Kenji Tomiki was a famed Judo man, Aikidoka, and Shodoka. Shodo 書道 is the spiritual path of the brush. While much has been written about his work in the martial arts, very little has been passed down to us about his work with the brush.
In articles I have read Ueshiba Sensei was very impressed with his
calligraphy. Apparently from a young age he was influenced by the fine
arts of Japan. His uncle is cited as a major influence on his artistic development. His Uncle's name was Hyakusai Hirafuku. He was a famous painter and illustrator and the internet is full of his work and collections.
The Cherry Blossom blog writes of Hyakusai Hirafuku.
"He was born and brought up in 角館 (Kakunodate) , which is famous for the birthplace of 小田野直武 （おだの なおたけ）(Odano Naotake)(1750 – 1780), one of the greatest painters of Akita ranga (秋田蘭画) , also known as the Akita-ha (秋田派). 平福百穂 (Hirafuku Hyakusui) was greatly influenced by Akita ranga
(秋田蘭画) and earnestly tried to introduce and spread its style, in which
the Akita painters for the most part painted traditional Japanese themes
and compositions using Western-style techniques and an approximation of
I have been searching long and hard for examples of Kenji Tomiki's calligraphy and art work, and thus far they have been very hard to find. Anyone who is known for calligraphy will have thousands of examples of their work out there, but as of yet this is all I have been able to collect.
Here is a tiny blog friendly sized version of his most famous piece. It says 'Mushin Mugamae' 無心 無 translates to 'No Mind, No Stance'.
In the signature of Tomiki Sensei taken from the Mushin Mugamae painting. He signs it ShodokanCho, Tomiki Kenji
Above is from a signature on the back of a photograph.
It reads Aikido 合気道 on the right
and Tomiki, Kenji 富木 謙治on the left.
Here is a unstamped piece some lucky collector in Japan stumbled upon.
I found this piece on the JAA website.The four character piece is from Confucius' Analects. 「子曰、君子和而不同、小人同而不和」 Google translator says this means "and different" Poor translation? Out of context? At this point the true meaning eludes me. It is a tad clearer when I run the complete longer phrase through Google- I get back "Confucius said, a gentleman and a different villain same without."
On the Facebook Tomiki Study group Christopher Li added "The quote from Confucius is saying something on the order of
"harmony, not sameness" (Waji Fudou). In other words, working together
but not necessarily the same. It's part of the longer quote which says
"The wise man creates harmony without sameness, the narrow-minded person
creates sameness without harmony".
This next piece comes from the Waverley Aikido Website. They claim it was written by Tomiki Sensei. It reads Aikido 合気道.
I believe I am introducing the next two pieces to the internet. I posted on E-budo that I was searching for examples of Tomiki's work and these showed up in the mail.
Looks like this one says something like "gentle 柔 heart/mind 心 beauty 美 ki/spirit 気"
I blew up the signature on the bamboo painting.
The hanko taken off the bamboo painting. I blew it up and sharpened it a bit.
Here is another piece a contributor sent me claiming it was a Tomiki piece. This is a cursive style for the kanji 和 for harmony - peace.
The next two pieces were emailed me from Jack Mumpower. He trained in Fuchu Japan with Tomiki Sensei and Obha Sensei from 1958-1960.
The three panel piece is in a single frame and hung in Mumpower Sensei's dojo. I sent the piece to some calligraphy friends in Japan. They sent beck this.
I consulted some top calligraphers in Japan.
"After consulting with the man (Ikeda Sensei), we believe the centre panel of the panel piece says:
is new to the both of us and I can find no references to it on the
internet. Ikeda-sensei believes it should be read in Japanese as:
We're not sure if the second character is 「自」or 「百」. If the latter, then it doesn't make sense. If the former, then it is 誤字."
「修」 "make a part of oneself".
Here is a sampling of some of his pieces from a book the J.A.A. in Japan recently released. There are a few new ones in there I have not seen before. When time allows I will pull them out and enlarge them.
Mushin -無心 'no mind' is written with orange bamboo.
I wish to preserve his art and give an interested audience access to it. If you have translations, examples of Tomiki's work, or leads to people who might have examples of his work, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org Even copies of his signature or known hankos will help in this long term project.
So the trick is, in the text section you have to put in typed Chinese characters. You can find Chinese (some are different from Japanese) on an online Chinese dictionary. Just type in the word and copy and paste into the text field of the seal generator. A Japanese dictionary will work too, but some kanji won't show up.
The third part of the usual sequence of a throw in Judo is kake. Typically this is thought of as the throw itself or the execution of the throw. Let us look toward the ancient Chinese version of the symbol to see what we can learn.
The pictographic image you see is a hand (the radical on the left side)stacking up two pieces of soil. I can divine in the picture and see the man constructing something, perhaps building a rock garden, or defenses for someone to trip on. Perhaps he is setting up a boulder like the Wiley Coyote to push down upon speeding birds.
In the Japanese language we find this is a very complicated character to divine meaning from. The dictionary definition is to 'set or hang'. In combination various meanings can be made from the kanji such as: spread (to spread a quilt), Set one's body down (sitting into a chair), pour or sprinkle, set into motion, turn on, start, operate, pose (put on a stage), exert influence on, impose, hang up, suspend, fasten onto, fasten one mind upon, lock (like a window), hang, suspend, in the process of, splash, lean against, be caught, be trapped, weigh on one's mind, depend on, hinge upon, attack, be on the verge of.....and many more.
The magician side of me likes this character because it creates on optical illusion in this style of tensho. When you get repeating lines intersecting at right angles it plays a funny trick on the eyes. Most people will see gray spots form at the intersections. Presto!
Another point of magical interest on Chinese characters. Early symbols were originally developed from a system of magic. Crude characters were carved into bones and turtle shells and used by shamans as a system of Chinese voodoo. Even some modern calligraphy masters that I had the pleasure to write and drink with believe that these characters contain KI/CHI. Eventually this system of magic become more pragmatic and evolved into a useful written language.
To continue the series of an in depth look at the seal script kanji that define the parts of a throw we look at tsukuri.
The Judo philosophers divided the the actions of a throwing motion in to three parts. They called these parts kuzushi, tsukuri, and kake. Simplified it is the balance break, entry, and execution of the throw. However upon deeper analysis we find the Chinese characters that make up these words offer deeper clues into the meaning of the parts of the throwing actions.
Some of the Japanese words that use this symbol 作りare: make, produce, manufacture, shape, build, construct, building, developing, fabricate, fashion, MAKE (as an object that requires time and skill)
I found in my calligrapher's dictionary some 10 different ways to write this kanji in it's ancient Chinese form. This one called out to me. The line along the left edge and bottom represents a road or a path. The pictographic idea behind this symbol this symbol is made up of two part. It shows "action of a person 亻人 = make."
Tsukuri is about building the structure of the technique. I don't think
I have really understood this premise at higher levels until I watched
Sloan Sensei practicing Judo nage komi. He moves in and builds the
dysfunctional relationship that causes catastrophic effects to uke's
balance. He builds the throw and it effortlessly happens.Here we see tsukuri in action. Good stuff.
If you look into it I can see the idea emerging. A mountain is on top. Forces are moving under it, destablising it. Interesting to see three bands of motion under it. Bill Parker Sensei taught a seminar at KyuRyu where distorting the uke in three directions at once was a critical idea of efficient throws. As the mountain is moved from underneath, the logicial conclusion is for it to crumble down the slope.
There is a correction that needs to be made in the writings and beliefs of some Tomiki Aikido historians.
Some people believe that Kenji Tomiki was an 8th dan in Kodokan Judo when he met Ueshiba. The myth is spread that when Tomiki met Ueshiba he was defeated in combat. Because of this Tomiki saw his study of judo was in vain, so he began the study of aikido.
Let's review the facts
March 15th, 1900 Tomiki was born
1910 Kenji Tomiki started judo
November 1919 he received shodan in Judo. Soon after wards he became ill and took three and a half years to recover. One might presume his training was limited in this time.
1923 He studied at university. Tomiki studied Political Economics. He joined the Waseda Judo Club, advancing to the rank of fourth dan by his senior year.
1926 Tomiki met Ueshiba. Tomiki was a young man of 26. He was a fourth dan in judo when he met Morihei. Kenji Tomiki was receiving a dan a year during university so he was not a well seasoned mid ranked Judoka. He had an inflated rank by modern standards. Ueshiba, around 43 was hardly a master level teacher at the time, having only been studying Daito Ryu for the past ten years. He had only been an official instructor of Daito Ryu for 4 years.
There is talk in the Daito Ryu community that Kano sent Tomiki to study because of Sokaku Takeda's fame, Ueshiba was a branch school of Takeda's Daito Ryu, so it likely was he was simply the local representative of the more famous martial artist at that time.
Tomiki made a statement in 1927 that he was unable to find a chance to break Ueshiba's balance with judo techniques when sparring with Ueshiba. This is hardly a statement of butt kicking, or a judo master turning away from his art. Instead a young man met a man whom he could not defeat with his current strategies, so he found a new teacher.
Tomiki did not drop his judo career to study aikido exclusively. In fact in 1927 he was awarded 5th dan in Judo (continuing his rapid ranking trend) He entered the prestigious Imperial Martial Arts Tournament (Tenranjiai) in 1929 as the judo representative from Miyagi Prefecture.
He saw aikido and judo as compliments. I believe he was a judo man at heart and often wrote of aikido in judo terms. He had a view of a “complete judo” which encompassed two parts: “grappling judo” (kumi judo) which equated to Kodokan Judo, and “separated judo” (hanare judo) which was equivalent to aikido. He even introduced classical jujitsu and aikido into the Kodokan kata system through the goshin jitsu kata in the 1950s.
Ueshiba promoted Tomiki to 8th dan in 1940. Tomiki was the first person to receive this rank from Ueshiba and this honor reflected the high regard in which he was held by the aikido founder. It also shows how rapid advancement was in those days, as Kenji Tomiki received 8th dan only 14 years after first meeting Ueshiba. There is some speculation he received advanced rank early so he could have the credentials to be able to teach at a university in Manchuria.
It was not until 1971 that Kenji Tomiki received 8th dan in Kodokan Judo, 45 years after Tomiki and Ueshiba first met, and two years after the death of Ueshiba.
So when these two men met they were both still quite young and novice in their marital careers. Neither was a great master yet, neither in Judo or in the yet to be conceived art of Aikido. What they did see in each other was a fellow on the path. They became friends and helped each other advance their arts until separated by death 43 years later.
Patrick Parker of the Mokuren Dojo and blog has started a series on psy-ki-do. Now I have been a professional magician, mentalist and hypnotist in my career. I have a few thoughts to share.
I would like to start with a piece of black magic. It is a insidious little spell for spreading negative energy. It is a lightning rod for spreading hostility and negativity towards man. I will only teach this to you, because when you encounter it, and you WILL encounter it - I want you to be prepared.
Imagine you are driving down the road. You are jamming to 'Hotel California' while cruising down the highway. Right as it gets to that creepy line about "steely beast", some guy swerves into your lane, and hits the breaks. Stupid bastard. On top of that he is richer than you and has a bumper sticker for the opposite political party you endorse.
From deep within anger arises. A stream of swears and curses passes though your lips. Instantly you are hot and you are saying things you would never say to another humans face. Road rage is a potent seducer to the dark side.
Now you are angry, but the thing is the butt head that cut you off does not know about it. He is happily being a driver while he left your day miserable! You decide to take action and use dark magicks! You pull up beside the offender. Your stare and you eyes lock. Now is the time!
You point your hand directly and him, lower 4 fingers and leave the middle one up. You aim it directly at the man and then you say whatever dark filth is running through your road raging mind! Yep, you just gave the dirty bird!
Now an interesting phenomena takes place. Negative emotions that are in you body will actually transfer through space and rise up in the man you are pointing at. Whooah, serious mojo when you think about it! Symbols are a powerful thing my friend and the middle finger is a short cut to the dark side.
Now O student of Psy-Ki-Do, I know you will never use this fierce spell of evil. But how do you protect yourself from the effects of this witchcraft?
My dear old dad pioneered an ingenious Psy-Ki-Do method that actually reflects, negates or eliminates the curse of the dirty bird. He smiles, waves and blows a kiss back to the offending bird flicker.
(***important note *** the above picture is not my father)
He breaks the kharmic chain in an instant. He creates off balance at the moment of contact. Using the opponents energy against themselves! Psy-Ki-Do indeed!
I have a associate teaching license in a koryu style (daitoryu aikijujitsu) that I received in Japan. The koryu martial arts community is interesting because many of them see themselves as martial arts historians. They are preserving the techniques exactly as they have been done for hundreds of years. Personally, even though I studied koryu, I think this is not accurate. Martial techniques are organic and even if we think we are studiously copying the techniques of our teachers, there tends to be a drift. Sometimes we improve the techniques. Sometimes we never hit it as sweet as sensei did. Whatever happens understanding changes. It has too. The koryu guys are playing a centuries old game of "whisper into the ear down a line." The end result will always be different.
I have been very interested in the slow morphing of Tomiki kata in the 30 years since the death of Mr Tomiki. Every artist and every organization is pulling the katas in different directions. It has stayed very true in appearance to the original linear look and feel in some groups. In others it has morphed into circles. The ideas about timings, throw angles and connections seem to change radically too. Some groups are proactive, some reactive. Some enjoy rough housing while others are militant about the pursuit of softness. Many Tomiki societies are even including foot sweeps, which Tomiki Sensei had chosen to leave out of the system.
I believe kata should evolve. Mr Tomiki gave us a framework to help us wrap our heads around the principles of aikido. If we become artists we can use his table of aiki elements he proposed and paint with them throughout our aikido careers. The techniques are a palate to paint the canvas of the mats.
No great artist paints the same thing through their entire life. Artists go through movements. Perhaps Picasso's blue period is equivalent to Tomiki Sensei's competitive Judo days. Eventually in both artists the motivations that caused these movements passed and they went on to create in new ways.
I humbly submit we should closely look at and study the kata and techniques of our teachers, all the while painting something new with our own understanding of the glorious flow that is aiki. Aiki is not something that can be copied. It must be created.
This is a question that was asked in the Hombu dojo newsletter, "Why are there no foot techniques in Aikido?" I have heard Aikikai Shihan state "foot sweeps are for those Judo guys, we don't do them." The Hombu newsletter clarified the idea somewhat.
The article makes two main arguments. The first one being...
"One characteristic of Aikido is the absence of foot techniques and because of that, Aikido techniques attain dignity."
I think this argument is silly. Humans are too evolved to use our feet for martial arts? This argument is absurd.
The article goes on to have a somewhat more logical argument against foot sweeps.
"The other reason for the absence of foot techniques in Aikido is that they are used far from an opponent and the feet cannot reach the opponent."
This idea initially makes some sense. Aikido training tends to focus on a mid range attack. Someone is coming in from a distance and striking or grabbing in some way. At the extended range it is difficult to execute a foot sweep technique.
I find this logic is somewhat flawed. The instant a attack happens, range is broken and now the two people quickly enter a grappling range. Most Aikido training assumes successful technique and uke happily falls over. I have an earth shattering question to the Aikido community, What if attacker does not fall over and he begins grappling? Does Aikido fail here? What if the most effective and appropriate motion is to do a foot sweep? Wouldn't it be Aikido?
Aikido absolutely has foot sweeps. It has sutemi waza (sacrifice throws). It has ne waza (ground techniques)
The real reasons Aikido people tend not to do foot techniques are not because these motions are not Aikido. The reasons are...
1. Ueshiba Sensei's personal techniques did not include them. Many of his students, rather than innovating and taking aiki from other traditions have made themselves happy in photocopying one man's version of Aikido. There is a continuing fallacy in many Aikido schools. Many people believe Ueshiba's aiki was perfect and all of us are mere followers. We must try to recreate the work he did. Humbly I suggest that idea is not the true way.
2. Poor uke training. Many Aikido schools lack a system of free play randori. Instead the attacker takes a nice pretty fall every time rather than engaging on a grappling level. Realism must be a factor. The first technique does not always work! People can throw Aikido artists! Does the conflict end there?
I make no bones about it, I think there are foot techniques in Aikido. I think a good Aikido program should contain exercises that challenge the student at all ranges with a variety of problems. If an Aikido artist is not able to generalize the concepts of aiki to different problems, ranges and connections then there are weaknesses in the system. There are large holes to exploit. If an artist becomes comfortable practicing Aiki at range, in grappling and the ground...etc, then and only then Aiki becomes a true martial strategy, not a mere collection of techniques.
Here is some of our basic work at KyuRyu AikiBudo at the ashi waza range.
Jeff Duncan at Full Circle Aikido told me the other day he had a visitor from a school that bragged closer ties to Ueshiba's lineage than Tomiki's aikido. He seemed to imply that because of this, his system was more pure, or correct way to practice. Why is their direct system more correct?
You see I look around the attitudes of much of the aiki world and I see it like the churches from the bible belt I reside in. Every church seems to look to every other one with doubt and a critical eye. They do this even though they worship the same ideas and read the same books.
Aikido is really no different. Lowry Sensei was telling me that when he walking a different path he was taught to see other people's work through a lens of right/wrong. If aikido wasn't being done their way it was wrong.
I think we all can fall into that mode of thought. I regularly offer critical analysis of other artists work. God knows other artists offer it of mine. But really what Lowry Sensei says is the difference lies in preferences.
Some people like to make power technique. Some people like painful aiki technique. While these techniques do not fall into my model of what aiki is, its ok. The world is large enough for people to define it themselves.
One of the truths I have learned on this path is that today's understanding and preferences will evolve into something completely different tomorrow.
Now how can a tai chi book be an aikido book? Well I humbly suggest everyone get past the silly name game thing we play and realize what we are all shooting for, maximum efficiency with minimum effort. Get information where ever you can.
In 1995 in Lewisville Texas I was first introduced to the art of aikido. The dojo was named Aikibudo Dojo, run by the man who is still my teacher, Russell Waddell. It was a very small place for a commercial front. But it was a golden time in my education. The lessons there laid the basis for everything that was to come.
It was in a poor neighborhood. An old man whose name escapes me would come in every night and sit in one of the chairs and watch. He was probably in his 80s. He was close to the end of his earthly life. He appeared to be very poor.
The old man had never trained in his life. He now had such joy watching us, and knew if he were in a young man's body he would be with us in second. Night after night he would take his long walk from the apartments across the street. He appeared and would enjoy the free show of us training. Over time I grew to think of him as a member of the dojo - indeed he was. He came and contributed his presence and his spirit. His mind was eager to learn the art of aikido, even if his body had given up the pursuit long ago.
I feel now the lesson he had to offer is that it is never too late to study the lessons of aikido. Most of us are at some point on the path where pain and health are a genuine factor in our training. Yet night after night we show up trying to find our place, our current level of training we can push ourselves to.
At one point in my career I found myself too injured to train, yet I showed up to the dojo and drew pictures of throws. Now one of my students and friends is having a similarly difficult path. I look into his eyes and see a future for all of us that train - a moment were we cannot. Perhaps this is part of budo too, the pause for injury and healing and the end of ability all together.
Mushin is a mental state into which very highly trained artists are said to enter during practice and execution of their art. The literal translation of mushin is "no-mind" but is often translated as "unfettered mind." A mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion is open to everything.
"Mushin is achieved when a person feels no anger, fear or ego during combat. There is an absence of discursive thought and judgment, so the person is totally free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but what is felt intuitively. The mind could be said to be working at a very high speed, but with no intentions, plans or direction."
I myself think of these state as being free from conscience thought and decision making processes. We move because we must. We fit appropriately to situations with correct attitude, movement and principles. In fact I feel the previous sentence is a definition of Aikido as well.
Another interesting quote from wikipedia...
"Some masters believe that mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, that person will no longer even consider themselves as "fighters" but merely living beings moving through space"
In classical Japan a unique blend of visual artistry, poetry, philosophy and asthetic emmerged. Perhaps one of the more influential of the cultural phenomena to develop was the tea ceremony. In Japanese, it is called chanoyu (茶の湯) or chado (茶道;also, especially at Zen temples, pronounced sadō?). Zen Buddhism was integral to the development of this cultural activity, and this Zen influence pervades many aspects of it.
Written on many calligraphy scrolls in dojos and tea rooms around the world is the phrase, ichi go ichi e, attributed to the tea master Sen no Rikyū.
Sen no Rikyū (千利休?, 1522 - April 21, 1591, also known simply as Sen Rikyū), is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on chanoyu, the Japanese "Way of Tea".
Ichi-go ichi-e (一期一会) is a concept connected to the way of tea; it expresses the ideal of the way of tea. Roughly translated the phrase means...
"one time, one meeting," "one encounter; one opportunity," "for this time only," "never again," "one chance in a lifetime," or "Treat each meeting as a one time meeting."
This phrase to me speaks heavily of the Zen ideas of being present and mindful in your practice. It says to me to be in the moment, to focus on the now and to treat each moment of training with the preciousness it deserves.
Quickly the floating world around us fades. Our teachers and parents wither and die, our bodies grow older, and even the young faces grow old before our eyes. Our time in our practice is limited and not something to be taken for granted.
Even within the practice every technique exercised is a precious moment, a gift of limited duration. Each moment comes but once. We have only one time to practice it and extract of much learning we can from each moment.
Alas we only get one life, and one chance to live it. If you have chosen your path as a person of Budo, each moment in the dojo, and in life itself should reflect this idea.