Koichi Tohei, Part 3

Editors Note: This is the third in a three part series written by Pietro Ignacio, one of our students.  Pietro has a black belt awarded by the Ki Society.

Shinshin Toitsu Aikido

In 1974, during one of his many travels to the United States, Koichi Tohei discovered that an order had been sent from Hombu to all instructors and students in America that he was no longer to be welcomed into any of the dojos, and hisKi-Hanja picture was to be removed from the walls.  Some have interpreted the order as an attempt to erase Tohei from the history of Aikido.  The schools that he had spent 30 years to help build were now taken over by the shihans that he appointed to those positions. He was effectively ostracized from the organization which he had worked so hard to build and lead.

Suffering such a great embarrassment, Tohei tendered his resignation from Aikikai in April 30, 1974 and on May 1, 1974, he founded Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido or Aikido with Mind and Body Unified.  Tohei’s main objective in founding this group was to propagate his Aikido philosophy and principles.  Tohei justifies that his separation from the Aikikai set him free of the agreement he had with the Doshu to not teach aikido techniques.

It was still most important to Tohei to be able to spread his 4 Basic Principle to Unify Mind and Body.  But now, he was free to use Aikido as a vehicle to show the power of Ki.

Devastating Separation

Having been Chief Instructor, Master General and primarily responsible for the propagation of growth of Aikido for the past 30 years, it was understandable that Tohei’s departure from Aikikai would cause a tsunami of reactions not only in Japan and the United States but in the whole world of Aikido as well.  The contentious and sudden nature of Tohei’s departure revealed the tension between the Doshu and the Shihan Bucho which few have known to have been simmering for a long time.  It was a big blow to Aikido worldwide whose very philosophy is based on harmony.

The rift was further aggravated by Tohei’s active recruitment of Aikido shihans into the Ki Society.  Most of these shihans had been direct students of Tohei owing to Tohei’s 30 years of active travel in the propagation of Aikido.  These shihans were more likely to have a personal relationship with Tohei than to the Doshu since Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba was mostly doing only administrative duties at the Hombu headquarters.

Many shihans did pledge their allegiance to Tohei during this separation.  Quite a few saw this move by Tohei as a way to get back at the Doshu for the embarrassment he suffered after the order given to ostracize Tohei from all dojos.  In fact, Tohei himself requested the shihans who chose to follow him to remove O-Sensei’s picture from their dojo walls.  Clearly a response to the order to remove Tohei’s picture from Aikikai dojos.


Since the trauma of Tohei’s departure from the Aikikai, aikidokas worldwide have been generally silent on the issue. Many who have initially followed Tohei have returned to the Aikikai with its more structured and widely recognized organization.  Several other prominent shihans have chosen to start their own organizations to avoid the pain of having to choose between the Doshu and Tohei.  Even more have chosen to be independent of any organization.

As a result, and perhaps by design of O-Sensei himself who never insisted on any one way to do Aikido, many dojos teach aikido in their own unique way.  Even dojos claiming to belong to the same organization would have very distinct ways of practicing aikido and different teachers who teach in the same school would have a different way of performing the same techniques. In a way, this is the same exact situation that prevailed at the Hombu Aikikai at the height of Aikido’s prominence in the post world war 2 era when O-Sensei was still alive.

As Terry Dobson noted when he was just starting to study aikido, the old man never told anybody they were doing it wrong, he would simply tell them “Good. Practice some more….”

In some ways, the aikido students worldwide are taking O-Sensei’s advice despite the politics of the different aikido organizations, they just keep on practicing some more.

One thought on “Koichi Tohei, Part 3

Comments are closed.