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Old 04-30-2021, 02:28 AM   #1
mushinaiki
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Why Tohei?

What was it about Tohei Sensei and his ability that made the founder grant him high Dan grades and give him the position of chief instructor? Did Tohei have great ability in "aiki" the internal power aspect of Daito Ryu?
Did he have something else the founder was more interested in when going forward with his organisation than what he had learnt in the past?

Tohei Started aikido in 1940, awarded 5th Dan in 1944, awarded 8th Dan in 1953, these were awarded post war or during the war, before there was any thought of dissemination to the outside world, the founder obviously thought he was worthy of these grades?

What so attracted the founder to this man, if it wasn't "aiki" why choose such a man to represent your organisation as its head? If it was, why didn't Tohei make this as the foundation of his curriculum?

After the war, in 1956 after just 16 years of training, and after returning from war he was promoted to 9th Dan and chief instructor.

Why did Hitohiro Saito sensei say his father wished that he could have gone and studied under this man, what did he have that the great technician didn't have to give his son?

Does anyone care that no one tries to answer these questions as they may challenge personal agenda and perceptions about the direction the founder actually wanted for his organisation?

Surely there was something the founder saw in Tohei that the future organisation he was creating would benefit from.

Surely you would make the head of your organisation the man that best represented your ideals of an aikido future - doesn't that make sense?

Does it matter anymore, to anyone that there doesn't seem to be an answer for this question?

What do we think about these questions, does anyone have a good answer that doesn't involve BS?
Would love to hear opinions....

We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have virtue or excellence because we have acted rightly.
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Old 04-30-2021, 07:53 AM   #2
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Why Tohei?

It is said that Dan Grade was not much of a great value to Ueshiba and he sometimes threw them around playfully. If that were true, then why attach great importance to this question?

Best,
Bernd
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Old 04-30-2021, 03:06 PM   #3
mushinaiki
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Re: Why Tohei?

That’s the type of reply I was trying to avoid.....the question, although I have mentioned his grades, is more about his Aikido, his ability. Surely there was something in the ability that warranted the grades. It’s just an easy cop-out to say Ueshiba through grades around Willy-nilly, especially in these earlier years. Tohei was his chosen chief instructor, the question still stands....

We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have virtue or excellence because we have acted rightly.
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Old 04-30-2021, 08:35 PM   #4
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Re: Why Tohei?

This is actually a good question. You bring up good points. What was so different about Tohei? This is off subject but I always wonder way Morihiro Saito was never chosen to lead when he was Ueshiba's longest serving student.
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Old 05-01-2021, 02:56 AM   #5
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Peter Kelly wrote: View Post
That's the type of reply I was trying to avoid.....the question, although I have mentioned his grades, is more about his Aikido, his ability. Surely there was something in the ability that warranted the grades. It's just an easy cop-out to say Ueshiba through grades around Willy-nilly, especially in these earlier years. Tohei was his chosen chief instructor, the question still stands....
Certainly.
My reply is not an answer to your questions. I have none. But it seems you also asked for opinions.

As I see it, you put quite a few strong assumptions, may be even prejudices, in your questions and I wonder where you got them from as well as whether and how you may back them up.

This also raises the question of whether you are really looking for answers or rather the confirmation of your Postulates.
Apart from that, you will hardly get around BS when it comes to Tohei and Ki.

Perhaps it will still become a fruitful discussion.
Good luck.

Best,
Bernd
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Old 05-01-2021, 05:36 AM   #6
mushinaiki
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Eric Jones wrote: View Post
This is actually a good question. You bring up good points. What was so different about Tohei? This is off subject but I always wonder way Morihiro Saito was never chosen to lead when he was Ueshiba's longest serving student.
I agree, these were good questions. I was reading Aikido Journal and Tohei story and it got me thinking about many things, and I realised - there has been no answer around this.
There has been a lot of talk over the years, some quite provocative about the founders "aiki" and what that meant to him apparently. I was wondering, if these things are truly that important to the art the founder wanted to leave behind and to have propagated, surely the poster boy that he picked to represent the art on the world stage should have been a top notch exponent of such skill.
If he wasn't, what did he possess that the founder wanted represented?
I agree, Saito sensei was the obvious technical choice, but reading what Hitohiro said about his father wanting/wishing he could have trained under Tohei raises even more questions.
Surely there was something that the founder thought he could transmit better than anyone else, what was it? And is it missing in today's Aikido. I am not talking about ki, though you can't avoid the subject with Tohei, but we are talking about before the idea of a Ki society was even a slight glimmer in his eye......

We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have virtue or excellence because we have acted rightly.
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Old 05-02-2021, 12:32 PM   #7
sorokod
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Eric Jones wrote: View Post
This is actually a good question. You bring up good points. What was so different about Tohei? This is off subject but I always wonder way Morihiro Saito was never chosen to lead when he was Ueshiba's longest serving student.
Never chosen to lead what?

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Old 05-02-2021, 08:36 PM   #8
Eric Jones
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Re: Why Tohei?

Aikido or the Aikkikai or whatever.
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Old 05-03-2021, 03:48 AM   #9
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Re: Why Tohei?

Aikido is not an organization and can not be lead. As to Aikikai, at it's core, it is a family based organization. You can read up on the iemoto system here.. The relative qualities of various practitioners is irrelevant to the question of who should be the Aikido head master.

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Old 05-03-2021, 10:26 AM   #10
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Re: Why Tohei?

I believe that the original poster was referring to Tohei Koichi, sensei and not Tohei Akira, sensei, who was one of the original Aikikai representatives to establish aikido dojo in the U.S. If you wanted the "true" answer to your question, well we're all out of luck as one would've had to ask Ueshiba Kisshomaru doshu or Osawa Kisaburo shihan for that answer. Whatever the "real" reason, it is clear that Tohei Koichi sensei was the face of Aikikai aikido, outside of Japan, in the 1950's and early 1960's. According to one of my teachers, Ken Nisson sensei, who was a Tohei sensei "devotee" and had trained with Tohei Koichi sensei in the early 1960's, the man's aikido was amazing. My guess is that the combination of Tohei Koichi sensei's understanding of post-War aikido, his efforts to spread aikido outside of Japan, as well as his English language ability, were "rewarded" by the Aikikai organization.
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Old 05-12-2021, 08:34 AM   #11
jonreading
 
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Re: Why Tohei?

I strongly recommend Chris Li's blog. There are a few articles about the early days of the aikikai, Tohei, the succession of leadership, and Tohei's eventual departure from the aikikai. Peter [Goldsbury] may also have some insight about the socio-political background at the time. Many of your suppositions have been addressed over the years, even on this forum, in part.

My personal opinions...
1. Be suspect of anything written before 1990. I have a library of "Aikido" books that have information that is biased, inaccurate (translation nuances), or factually misleading. In more recent years, the Ueshiba family has been more open about O Sensei's life, and new research has shed some light on aspects of the aikikai, Ueshiba family, and the politics of post-war aikido.
2. Tohei's split from the aikikai is notoriously full of political motivation and dynamics. I think it is not a simple answer as to why he left the Aikikai, or why the succession of aikido moved away from the "aiki" of the earlier students.
3. Tohei's reputation as a practitioner of aikido is separate from his role in the leadership of the aikikai.

In a few sentences or less... Tohei had a good reputation as a martial artist, with a unique skillset in aiki. As the Aikikai transitioned to modern aikido post-war, Tohei became a political (and instructional) liability for Doshu and the emerging Aikikai. Tohei (and a few other pre-war students) separated from the Aikikai to let the Ueshiba family lead it without distraction.

Jon Reading
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Old 05-12-2021, 02:23 PM   #12
tlk52
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Re: Why Tohei?

don't forget the family dynamics too...K. Tohei and K. Ueshiba were brother-in-laws having married sisters.

FYI I started aikido in the early 60s at the LA aikikai and K. Tohei used our school as hi headquarters when he visited the US. I took many classes with him between 1963 and the 70s. he was amazing in his prime.
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Old 05-12-2021, 05:52 PM   #13
Ellis Amdur
 
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Re: Why Tohei?

I see some folks here actually trained with/were hands-on with Tohei. For anyone who has checked the IHTBF series, we have only a single entry for him, and with someone who did a good job, but was not a student in depth.

I'd very much like to request that some or all of you who trained with him post a follow-up - the criteria are clear after the initial post. The Tohei column is here: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=23443

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Old 05-14-2021, 05:44 PM   #14
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Peter Kelly wrote: View Post
What was it about Tohei Sensei and his ability that made the founder grant him high Dan grades and give him the position of chief instructor? Did Tohei have great ability in "aiki" the internal power aspect of Daito Ryu?
Did he have something else the founder was more interested in when going forward with his organisation than what he had learnt in the past?
I suspect it's because he caught and shared something demonstrably important which was noticeable.
Ultimately, who knows though?

At the end of the day I wonder what teachers like Tohei Sensei taught compared to others, and that which stands out to me has less to do with technique than principles.
I'd love to read your own answers to your own questions.

Gambarimashyo!
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Old 05-15-2021, 03:18 PM   #15
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
I suspect it's because he caught and shared something demonstrably important which was noticeable.
Ultimately, who knows though?

.....
May be, it was his knowledge of judo, that gave him an edge above most of the others who trained after the war in Aikido then. Think of his well documented little match with an overweight American news reporter at Hombu Dojo at his prime while OSensei was watching.

Surely, he shouldn't be underestimated because his aikido was really impressive and beautiful, but I still indelibly remember how he asked a strong "white belt", to try and move him wanting to demonstrate how his ki would let him be totally immovable, while sitting in seiza. The "white belt", - just like the deaf lion who, unimpressed by the flute that spread peace in the forest, simply devoured the flute player who was adored and admired by everyone else, because he couldn't hear and was hungry - simply threw Tohei onto his back. Of course Tohei immediately pulled him into a kind of tomoe nage, a judo technique, both laughed and Tohei continued as if nothing had happened.

Since then, however, I have been wondering how he would have survived the above-mentioned fight for a better grip against a really good judoka or a Rinjiro Shirata of the same age ...

Best,
Bernd
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Old 05-17-2021, 11:08 AM   #16
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post
May be, it was his knowledge of judo, that gave him an edge above most of the others who trained after the war in Aikido then. Think of his well documented little match with an overweight American news reporter at Hombu Dojo at his prime while OSensei was watching.

Surely, he shouldn't be underestimated because his aikido was really impressive and beautiful, but I still indelibly remember how he asked a strong "white belt", to try and move him wanting to demonstrate how his ki would let him be totally immovable, while sitting in seiza. The "white belt", - just like the deaf lion who, unimpressed by the flute that spread peace in the forest, simply devoured the flute player who was adored and admired by everyone else, because he couldn't hear and was hungry - simply threw Tohei onto his back. Of course Tohei immediately pulled him into a kind of tomoe nage, a judo technique, both laughed and Tohei continued as if nothing had happened.

Since then, however, I have been wondering how he would have survived the above-mentioned fight for a better grip against a really good judoka or a Rinjiro Shirata of the same age ...

Best,
Bernd
Hi Bernd! Great to interact with you again!

No teacher should be placed on pedestals, as I suspect they're easier to knock down.

Would you mind elaborating though?

Are you saying it was his Judo experience that made the biggest difference? Did none of his fellow students have much judo experience compared to him?

I am so far removed and study so little that I have very little knowledge of most of these things. I mostly have vague memories of my conversations here on aikiweb, but what stands out to me are the principles Tohei Sensei codified in his system and that he somehow seemed to stand out enough to become head instructor. That's all I was trying to point to...more to the point actually, I was suggesting it's hard to know, but that something must have been there.
Best to you!
Take care,
Matthew

Last edited by mathewjgano : 05-17-2021 at 11:22 AM.

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Old 05-17-2021, 01:52 PM   #17
Bernd Lehnen
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Matthew Gano wrote: View Post
Hi Bernd! Great to interact with you again!

No teacher should be placed on pedestals, as I suspect they're easier to knock down.

Would you mind elaborating though?

Are you saying it was his Judo experience that made the biggest difference? Did none of his fellow students have much judo experience compared to him?

I am so far removed and study so little that I have very little knowledge of most of these things. I mostly have vague memories of my conversations here on aikiweb, but what stands out to me are the principles Tohei Sensei codified in his system and that he somehow seemed to stand out enough to become head instructor. That's all I was trying to point to...more to the point actually, I was suggesting it's hard to know, but that something must have been there.
Best to you!
Take care,
Matthew
Hello Matthew,
Great, I must say, that you find the time to take part and further the discussion.

There must be quite a few people here, I guess, who must have known Tohei much, much better.

Regarding Judo knowledge:
In this context, one may recall Tomiki Kenji, Mochzuki Minoru, Abbe Kenchiro and, after the war, Tohei Koichi, Nocquet André, Yamada Senta and later Shimizu Kenji, who all obviously had very good judo skills, and who, all of them too, became undeniable key figures in Aikido. So, surely they had an edge.
You see, Tohei was not the only one with judo-skills, and in the chaos of grip-fighting with the News Reporter they obviously came in very handy.

It would certainly be wrong to try and reduce Tohei to Judo and Aikido, because he had also other outstanding qualities. I wonder why people who must have known him much better have not openly stood up for him so fare here on this forum. After all, Ellis asked them to write something in the IHTBF column. In any case, it struck me that Tohei wasn't easy to take down because no matter what happened, he just got up and carried on unmoved and, secondly, that he was a strong leader personality. But I don't want to say more. I would rather whish that others, who might have known him better, comment on him.

And, of course, I unreservedly agree with your question to the thread creator.

Best,
Bernd
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Old 05-17-2021, 05:43 PM   #18
mathewjgano
 
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Bernd Lehnen wrote: View Post
Hello Matthew,
Great, I must say, that you find the time to take part and further the discussion.

There must be quite a few people here, I guess, who must have known Tohei much, much better.

Regarding Judo knowledge:
In this context, one may recall Tomiki Kenji, Mochzuki Minoru, Abbe Kenchiro and, after the war, Tohei Koichi, Nocquet André, Yamada Senta and later Shimizu Kenji, who all obviously had very good judo skills, and who, all of them too, became undeniable key figures in Aikido. So, surely they had an edge.
You see, Tohei was not the only one with judo-skills, and in the chaos of grip-fighting with the News Reporter they obviously came in very handy.

It would certainly be wrong to try and reduce Tohei to Judo and Aikido, because he had also other outstanding qualities. I wonder why people who must have known him much better have not openly stood up for him so fare here on this forum. After all, Ellis asked them to write something in the IHTBF column. In any case, it struck me that Tohei wasn't easy to take down because no matter what happened, he just got up and carried on unmoved and, secondly, that he was a strong leader personality. But I don't want to say more. I would rather whish that others, who might have known him better, comment on him.

And, of course, I unreservedly agree with your question to the thread creator.

Best,
Bernd
Thank you, Bernd! I'm never sure how much I further the conversation, though.

Last edited by mathewjgano : 05-17-2021 at 05:51 PM.

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Old 09-01-2021, 02:04 PM   #19
Jens Tenhaeff
 
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Peter Kelly wrote: View Post
What was it about Tohei Sensei and his ability that made the founder grant him high Dan grades and give him the position of chief instructor?
If you read the interviews with the all the legendary Aikikai shihans on Chris Li's Sangenkai Blog, most of them agree that Tohei sensei was, simply put, a fantastic teacher. He had a way of structuring, breaking down and communicating O-Sensei's esoteric concepts (which were way beyond of most of his young uchi-deshis' capabilities) in an understandable way, thereby enabling them to become great teachers themselves.

With a few notable exceptions (Kuroiwa, Nishio, Abe, Chiba) Tohei was seemingly very much liked and respected by the post WW2-era uchi-deshis up until the death of the founder. But his certainly oversized ego and the political difficult situation concerning the succession as doshu (both him and Kisshomaru Ueshiba were apparently in the running), which ultimately led to his split from the Aikikai, have tarnished his legacy in such a way, that many Aikido practitioners today are not aware of his contributions. Without the tireless research of Stanley Pranin, many younger Aikidokas probably wouldn't even know the name.

Coming back to the original question: After only six month of training O-Sensei sent Tohei to teach on his behalf at the military police academy in Nakano. He certainly saw something in Tohei and his ability to disseminate the art.
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Old 09-08-2021, 04:05 PM   #20
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Re: Why Tohei?

I recall reading that Tohei sensei, perhaps, may have felt a bit of shame about his rank in the early days and would dodge the question when posed by those he had been sent to teach. On one occasion, he was asked if he actually held kyū rank, to which he replied 年中無休 [nenjū mukyū] or "open all year round." Another time, he was asked what dan rank he held, and sensei apparently replied, ご冗談 [go jōdan] or "you're joking." If I'm not mistaken, godan was the first promotion he received, but it's very likely that I could be mistaken.

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Old 09-10-2021, 10:12 PM   #21
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Re: Why Tohei?

Quote:
Peter Kelly wrote: View Post
Surely there was something that the founder thought he could transmit better than anyone else, what was it? And is it missing in today's Aikido. I am not talking about ki, though you can't avoid the subject with Tohei, but we are talking about before the idea of a Ki society was even a slight glimmer in his eye......
The Founder knew that Tohei not only embodied the idea of aiki but that he could teach it as well. It seems that Ueshiba's other students were more interested in the technical application of technique than in developing strong mind/body coordination (aiki).

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Old 09-24-2021, 08:17 AM   #22
jimbaker
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Re: Why Tohei?

This is a very interesting Zoom conversation between Harvey Konigsberg Shihan of Woodstock Aikido and Hal Lehrman Shihan of Aikido of Park Slope about the early days of the New York Aikikai.

Aside from being very funny, they talk about Koichi Tohei and his influence in the US.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L4Dp7Th-x3k

Jim Baker
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Old 09-25-2021, 09:18 AM   #23
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Re: Why Tohei?

Very entertaining and interesting video 🤛👍🤜
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