Edited and Condensed from KI: A Road That Anyone Can Walk
by William Reed
Tohei met a Japanese-American from Hawaii - Kyoto Fujioka. Fujioka invited to him to come to Hawaii to teach young people. After Fujioka are returned to Hawaii he looked for a sponsor and found one in Nishkai a health-oriented organization founded by and based on the teachings of Dr. Katsuzo Nishi. The Nishikai had members on all of the islands of Hawaii.
Tohei made his first trip to Hawaii in February of 1953. He traveled by himself on boat leaving Yokohama. He had no particular plan for gathering students in the beginning, except to show any wrestlers and black belt martial artists who came how easily they could be thrown. No challengers seem to come from among the professional wrestlers. The wrestlers had little to gain from such an offer and much to lose.
Dr. Kurisaki, the vice-president of Nishikai, asked if it was possible to handle more than one attacker using Aikido. Tohei replied that it must be possible if you use mind and body coordination, although he had never practiced aikido against more than one opponent at a time and nearly everyone he trained with was around his own size. Dr. Kurisaki asked for a demonstration and Tohei agreed. He found himself facing seven men, all of them 4th Dan or higher in Judo. There was even a 16mm camera to record the event.
On Dr. Kurisaki's signal, the seven men attacked. Tohei moved like mad, throwing and evading, until finally Dr. Kurisaki gave the signal to stop. Thinking he had terribly embarrassed himself, he was surprised to hear a great applause. Later, when he saw the film of the attackers, he himself was surprised at how smooth it looked. Doing a multi-person attack (randori) would become one of the trademarks of his teaching style.
In May 1953 the All American Judo Tournament sponsored by the AAU, was held at San Jose State College in California. Tohei gave an Aikido demonstration between matches. At his hotel was a message from a reporter who liked the exhibition, but since it was over quickly, had no time to take pictures or notes. He asked if Tohei could do it again on the last day of the tournament.
After giving his demonstration, Tohei found himself facing five Judo men in an impromptu randori. Dr. Kurisaki had mentioned that the five were not used to kicks and punches, so Tohei would not strike them. However, they could punch, kick and bite Tohei and would be attacking him at once from different directions. After the randori was over, Dr. Kurisaki mentioned how calm Tohei looked and the fact that he was even smiling through the whole event. Tohei replied that it was unintentional and he always smiled when he was in trouble.
FWIW several sources have Tohei describing how he had to figure out Aikido against people who were much stronger and larger than himself, when he was in Hawaii.