Introduction to Competitive Aikidō: A training system for “atemi waza” and “kansetsu waza”
People will remember the era of Coronavirus for many years to come and its ultimate impact on the world is as yet unknown as I write this preface. However, since I have been furloughed and am in lockdown for at least twelve weeks, I have taken the opportunity to translate this handbook, written by Tomiki Kenji in the 1970s and given to me in the 1980s by my aikido sensei, Nariyama Tetsuro.
But for two events, I never would have started practising aikido. Firstly, I practised jūdō for five years and at the end of that period dislocated my shoulder in a jūdō bout. Secondly, I saw a demonstration by Nariyama shihan, then thirty-five years old and already the head of the Shōdōkan Honbu Dojo in Osaka.
I am a sportsman. I represented my university at table tennis and football, and I have enjoyed playing a number of different sports. I received full university colours for my contribution to sport at the University of Sheffield. I have always been interested in Japan and began practising jūdō at the age of fifteen. At the age of twenty-one, when I saw that demonstration by Nariyama shihan in London, he was using a powerful man called Philip Newcombe1 as his uke. I had never witnessed such a commanding yet eloquent demonstration of soft power. I determined there and then to travel to Japan to learn from this master. Starting my training with Philip Newcombe, I went to Osaka in 1984 to learn under Nariyama shihan. It was the fact that there is a robust competitive aikido kyōgi training method, which allows techniques to be tested, that drew me in.
This handbook concerns the ‘sportification’ of aikido and explains the necessity for a true and robust randori training method to bring to life the techniques hitherto learnt only in kata practice. Tomiki sensei was a pre-eminent student of Kano Jigoro, the founder of jūdō. Kano had constructed a randori training method for nage waza and katame waza. Tomiki applied the logical, educational and practical methods used by Kano to modernise old jū jutsu to construct a randori training system for atemi waza and kansetsu waza. In Kano’s time, these two categories of techniques had been preserved within, among others, dai to ryu aiki jū jutsu, in kata form only. One of the best instructors of the day was Ueshiba Morihei, who went on to found aikido. Tomiki sensei became a pre-eminent student of Ueshiba Morihei when he established his aikido dojo in Tokyo. With Kano’s methodology and Ueshiba’s skill with atemi waza and kansetsu waza, Tomiki was able to fill the gap in the modernisation of jū jutsu by constructing a new randori method for these techniques, which are superlative against an attack from distance apart. Between Kano’s randori training method for nage waza and katame waza, and Tomiki’s randori training method for atemi waza and kansetsu waza, the four major categories of jū jutsu techniques had been revitalised for the modern era.
However, the handbook not only explains the risks of not having a randori system of training, but also warns of the dangers inherent in having one.
There has been over fifty years of aikido competition now, and still there are problems and issues that need to be addressed in order for the sport of aikido to be truly recognised as a legitimate and beneficial combat sport. I have added a chapter at the end of Tomiki’s handbook outlining my beliefs and ideas for the future of aikido kyōgi.
A note on the translation of Japanese words:
Japanese script is, of course, completely different to those of Western alphabets. The Japanese written language uses Chinese characters, kanji, in addition to two phonetic alphabets. Usually, romanised Japanese is written so that a long vowel sound is represented by “oo” or “ō” and “uu” or “ū”. I prefer the latter, as English readers are apt to read “oo” as in who and will not know how to read “uu”. Somewhat confusingly, perhaps, “uu” is read as in whoo, while “oo” is read as in bowl including the beginning of the w sound – owu. I have used the latter method throughout the text from the next page onwards.
All Japanese words are written in lower case, since capital letters don’t exist in Japanese script. However, I have given words a capital letter when they appear at the beginning of a sentence as it is unnatural for an English reader for this not to be the case. I have also capitalised Japanese proper names. All Japanese words that have “ ” either side in the text were quotation marks by Tomiki sensei in the original text. Japanese uses different quotation marks –「 」– that appear at the top left and bottom right corners of the highlighted word. I have bracketed ( ) my own translation of key words in certain places, but where the brackets were Tomiki’s I have stated this in the text.
Scott Allbright 6th dan, Shōdōkan Aikidō March 2020
Philip Newcombe brought Shodokan Aikido to the UK. He reached the grade of 7th dan before his untimely death in 2018. Phil sensei and Nariyama shihan were the two most prominent instructors in my learning and I am eternally indebted to them both↩