AJ: People who have now become teachers themselves often mention teachers like Koichi Tohei and Seigo Yamaguchi. What were your impressions of them?
Seiichi Sugano Sensei: Yamaguchi Sensei had a very strong personality. It was difficult to grasp his techniques — they had quite a different feeling from those of the other teachers — or to capture the essence of what he was doing. Tohei Sensei's teaching was influenced by the Tempukai, and it was easier to follow, probably because much of the Tempukai curriculum originated in yoga.
Black Belt Magazine Vol 1 No. 2.
In an article about Tohei -- "His contributions to the art of Aikido are legend. He has devised many of the exercises and throws which are now standard and taught in all Aikido schools both in Japan and the United States."
Black Belt 1973 Vol 11 No 11
Article by Jon Shirota about Tohei and Ki
Quotes Tohei in the article. "Everyone thinks that I learned ki from Morihei Uyeshiba. That's not true. The Master taught me aikido; he did not teach me ki. I studied and learned it myself."
Black Belt 1978 Vol 12 No 16
Article by Karen Payne about Akira Tohei.
With his first teacher, Koichi Tohei, Akira Tohei made a pilgrimage to the aikido shrine at Iwama, Uyeshiba's home.
"It would be ideal to preserve what o-sensei did without change, but change cannot be stopped," Akira Tohei said. "Since Doshu is not o-sensei, his ways are different."
Black Belt 1988 Vol 26 No 4
Article about Virginia Mayhew by Chuck Bush
She became an uchideshi (live-in student) under the tutelage of Koichi Tohei, then chief instructor at aikido's Tokyo-based world headquarters, and also devoted one week a month to rigorous Zen meditation and training at a local Buddhist monastery. Despite an arduous routine which included outside studies with several aikido masters, Mayhew's first priority was to attend Uyeshiba's early morning classes.
"O-Sensei taught entirely differently from any of the other teachers," Mayhew relates. "He had no set form when he taught."
"He used to demonstrate with his little iron fan, standing in the middle of the mat as three or four of his strongest instructors attacked him with wooden staffs."
"He also used a technique which many people experienced - coming around and putting his finger on you very lightly, hardly touching you - and you couldn't move, no matter how hard you tried. There was no terminology to explain this phenomenon, nor did I try to learn terminology so much as to try to understand. This was a manifestation of energy which, according to various instructors, can be reached by a variety of techniques. But it isn't in the techniques; it is within oneself."
Aiki News Issue 028
Letter by Bruce Klickstein
During the "taisai" the best teachers in the world talked about how so much of what is called Aikido barely even resembles the Aikido O-Sensei taught.
Black Belt 1977 Vol 15 No 11
Article about Tohei. Quotes Tohei saying, "So he said that aikido
developed out of the sword movement. Only he said that! When I
studied aikido it did not appear to be the case. I learned from the
universe itself not only from sword movements."
The separation from Ueshiba's school evolved from a dispute over the relevance of the basic principles of ki and the methods of instructing students. Tohei said he had to break with Ueshiba's son, who inherited the leadership of the aikido headquarters, because of the man's inability to understand the principles of ki. Under the leadership of the young Ueshiba, aikido was unable to change. Tohei wanted to teach ki and the basic principle to every student.
"When I taught these principles in the headquarters," he said,
"many instructors talked behind my back and said, 'This is not the way O'Sensei taught aikido. Ki is nothing. Don't follow Tohei!' But this is not true. I found four basic principles of ki. But according to
Japanese custom whenever I discovered some principle I always
presented it to my teacher.
"So I said, 'I learned from my teacher and I teach you.' But they would not listen. They replied, 'Then why does Master Ueshiba's son say his father never teach like that?'
"Ueshiba's son would have none of it. Ki was not relevant to aikido, at least in the way that Tohei taught it. He would say, 'That is Tohei's way. Don't follow! My father never teach us like that.' He said that all over Japan. So I had no choice. I said, 'Okay, if you say that, then I will not say I learned ki principle from my teacher. I will say that I founded basic principles.'