that a strictly-controlled form of Aikido competition would keep his students from becoming bored, and it would help them test their skills under pressure. All of his early Aikido students were Judo players as well. (He would make them do Aikido when their daily Judo sessions were over.)

Tomiki Sensei already knew how the randori (free practice) training sessions used in Judo helped create better Judo players. And since he taught both Judo and Aikido, Tomiki reasoned that his Aikido pupils would learn better if they had randori free practice and shiai competition in their Aikido training sessions as well. Just like the Judo.

Adventures in China

Both Kenji Tomiki and Morihei Ueshiba went to China when Japan invaded it during the 1930’s. Tomiki went to teach Judo and Aikido to students at the Japanese University in Manchuria (the country between north China and Russia. Tomiki’s assistant, Hideo Obah came along to help him.

O-Sensei, Morihei Ueshiba, was deeply into the Omoto religion, and was a peace activist.

When Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, Kenji Tomiki Sensei was imprisoned for three years in Siberia before he could return to Japan. Obah Sensei was imprisoned also. (Although they were employed as teachers, they had both been, technically, officers of the Japanese army.)

I was told O-Sensei, Morihei Ueshiba, had expressed interest in the changes Tomiki Sensei had added, including Aikido competition. But politics intervened, and Ueshiba’s assistants prevented the two Aikido teachers from ever getting together again to compare notes.

And personally, I think that’s very sad.

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