Recommended reading: “Interview with Koichi Tohei (2)” by Stanley Pranin

The interview below with Koichi Tohei sensei, aikido’s first 10th dan and founder of the Ki no Kenkyukai, has been selected from the extensive archives of the Online Aikido Journal. Tohei Sensei is an outspoken individual and one of the towering figures of aikido in the postwar era. At the present time, Tohei Sensei is 91 years of age and retired in his ancestral home in Tochigi Preference. We believe that an informed readership with knowledge of the history, techniques and philosophy of aikido is essential to the growth of the art and its adherence to the principles espoused by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Ueshiba Sensei was an individual who showed what it means to exist in a relaxed state, to possess true ki, and to have a unified mind and body. His posture was as solid as a rock and you couldn’t budge him no matter how you pushed or pulled; yet he would toss me effortlessly without ever letting me feel that he was using any strength at all. I was astounded that such a person should actually exist in the world.

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  1. At my current level of experience (35 years training) I might say that the better you understand the relationship that comprises the form, the less strength you need to follow the form to completion.

    It is interesting that the editor juxtaposed this article with the previous about judo weight classes. Looking simply at success in completing a technique as a measure, clearly a great enough disparity in size or muscular strength will allow the larger or stronger person to “succeed”, despite a lack of skill. Have always sought practical application. So, now I say to the stronger person, “Fine. That worked, but you worked too hard. Maybe you have to deal with ten more. Will you still be strong enough for the last one?”

    Strength works, but subtlety works longer. This is to say nothing of the ravages of age. So far my strength is still pretty sufficient for most purposes. But it won’t be that way forever. Does that mean that when my strength is gone I will be helpless? The example of O Sensei and the the other older sensei encourages me to believe that if I continue to train it may be otherwise.

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