“Using Koichi Tohei’s Model as a Baseline” by Mike Sigman

A young Steven Seagal attempts to lift Koichi Tohei, c. 1972

“Steven Seagal can’t lift Koichi Tohei!”

One of the big problems with many of the Aikido articles printed by westerners is that they are opinion articles, often with fuzzy interpretations of numerous Aikido or Aikido-related ideas. Sometimes the idea of “Aikido-related” is a far stretch indeed, getting into self-help, psychology, and other areas that Ueshiba never directily mentioned or advised on in his life.

Although Koichi Tohei is treated by many Aikido practitioners as someone who does “a different brand” (or some other minmization), Tohei had some innovative ideas that I think the other styles would do well to borrow, particularly in light of the recent (and very late) realization that many of the “ki” things Tohei speaks of are substantive and they are essential components of Aikido techniques.

If much of the confusing and poorly-translated comments about ki are muted and the function of Tohei’s Aikido are examined, his ideas are not fuzzy at all. Tohei has shown substantive use of physically-verifiable aspects of ki in his techniques since well before he left Hombu Dojo as the Chief Instructor. When formulating the approach for the Ki Society, Tohei used the ki skills as a baseline for usage in all techniques and also as a separate study line for practitioners to base their overall development upon. Frankly, it would appear that he had a good idea. The question is why, other than as some aspect of internecine rivalry, so many other Aikidoists ignore and don’t understand the reason and utility of the basics of ki studies in their own Aikido.

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  1. Ignorance and Aikido – It is easier to ridicule than to investigate but not as gainful.

    Ignorance,(ORIGIN Middle English : via Old French from Latin ignorantia, from ignorant- ‘not knowing’ ) the ignoring of facts, not wanting to know is only outdone by bigotism, bias and complacency that so fears the discomfort of learning that it works many times harder to remain ignorant that would be to simply learn. It is another disease of the ego.

    Simply look and notice what is as it is and do your research. Studying the available facts of history helps to paint a clearer picture.

    Anyone can do ki tricks. They mean nothing to anyone whose had to do a days work of the real kind. Perhaps for office workers, the sedentary, rediscovering how to use the body-mind connection may be considered somewhat helpful.

    There is nothing “phenomenal” about so called “ki.” It is a natural function of will or intent anyone can apply. For those in which it has atrophied, a little practice will bring it back.

    For those who practice it a lot, it shines. Tohei was not bad with ki. Some wrestlers are far better. Indigenous natural survivor more so.

    The question arises: What else can you do?

    As for the deprecation of what is labelled “self help” and making uninformed claims about Morihei Ueshiba’s research, after not having been there with him to verify one way or the other, that’s not too bright or helpful an approach.

    I agree that the great majority “opinion articles” are self-scratching waffle. But close scrutiny and paying attention may reveal that some are not,”opinion” but pointing towards valid areas of neglected research.

    As for Aikido being strictured and in a box, that is a pathology. Whether the stricture limits itself by relying on a fantasy version of “ki,” or the rote practice of poorly rendered and ineffectual techniques that uke has to fake ukemi for.. or any other.. it does Aikido no favours.

    Ueshiba himself stated clearly, “Aikido is a path of research as broad and endless as the universe without end..”

    That’s pretty inclusive, don’t you think?

    As for the things Morihei studied and promulgated, you would be surprised. Do your homework and don’t rely only on just the internet.

    I agree that Tohei had a great deal to offer that was unjustly dismissed, much to the overall detriment of the art as a result of the disease of ill intentioned politics, lacking the very AI in the KI that Morihei primarily and above all else attempted to get across at EVERY level when he was alive.

    Nota Bene: In Morihei Ueshiba’s own words, “The playthings of the dojo are merely a means…”

    The ai in the ki is the salient feature of Aikido. Not whether you can walk on water or hang great weights from your testicles. These stunts have long been done to death by ignorant and en-enlightened yogis and faquirs who have not added one jot to, “the overall welfare of life, humanity, nurturing, caring, protecting…”(Morihei Ueshiba), rather, they still live in squalor.

    Tohei’s contribution was immense. His training methodology, whilst not complete or “street” useful, definitively augment Aikido practice and constitute a valid, and in my view, required part of the curriculum if you want to develop well rounded Aikido and some increased measure of understanding.

    As for not being lifted, that’s stunt any drunk or unconscious person can do without trying.
    Bruce Lee overcame that by punching one practitioner in the mouth. After that he became easy to lift!
    He got poisoned for demonstrating the truth which some people’s ego find difficult to handle. (Mainly because it affects their illicit income.)

    The Ai in the ki. Research that! Everything else is mere details that may or may not contribute usefully.

  2. Hi Mike,
    At the risk of over analysing, it looks to me like Seagal Sensei’s weight is on his heels, thus making it nigh on impossible to lift Tohei Sensei…any comment/insights?


  3. Manny Williams says:

    Is there any videos of Mike Sigman online showing his stuff?

    Thank you very much

  4. George Szaszvari says:

    Ki exercises like the pictured one are simply tools, done by thousands of trainees every day, to help highlight the power of relaxation/ extending ki, to cultivate the same feeling in aikido training and daily life. Done frequently, and explored in myriad ways, such exercises help reinforce the subconscious memory that balanced non-resistant relaxation is stronger than hard resistant tension in managing the energy another person is trying to manipulate us with. Anyone can do such exercises at home with friends, so why is anyone here bothering to argue about it? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Ki Society instructors sometimes bring a 90lb ten year old child on to the mat, when a 200lb adult easily lifts the kid, then the kid is instructed in how to relax/extend ki, and, lo and behold, the 220lb adult trainee finds that he can hardly lift the child, if at all. As for the “any drunk can do the same” jibe, a little bit of thought, plus experience in both binge drinking and ki training, will reveal to you how very different they are: though relaxed, the drunk no longer has his mind to operate with, thus giving up all coordination between mind and body. Besides, think about why O-Sensei made Tohei chief instructor of the Aikikai over other more senior people there.

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