Calling missing persons bureau… Koichi Tohei’s descent to oblivion!


“Tohei Sensei’s many contributions and impact on the early development of aikido were unceremoniously deleted and relegated to the dustbin of history.”

The Aikikai Hombu Dojo located in Tokyo is by far the largest aikido organizational entity in the world, dwarfing all others. During the late 1950s through 1974, the best known figure of the Aikikai was its chief instructor, Koichi Tohei, the first man to have ever been awarded the lofty rank of 10th dan.

Tohei Sensei had a strong character and wished to have his pedagogical approach emphasizing ki adopted by the entire teaching staff at the Aikikai. This did not come to pass, and Tohei Sensei resigned from the Aikikai in 1974 causing a huge chasm in the aikido world. For a time, this event impeded the development of aikido.

This led to the ascent of Second Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba who then took control of technical and administrative matters at the Aikikai leaving his personal stamp on modern aikido. In the process, Koichi Tohei, 10th dan, was systematically written out of the Aikikai’s official history of the art. Tohei Sensei’s many contributions and impact on the early development of aikido were unceremoniously deleted and relegated to the dustbin of history.


As an aikido practitioner, why should you care about such events that happened long ago? Watch the video below for an eye-opening look at how the history of aikido has been manipulated, how this affects you, and how you can remedy the situation!


  1. A few years ago I revisited the Aikikai Hombu where I used to train every morning (after decades away) and received a warm welcome from the Doshu–until I made the mistake of answering truthfully his question as to what I had been doing in the interim, and I mentioned the names of some of the sensei I had learned from, including Koichi Tohei and Kenji Shimizu! Summer turned to winter instantly, smiles were replaced with frowns and shaking of the head!

    On the same visit to Japan I dined with an old Aikikai sempai who, when somewhat inebriated, said, “I really liked Tohei Sensei’s teachings but I HATE him (shouted) because of what he did to the Ueshiba family!

    The hatchet is far from being buried and there are certain names you had better not mention if you want to stay on good terms with the Aikikai! On the other hand, you may find such parochialism tedious, especially when the feud has been going on for so many years.

    But the late Tohei and Saito Senseis were not entirely blameless for this situation as both had been outspoken critics of the Hombu and publicly expressed their derision for the way aikido was taught there. For the leadership of the Hombu to treat their part in the history of aikido with unbiased accuracy would be like asking them to react with “love and harmony”, as per the word “aikido”, which would probably be asking too much!

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