Throughout this thesis, Tomiki sensei has taken us on a journey from the warring period of Japanese history, through the Meiji Restoration and into the modern era. He starts with bu jutsu (武術), as a means of subjugating bō ryoku (暴力), through various waza (技) that are intended predominantly to injure, maim or kill. Within bu jutsu is jū jutsu (柔術), controlling bō ryoku with empty hands. As time passes, the waza become more skilful and organised into systems of practice. They also take on more philosophical and spiritual meaning through the code of bushidō (武士道), such that practitioners are now following a way (道). The stage of combat moves from the battleground (実戦場) to the sports arena (競技場) and weapons and methods are devised that can test real power without resorting to injury or death, such as the shinai (竹刀) in kendō and midare (乱れ) unarmed combat in jū jutsu. It is Kanō Jigorō who finally attempts to extrapolate all that is good in bu jutsu (i.e. testable) and to create a single method of training using kata (形) and randori (乱取り) based on the universal principles that underpinned the waza. This becomes jūdō (柔道).
Kanō organised jū jutsu into four main categories; nage waza; katame waza; kansetsu waza; and atemi waza. His randori training method was ideal for the first two categories, but he was restricted to kata practice for the last two categories. At that time, Tomiki was training with both Kanō and Ueshiba and devised a randori training method for the latter two categories of kansetsu waza and atemi waza, using the foundation laid down by Kanō.
It is important to understand that Kanō was practising and teaching all four categories of techniques, as ko ryū jū jutsu contained them all. At that time, however, it was the skill of Ueshiba in the latter two categories of kansetsu waza and atemi waza that was superlative and it was Tomiki who filled in the gap in Kanō’s system of training by explaining the need for a second randori practice method. But Ueshiba had already called his new way aikidō (合気道) and that is why Tomiki says “we can see that jūdō as aikidō has also been separated from jūdō”.
In today’s age of YouTube and other social platforms it is very easy to trawl through a seemingly infinite number of video clips of jūdō and aikidō, as well as every other form of combat sport now available to the modern athlete. Two broad factors emerge in the case of jūdō and aikidō. In the case of jūdō, we can see the bent forward posture making leg and hip throws very difficult but exposing the head, front of the torso and groin to attack with strikes and kicks.
In the case of aikidō, we can see large flowing exaggerated movements used against willing uke content to hurl themselves great distances at the merest touch, akin to “hanahō kenhō” (華法剣法) in ken jutsu.
These two illustrations are polar opposites to the real budō that exists at their core.
It was with regret that Tomiki Kenji looked back on a hundred years of jūdō history in terms of the neglect of the jūdō kihon kōzō and the atemi waza and kansetsu waza groups of techniques. At the same time, he also acknowledged the superb advances that had been made in nage waza and katame waza, due to the fact that they were easily adapted to jūdō randori and shiai contests.
I think that in the same way, we can now look back on fifty years of aikidō kyōgi, randori and shiai and see that there are still problems inherent in both enbu (演武) (martial demonstration) and shiai.
The problem inherent in enbu is one of objectivity in deciding win/loss outcomes. Certainly, the introduction of direct competition between two pairs of players in kitei enbu (規定演武, fixed enbu) was a great step forwards.
The problems inherent in shiai are more complex but are basically ones of inequality between two players during the game, which influence heavily incentives and the matter of distance.
Part of the problem is the opening up of Japanese budō to the wider world. As has been seen in jūdō and kendō, without the historical and theoretical framework that informs these sports, the victory-and-loss principle is broadly determined and influenced by practical results in randori shiai matches. The inherent danger of this is a return to bō ryoku over bu ryoku. The practical results must reflect a deeper goal than just winning. The primary purpose of shiai is to test technique rather than win medals.
In kendō, the problem has been more to do with a lack of refereeing skills and an understanding of the principle of “kawa wo kirashite niku wo kiru ri” (“When you cut the skin you cut the flesh”) which has led to disputed results. Meanwhile in jūdō, an upright posture able to move in any direction at speed has been largely replaced by a low, bent forward posture by foreign players, who have found it a better defence to jūdō techniques in the sport. However, such a posture would not fare well against kicks or strikes. This poor posture is not to be confused with a jigotai (自護体) posture, which while lowering at the knees remains upright, as in Sumo. Aikidō kyōgi randori and shiai have encountered both of these issues too.
Because aikidō kyōgi is concerned with an attack from distance apart, Tomiki sensei introduced a soft tantō to ensure distance was kept. However, the opportunity for technique only appears when the tantō strike is committed and formal as prescribed in the rules of shiai, i.e. the same foot as the striking arm is forward, both feet move forward and the strike is straight towards the torso target area. The question is why would a player attack in that manner knowing it might lead to them being thrown or pinned? Also, because there is no international, recognised refereeing course that involves attendance, testing and approval, the level of refereeing remains generally poor.
The introduction of the tantō also means that only one player holds the tantō while the other defends against strikes and applied techniques. It was necessary, therefore, in the interests of equality and fairness that there be two halves to a match. I believe it was Tomiki sensei’s ultimate intention for both players to be able to apply technique in shiai, and whilst he never achieved this goal, Nariyama shihan27 went on to develop kaeshi waza (返し技) whereby tantō could apply atemi waza with the free hand or the tantō hand if grabbed. From the perspective of other combat sports though, this is strange. Whilst there are plenty of sports which are played over two halves, the same sport is played by all players in both halves, whereas in tantō shiai, each player plays a completely different role in each half, once as the attacker and once as the defender.
Certainly, Tomiki sensei’s original idea was to have toshu randori from distance apart. This means both players are equal and have the same opportunities to throw each other. However, more often than not, the distance between two players was closed whereby nage waza, using the hips and legs, became more expedient than atemi waza or kansetsu waza. Hence the need to keep distance apart and the introduction of the soft tantō.
I believe there is a solution, however. Toshu randori is the ideal sport in which to apply atemi waza and kansetsu waza and offers both players the same opportunities. The need to keep distance apart is derived from the use of a weapon. Tomiki sensei devised the soft tantō so that strikes could be committed without causing injury, along the same lines as the shinai in kendō. The aikidō kyōgi randori practice methods for use against the tantō should be employed up to and including randorigeiko to forge the skills required to overcome any attack from distance apart. But it should not go as far as shiai contests. At that point, the sport breaks down because there are two halves where the players are not equal and the nature of the strike is determined by the sport, not the budō. However, if those same skills learnt in randorigeiko against a weapon are then taken into toshu kyōgi the budo principles of ma ai, aiki (timing), kuzushi and natural posture are upheld. It is in toshu randori where renzoku waza, and particularly counters (ura waza), come into their own and are not limited for either player.
In jūdō, there are weight categories, just as in boxing, so that strength and size does not become the overriding factor in victory and defeat. This is not so necessary in weapon arts such as kendo or naginata jutsu because of the distance apart created by the weapon. Tomiki Kenji introduced the soft tantō to emphasise the distance apart, “ma ai”. If the distance is maintained in toshu randori, i.e. far enough to prevent hip and leg throws but close enough to apply arm techniques and atemi, then there should not be an absolute necessity for the introduction of weight categories in shiai. But it may prove necessary to divide players by weight into two categories: lightweight and heavyweight.
I believe, too, that there is a simple solution for enbu. Since the legitimacy of a sport is based largely on the equality of its players, it is important that the players understand what is required of them in the fixed kitei kata. This involves using actual video footage of the techniques to be judged, taken from a variety of angles, as a learning tool. All players, regardless of style, who take part in kitei enbu competition must know how the techniques are to be performed in competition. Since Tomiki sensei established the Shōdōkan Honbu Dojo in Osaka, which is now headed by Nariyama shihan, I believe the task of formalising the kata should lie there. Instructors may teach the techniques in any number of ways and styles, but if their students are to compete in the kitei enbu they need to follow the form set down by the honbu dojo. The form set down is not arbitrary but chosen as being the most efficient way of demonstrating the essential nature of the techniques, attacks and defence.
Players and instructors should understand this point. Players who are truly skilled in enbu should also be skilled in shiai. If they are not, there is a disconnect between their kata and randori. Jiyu enbu (自由演武, free enbu) is more problematic. It is impossible to objectively judge two pairs against each other in jiyu enbu. Not only are the two pairs doing totally different things from each other, it is also impossible for any judge to see both kata when executed at the same time. I believe that the referee system employed in other subjective sports contests, such as diving, gymnastic displays, synchronised swimming, etc, should be employed. One pairing executes their enbu and is marked on that performance. Then the next pairing executes their enbu and so on, one at a time. This is a proven system in the aforementioned sports and was used in aikidō enbu competitions in the past. I think it is the only fair way to run this event.
I believe that enbu is essential in budo competition, because it helps stress-proof the deep knowledge and understanding needed to execute the techniques skilfully in randori and, by extension, reality. Those who take part in both enbu and randori are more complete players and gain greater overall benefit than specialists in either field.
Looking back over fifty years of competition, it is clear that, through randori, the atemi waza and kansetsu waza really have been brought back to life. Additionally, there have been great advances in those techniques just as there were in nage waza and katame waza in competitive jūdō, and the randori training methods have greatly improved. But the use of tantō in shiai contests has gone as far as it can. I believe the time is right to move to toshu randori, pitting two players against one another who possess randori skills learnt against tantō strikes, since this develops good tai sabaki and all waza can evolve from this skill.
Those randori methods should be embedded into the examination syllabus to ensure their continuation – tai sabaki, tegatana bogyo, roku hō tai sabaki, hiji mochi no kuzushi, etc. The reintroduction of toshu randori as the main sport would also breathe life into the kihon ura waza, which I think should be revisited and refined for the modern athlete.
Tomiki sensei also warned against the immutability of tradition. Kanō and Tomiki both dealt with this issue by extrapolating core principles of bu jutsu that would hold true as long as human beings remained largely unchanged. They constructed frameworks for those principles so that they could inform practical investigation into fighting systems and techniques. In this way, practices could change with the vicissitudes of the times while their core principles remained true.
After fifty years of aikidō kyōgi, it is also time that sports science is embraced and utilised to inform practice whilst staying true to the core principles. In this respect, jūdō is far ahead of aikidō.
I have no doubt that both Kanō and Tomiki would have fully embraced sports science to give further weight to their theories and inform their ideas. Both jūdō kyōgi and aikidō kyōgi have stood the test of time because they rest on solid foundations. It is now time to take the next big step forwards so that aikidō kyōgi stands alongside kendō kyōgi and jūdō kyōgi as a true equal in the eyes of the world of combat sports.
Nariyama Tetsuro was Tomiki sensei’s pre-eminent student and is the world technical director for Shōdōkan Aikidō. He also trained extensively with Hirokazu Kobayashi shihan, the last deshi of Ueshiba Morihei.↩