We are well along in our latest DVD project, tentatively titled “Koichi Tohei: A Retrospective” which will contain a wealth of important historical footage of Tohei Sensei spanning the early 1950s through the mid-1970s. The immediate task at hand is the preparation of the documentary section which will cover Tohei Sensei’s early years in aikido up through his departure from the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in 1974. Below you will find an excerpt from the narration text for that portion of the documentary:
In May, 1974, an event occurred that shook the roots of the aikido world to its very foundations. It was then that Koichi Tohei, the chief instructor of the Aikikai Hombu Dojo, resigned from his post and left the headquarters organization to form his own school. Many aikido associations, dojos, instructors, and students, particularly in Japan and the U.S.A., were compelled to make a choice of whether to stay within the Aikikai system or join Tohei’s newly-created Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido organization. The impact on those who remained within the Aikikai organization was nonetheless traumatic because they saw the illusion of harmony at the highest level of leadership in the aikido world shattered. Regardless of where one stood on the issue, aikido at large had suffered a huge black eye.
From the viewpoint of the Aikikai, Tohei’s actions and attempt to dictate the technical curriculum and teaching methodology were unacceptable. In Tohei’s eyes, the aikido headquarters had snubbed his leadership and failed to sufficiently acknowledge his many accomplishments and contributions to the postwar spread of aikido, both in Japan and abroad. The contentious issue was further complicated by a web of long-standing personal relationships that had turned sour.
The upshot of this tragic situation was that in the aftermath of Tohei’s departure, neither he nor the Aikikai has wished to revisit this sad episode and the issue has been effectively swept under the rug for more than 35 years.
Who is Koichi Tohei and why is he so important to an understanding of the development of aikido? Should he be unceremoniously deleted from aikido history due to past grievances or should he be given due credit for his role in the shaping of the modern art of aikido?
Watch this section for further updates on our progress.