Koichi Tohei Sensei passes at age 91

Koichi Tohei Sensei (1920-2011)

We received this message from David Shaner Sensei about the passing this morning of Koichi Tohei Sensei at the age of 91.

“Dear Aikido Friends, it is with great sadness that I share the passing of Koichi Tohei Sensei at 9:14 this morning in Japan. He was 91 years old. A closed family funeral will occur soon and in some weeks time a formal funeral will be planned in Tokyo where members and friends my be present. With deep gratitude for all his teaching helping many throughout the world to realize their true potential.”

This just received from Ki Society Headquarters in slightly edited form:

“Dear Chief Instructors,

We regret to inform you that Koichi Tohei Sensei passed away at 9:14 this morning. He was 91 years old.

Two weeks ago, he had sense of discomfort on his chest and it was found that he had inflammation of the lungs, so he had been receiving treatment. He went to intensive-care unit (ICU) twice and came back to general ward each time with his strength of Ki, however, his heart got weak little by little this morning and he passed away.

After discussion in his family and it was decided that the closed funeral will be held within his family including Shinichi Tohei Sensei and the formal funeral for all members will be held in Tokyo some weeks later for those who would like to be present.

The date and place of the formal funeral will be announced to all of you after a decision has been reached.

We are very sorry for the inconvenience but would appreciate your kind understanding for the above.


Wataru Hatakeyama
(sent on behalf of Shinichi Tohei Sensei)
Overseas Division
Ki Society H.Q.”

Further reading:
“Encyclopedia of Aikido” entry for Koichi Tohei Sensei
Interview with Koichi Tohei Sensei (1996)
Interview with Koichi Tohei Sensei (1997)
Wikipedia entry of Koichi Tohei Sensei


  1. Wen Boonyong says:

    Wish the great sensei long live as Aikido forever.

  2. Jack Hosie says:

    It is a sad day for aikido, with the loss of Tohei sensei, without doubt, the most important and influential figure after Ueshiba sensei, may his legacy live on and prosper.

  3. This is a major shock to me, even though I never personally met Koichi Tohei Sensei. His Aikido and other amazing books are an inspiration to me. In fact, reading about him made me begin my Aikido training over 25 years ago. My class will be dedicated to his Aikido with ki tonight.

    Koichi Tohei Sensei gave so much to aikido and the universe and will be sadly missed… a truly great man!

  4. Leonardo Ortega says:

    Too sad in one side, but too happy in the other side since he finally got into the light and revealed the main mystery of all…. See you on the infinity sensei, there i will be keep learning

  5. We have lost a great teacher, one that had a way to teach to make you feel at ease and enjoy learning. Always with a understanding smile. Tohei Sensei will be missed, but his teaching will continually last.

  6. It is with great sadness that I learn of this. My sensei was a great admirer of him and we spent many hours practicing his Ki exercises. My deepest sympathies to his family and friends. Mark W

  7. A great loss indeed. He has left a huge void in the Aikido world that can never be filled. Thoughts with Sensei’s Family & closest friends.

  8. Glorious journey through life. Glorious journey into THE light. His light remains with us in life. His successor lives among us. Farewell Great Sensei !

  9. A great loss for the broad Aikido family, his teaching will last for ever!!!

  10. Johann Enslin says:

    Condolences to the family. A great Aikidoka.

  11. Was Koichi Tohei Sensei a true paradox?

    On the one hand, his was a genius of huge social importance and impact, influencing cultures and challenging paradigms on an international scale with his seductive and romantic notions of enlightened mental discipline, along with naïve and simplistic applications. Can one truly argue that Aikido’s current popularity was enhanced immeasurably by his contributions? No, one cannot.

    On the other hand, those close to him witnessed a flawed and fallible human being, whose all consuming ambition to be The Doshu , served to blind him to the true value and significance of his mentors, his peers, and his loyal supporters. This then resulted in an tragic diminution of his rightful place in Japanese and martial arts history and prominence. It can, and has been debated that his potential heights and influences would have been exponentially more if not for his frequent episodes of petulant outbursts of childishness, his petty tantrums of spite, and his appalling lack of true vision of what the greater picture had in store for one of his gifts and accomplishments.

    His was a gift for the ages. Tohei Sensei’s actual impact and proven value will be debated indefinitely, and sadly, without resolution or closure.

    Yes, we indeed lost a great innovator and teacher. Let us choose to remember him kindly, for his moments of brilliance that thrilled us all.

    Rest in peace, Tohei Sensei. You have finally made it home.

  12. Clark Bateman says:

    The value of his contributions may never truly be realized. This is a sad day.

  13. Jan Michels says:

    Condolences to his family.
    A great man has died but will be for ever in our minds.
    His seeds will grow for ever.

    Jan Michels

  14. queckenstedt, rüdiger says:

    in diesem traurigen Moment möchte ich von Herzen danke sagen für die Inspiration, die Tohei koichi meinem ganzen Leben gegeben hat.
    ich hatte das Glück 1970/71 ihn als Lehrer im Aikikai honbu Dojo erlebt zu haben. Danke!

    Words to Calm the Spirit

    Ametsuchi no musubi no naka ni chihayaburu
    Kami no mioya no oyaoya to tsutae mashite
    Chichihaha no atae tamahishi wake mitama.
    Life originated with great vigor when heaven and earth took form, the genesis of the universe. The mitama of the kamisama has divided and been transmitted to us through our ancestors and parents.

    Kono utsushiyo o makari naba
    Towa no mitama no furusato no kami no mikado ni kaeru nari
    When we pass from this visible world, we return to the resplendent abode of the kami, the origin of the enduring mitama.

    Kami no mikado wa
    Ametsuchi no nagaki inochi ni kotonarazu
    Mimi ni kokoezu me ni mienu
    Kiyoki nagisa ni shiki nami no yosuru tokoyo no kuni to yu.
    The kamisama realm of eternal life remains inaudible and invisible. It is said: in the eternal land of the kamisama, waves gently lap on a beautiful, endless shore.

    Tokoyo no kuni ni shirakumo no chie o oshi wake akanesasu
    Hi no wakamiya ga tatsu to yu
    It is said: in heaven the white clouds are pushed away, and there stands a shrine of the sun which shines a brilliant crimson color.

    Hi no wakamiya no takadono ni
    Yoyo no mitama wa akaru tae teru
    Tae mochite mi o yosohi mizu no magatama
    Torikakete yasuku odahi ni masu to yu
    It is said: generations and generations of mitama radiate extraordinarily brightly, residing in the calm, tranquil sanctuary of the Sun Shrine, wearing exquisite, beautiful jewels.

    Yasuku odahi ni masu koto o aogi kohinomi
    Utsusomi no ware mo ukara mo hitosuji ni
    We who are living in the present world
    Earnestly look up in prayer, pleading for abiding peace and tranquility for the Departed.

    Kami no mamichi no masamichi o ukegahi matsuri tsutsushimite
    We sincerely believe in the true, straight path of the kami.

    Oyako harakara mutsumajiku ie o totonoe
    Mi o osame kiyoku akaruku urehinaku
    Ikuru makoto o ame kakeri kuni kakerishite misonahashi
    Parents and children, brothers and sisters—all strive to live clearly and brightly, in happiness and without grief. See how this truth flies through the heavens and soars across the earth!

    Mitama wa takaku yasurakeku
    Iya tokoshie ni shizumarite
    We pray that your mitama abide nobly, in peaceful tranquility for all time.

    Ie no sakae o mamori mase
    Ie no sakae o mamori mase
    Protect the prosperity of our livelihoods.
    Protect the prosperity of our homes.

    Mu jo rei ho shin ju bu gyo
    Ten jo mu kyu mei un ryu sho
    Bu nan nyu shin ka sho an raku
    Not/above/spirit/treasure sincerity/receive/serve/go
    Heaven/earth/not/distress life/fate/flourishing/bright
    Not/distress/enter/kami changing/life/peaceful/ease

    Myo ho ji gen dai i jin tsu riki
    We follow kannagara, the way of the universe,
    that the kami will manifest divine power in our being.

    Harae tamae kiyome tamae mamori tamae
    Sakiwae tamae terashi tamae michibiki tamae
    Sweep the impurities from our being and purify our spirits
    Grant us protection; grant us happiness;
    Restore brightness to our spirits and give us guidance.

    Sugasuga shiku sukoyaka ni
    Higoto yogoto o arashime tamae
    We implore the kami, that we may know health and strength, every day and every night.

  16. Renato Alcântara says:

    The shy are hardly remembered. They live calm and secluded lifes.
    Greatness usually leads to conflict, for any visible thing is a potential target.
    Tohei sensei was more than visible. He was impossible to ignore.

    People usually think of Aikido as a way to conflict resolution. To me Aikido is more like a walk through conflict in the quest for our true center.

    Tohei sensei found it.

    Let us ponder about his life and work…and question ours.

  17. Nuestras condolencias a la familia de Koichi Tohei sensei por su sensible fallecimiento. A partir de hoy estará por siempre en mis oraciones como siempre lo estan los grandes maestros de artes marciales que sigo admirando en sus huellas dejadas. Dios lo tenga en su gloria. Hasta pronto Tohei sensei, tuve la ilusión de algna vez conocerlo en este mundo. Dios ha querido tenerlo a su lado.
    Omar Ebermmannss

  18. Christian says:

    Ich finde es sehr sehr schade und traurig, dass Sensei nicht mehr unter uns ist ! Ich bedaure es, dass ich nie die Möglichkeit hatte unter Sensei zu trainineren ! Seine Fröhlichkeit auf diveresen Videos wird mir immer in Erinnerung bleiben ! Domo arigato Sensei !

  19. He was an amazing individual and martial artist. The Ideas and training methods he shared with the world are inspiring.

    He will be missed.

  20. An excellent master has gone, his legacy will last among many Aikido teachers and students.

  21. Truly, any discussion of the history of Aikido includes the iconic figure of Koichi Tohei. Sad day.

  22. In gratitude

  23. Tohei Sensei’s legacy cannot be undermined and will influence my life every day as it does now. Truly sad news for everyone.

  24. I’ll always treasure the fond memories I have of Sensei Tohei at practice and off the mat, for the short time I got to spend with him. His teaching methods clarified Aikido principles, and made the art more accessible. Before learning his methods, our techniques used more strength, and it seemed that those with a certain body type were more powerful. The concept of Ki became more widely known, and if imitation is the greatest form of flattery, the impact of his teachings can be seen in the explosion of martial artist doing so called “Ki demonstrations”.

    No one is perfect. To dwell on any supposed personal flaws now is at best, well, just petulant. There will time to consider his historical impact, and weigh the varied opinions of those who “knew” him. The history is not written yet. Now is the time to and celebrate a life that was meaningful in the best sense of the word, spent in the uplift of others. So in that spirit , I offer a final Kiai:

  25. Thank you for your teachings Sensei! R.I.P.

  26. First of all, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of Koichi Tohei Sensei. It is a sad news of his passing. I first met Tohei Sensei in 1976 in wales, UK. I had the privilege of talking to him many times between practice times he was a very humble man for ever smiling. I’ll always remember my two young sons being bounced one on each of his knees. It was a warm feeling. He was a man of warmth and compassion! Tohei Sensei let go knowing he was loved and understood, leaving us teachers with all the secrets he never kept. As we shouldn’t either, to continue teaching ki development within the art of Aikido we love. I am so gratefull to him for my way of life i will always carry him in my heart , R.I.P SENSEI !!

  27. A huge loss to the Aikido world and the humanity at large. Could not put in words the legacy that he has left behind……..His spirit will remain with all of us!!!

  28. Jan Robberts says:

    It is always sad to hear of people passing away,even more so when these people have made such a difference in the world!
    Koichi Tohei Sensei was an innovator, a thinker, a developer and a true evangelist of Ki-Aikido. Maybe not everyone agreed at times with His ways and his movement but I’m sure all respected his dedication to the living art to which He dedicated a huge part of his life.

    I, for one,have become a stronger, more positive person because of His Ki-Aikido …and I know there are thousands around the world like me.

    My condolences and thoughts go to his family and close friends and I want to thank them from the bottom of my heart for having given us the pleasure and great honour of His wisdom and teachings…which will live on around the world.

    Koici Tohei Sensei,The man,the Legend…sadly missed but your work lives on!!!!

  29. Antony Gilles says:

    It is with the nameless emotion that I learn Tohei Sensei passed away. There will be my major influence in my practice of aikido and in the everyday life.
    Thank you to this man of faithful exception transmitter of the teaching of O’ sensei.
    Peace in his Ki… Rest in peace. (France)
    2nd dan of aikido

  30. Sensei
    Thank you for all the knowledge I learned from you as a youth. I carry on passing your gifts to me
    to my students as an adult. You will be always in my heart.

  31. Andreas Kmaug says:


    Thank you for the many lessons.
    May you rest in peace.

  32. J. Copeland says:

    An old book I found in a dumpster over 25 years ago was written by Koichi Tohei Sensei: Aikido – The Arts of Self Defense. This book is what started my lifelong journey in Aikido. I did not find out about Tohei Sensei’s death till just now. It is truly sad… One of the greatest icons of Aikido history has passed away. He will be forever missed … especially by me. For if it was not for him, I would not be in Aikido today. Thank you, Tohei Sensei. I will continue this journey of mine and bear you and your teachings in my heart always. God bless you …

  33. Ferdinand Dela Cruz says:

    I was sad when I learned the news about Sensei Koichi Tohei. I just googled his name today without any forethought, and now I know that he passed away almost three months ago.

    Anyway, I learned about him almost 15 years ago when I came upon an aikido dojo in the Philippines where they specialize in ki aikido, and the teachings of Sensei Tohei were greatly studied and imparted to all students. To make the story short, I learned the principles of ki aikido and I can vouch that these principles have effectively influenced my life. All thanks to Sensei Tohei for those teachings.

    God bless Sensei and may you rest in peace.

  34. Aleksandar Jovasevic says:

    Thank you Sensei on great impact of your teachings, reading your books it help me understand many things in aikido and also in daily life… RIP

  35. Piero Scalella says:

    Il Grande Maestro Koichi Tohei resta nelle nostre menti per sempre.


  1. […] Un jour après Abe Sensei, un autre grand maître de l'Aïkido nous a quitté en la personne de Kochi Tohei Sensei, ce à l'âge de 91 ans (voir ce message d'Aïkido Journal). […]

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