Koichi Tohei 藤平光一

(January 1920-19 May 2011). 10th dan. B. Tokyo. Graduate in economics of Keio University. Originator of SHINSHIN TOITSU AIKIDO. Koichi Tohei began practicing AIKI BUDO at the KOBUKAN DOJO in 1940 while still a university student. He continued until being drafted into the imperial army in October 1942. Tohei saw action in China and was stranded there at the end of the war until his repatriation in 1946. Back in Japan, he engaged in farming in his native town and reestablished contact with his teacher Morihei UESHIBA who was retired in IWAMA. In the early years after the war, Tohei was one of the the leading figures in the spread of aikido and one of the mainstays of the AIKIKAI HOMBU DOJO. He was promoted to 8th dan by UESHIBA in 1952. Moreover, Tohei was mainly responsible for the early development of aikido in Hawaii and the mainland United States. In February 1953, he went to Hawaii for the first time at the invitation of the Hawaii Nishi Kai and remained for one year. He made a second trip to Hawaii in 1955, again staying for one year. Tohei became SHIHAN BUCHO (Head of the teaching staff) at the Aikikai in May 1956. He made a third trip to Hawaii in 1959. In May 1960, Tohei was awarded the rank of 9th dan. When Ueshiba went to Hawaii to attend the opening of the Honolulu Aikikai in 1961, Tohei accompanied him and remained until March 1962. Subsequently, he traveled to Hawaii, the U.S., and European countries on numerous occasions. Tohei wrote several early books on aikido in Japanese and English (see bibl. ) and had great influence on the teaching methods adopted in the U. S. Tohei is one of the few Japanese masters able to speak fluent English.

In 1970, the year after the death of Ueshiba, Tohei was officially awarded 10th dan by the AIKIKAI HOMBU DOJO. His attempts to have the Aikikai Hombu Dojo adopt his teaching methods which emphasized the principle of KI were unsuccessful and he set up the KI NO KENKYUKAI (Ki Research Society) on his own in September 1971. On 1 May 1974, he finally resigned from the Aikikai after several years of strained relations with DOSHU Kisshomaru UESHIBA and other Aikikai teachers. At the same time, he founded the SHINSHIN TOITSU AIKIDOKAI (Society for Aikido with Mind and Body Coordinated). On 15 May 1974, he sent a widely-distributed letter in Japanese and English to hundreds of dojo heads in Japan and abroad explaining the reasons for his severance of ties with the Aikikai Hombu Dojo.

Following his split from the Aikikai, Tohei developed his own independent national and international network including those dojos and individuals who remained loyal to him. His headquarters dojo is located not far from the Aikikai site in Shinjuku. The instruction given in Tohei-affiliated dojos includes various exercises for ki development and a limited number of aikido techniques. The headquarters dojo also offers courses in kiatsu or ki pressure techniques. The growth of his Shinshin Toitsu Aikido has been modest and various key followers in Japan and abroad have left his organization over the years. Tohei announced his retirement to take effect in October 1990 when Koretoshi MARUYAMA, his designated successor and student from the Aikikai days, assumes administrative control over the Tokyo Hombu Dojo. Also, a large facility in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture called the Ki No Kenkyukaikan is scheduled to open on 28 October 1990. This complex is designed as a training center and retreat for practitioners of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido. See Pictorial p. 122. Shinshin Toitsu Aikido Hombu Dojo, Ushigome Heim 101, 2-30 Haramachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162 Japan (03)353-3461 Ki No Kenkyukaikan, Oaza Akabane 3515, Ichikaimachi, Haga-gun, Tochigi-ken 321-34 Japan (0285)68-1121.

Josh Gold

Executive Editor of Aikido Journal, CEO of Budo Accelerator, and co-founder of Ikazuchi Dojo.

1 comment

  • Today, the Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido from Tohei Koichi Sensei (or Ki Aikido), has produced a few families: Ki Society (or Ki no Kenkyukai) with Tohei Shinichi Sensei, Ki no Kenkyukai International Association with Yoshigasaki Kenjiro Sensei, and Ki Federation of Great Britain with Sensei Kenneth Williams.
    I hope to see a few articles in Aikido Journal on them !