“You can learn the art of relaxation from Koichi Tohei, 10th dan”

Relaxation… that elusive term we hear about over and over! How on earth can you remain relaxed when someone is attacking you with the intent to inflict harm? How do you stop the primitive brain from taking over and producing a fight or flight reaction in your adrenalin filled body? How can you stay calm, cool, and collected and function strategically when under duress?

These are questions that aikidoka and practitioners of martial arts in general face every day.

We have to go back in time to find an answer to this dilemma in the teachings and techniques of an amazing master from the early postwar period. His name is Koichi Tohei and he was aikido’s first 10th dan. Veteran practitioners of aikido will surely have heard of Koichi Tohei, but many of those new to the art may not have. The reason is that there has been a concerted effort to erase his name from Aikikai history due to political events that took place way back in 1974. Another story for another time.

Koichi Tohei executing a dynamic throw c. 1960. Uke: Nobuyoshi Tamura
Koichi Tohei executing a dynamic throw c. 1960. Uke: Nobuyoshi Tamura

What is unique about Koichi Tohei is that he introduced the concept of Ki, converting it into a household term — at least in aikido households! Tohei Sensei’s Ki Aikido emphasizes the importance of “extending ki”, that is, filling your body with vital energy while performing aikido techniques. This ki energy is another way of referring to the state of a relaxed, unified mind and body that produces better aikido techniques compared to the ubiquitous use of physical force in practice. The use and abuse of brute strength in the dojo has always been and continues to be the bane of the aikido world.

Who was Koichi Tohei? What specifically did he teach? Can I really learn how to relax if I apply his methods? Very good questions… for the simple reason that having this knowledge can transform your way of practice, help you get rid of bad habits, and move to the next level in aikido.

Aikido principles are not that hard to put into use once you understand their logic. Or you can just go on doing what you are doing now struggling to make your aikido work against physically superior training partners… Been there, done that!

Now, watch what a relaxed mind and body can do!

Koichi Tohei is one of the most important figures in the postwar development of aikido. He played a pivotal role in spreading the art in Japan and the USA from the early 1950s through the mid-1970s. During his active years, Tohei traveled abroad on numerous occasions conducting seminars and demonstrations. He was also a prolific author, having published many works on his approach to aikido and ki in Japanese and English. His publications had a strong influence, both technically and philosophically, on early aikido practitioners.



  • Biographical sketch — a documentary by Aikido Journal Editor Stanley Pranin tracing the extraordinary aikido career of Koichi Tohei. This presentation covers his lengthy tenure at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo where he rose to become chief instructor through 1974. It was at this point that Tohei resigned from the Aikikai to become independent and established his Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido organization. The circumstances surrounding this critical event that threatened to split the aikido world apart are discussed in detail. The documentary contains many historical photos, several published for the first time, that capture the highlights of Tohei Sensei’s aikido odyssey. Although attempts were subsequently made to erase Tohei’s name from the annals of the Aikikai, his indelible imprint on modern aikido remains and deserves to be recognized.
  • Warm-ups and preparatory exercises — this section covers the elaborate warm-ups and ki exercise system developed by Tohei Sensei as a prelude to practicing aikido techniques. They emphasize stability, relaxation, and the proper use of ki energy.
  • Techniques — a presentation of the technical curriculum developed by Tohei Sensei during the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s, during his tenure at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. Tohei Sensei demonstrates most of his “50 Arts of Aikido in the 1967 film included.
  • Seminar — nearly 40 minutes of rare film footage of a 1974 seminar conducted by Tohei Sensei in San Francisco. Scores of techniques from his curriculum are clearly demonstrated. This historical film was gifted to Aikido Journal for editing and publication after being in private hands for more than 35 years. It has been digitally remastered for the highest possible image quality.
  • Demonstrations — bonus footage of four demonstrations by Tohei Sensei: 1952 demonstration outdoors also featuring Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Tadashe Abe: 1967 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration; 1968 Special Demonstration at Hombu Dojo; 1973 All-Japan Aikido Demonstration.

Note: the contents of this collection are available for online viewing and may also be downloaded to your computing device.

Click to Order Koichi Tohei’s Aikido with Ki Collection for $19.95!


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