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Shodokan and the Japan Aikido Association

This article aims to clarify the history regarding the Japan Aikido Association (JAA), Shodokan and Kenji Tomiki Shihan's wishes.

The Japan Aikido Association was established as an official governing body on 9th March 1975 when Tomiki's aikido was recognised. It was formed by Tomiki with former members of Waseda, Kokushikan and Seijo University aikido clubs and members of public clubs. A previous organisation of the same name, started in 1966 and centred around Waseda University Aikido Club, was discontinued. Today, there are many university and public clubs, large and small, under the JAA. Among them, Waseda University Aikido Club and Shodokan have been the two main contributors to the history of competitive aikido.

Waseda Aikido Club was formed in spring 1958. It was a testing ground for competitive aikido and was tasked with introducing it nationally and internationally. Shodokan was formed in April 1967, as Tomiki's first dojo, exclusively for the research and teaching of his Shodokan Aikido. Today, Shodokan has a practice area of 81 tatami located in part of a modern five-storey building. It was provided by Masaharu Uchiyama, the vice-president of the JAA and a great supporter of Tomiki, on 27th March 1988.

The relationship between Uchiyama and Tomiki started around 1963. Uchiyama shared Tomiki's passion for aikido and his ideals. In 1963, he offered part of the 2nd floor of his company's building as a dojo. At Tomiki's request, Hideo Oba gave lessons once a month as chief instructor. Yuichi Murakami from Waseda University Aikido Club, continued the teaching from 1963 to 1967. An instructor was needed after this so Uchiyama (who graduated from Kokushikan University in spring 1967) was sent in April 1967.

Two years later, on 10th October 1969, the eminent Hirokazu Kobayashi Shihan invited Tomiki to Osaka. Tomiki gave a short course to introduce competitive aikido to students from six local universities. In aikido circles, there was friction regarding competitive aikido because nobody knew Tomiki's theories or the essence of his aikido. Kobayashi met with Tomiki to try to understand his techniques and his intentions. He suggested that Tomiki show his aikido to the students as the best way for everyone to understand.

The following year on 31st March 1970, Tomiki held another short course at the New Japan Dojo (headed by his friend Hamano Masahiro, a judo 9th dan). From this, the interest among students grew rapidly and it became very popular. With Kobayashi's understanding and support from Uchiyama, enthusiastic students and others talk started about a national championship. The 1st All Japan Student Championship was held on 15th November 1970.

In March 1970, Tomiki retired from Waseda University. He refused to take another teaching position deciding instead to concentrate on teaching his aikido. A new instructor, Tetsuro Nariyama, came to Osaka from Kokushikan University. Tomiki visited Osaka periodically and instructed Nariyama and others. Nariyama taught in Shodokan but at the same time he was learning from Kobayashi who was teaching in the universities in that area. He accompanied Kobayashi to lessons and had the chance to introduce the students to randori. However, the impetus came from Tomiki and Kobayashi and the trust between them.

Despite six years of Nariyama's efforts, randori was not fully accepted. Tomiki saw this situation and in July 1975 decided to talk to Uchiyama about starting a central dojo. At that time, Tomiki sent a letter to Nariyama, an extract from which we can see Tomiki's intentions:

"From next year I hope Shodokan will be the central dojo. I will teach there periodically for people from Tokyo and Fukuoka. I have sent a separate letter to Mr. Uchiyama to ask him if he can provide a site for a dojo."

On 28th March 1976, Uchiyama provided a 70 tatami dojo with Tomiki as the head. Until his death three years later, Tomiki visited Osaka to research and develop his aikido, and to teach it to students from Nariyama downwards. The contents of his research, demonstrated by Nariyama, are recorded as reference material on an 8mm film, previously shown publicly at a budo conference.

Tomiki's dedication and contribution to aikido is shown through his speech at the opening of Shodokan, his 'mushin mugamae' calligraphy and the symbol of Shodokan and the JAA. These original documents are all displayed in Shodokan.

Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, had the great idea of preserving all ancient budo, including aikido, into his Kodokan system. Tomiki though, aimed to improve the aikido system he had learned from Morihei Ueshiba. The meaning of Shodokan is 'place for identifying the way'. The first character, 'sho' comes from the Showa period in which Shodokan was founded and is also found in the name of Uchiyama's company. The second character, 'do' comes from Kano's Kodokan.

Tomiki hoped that Shodokan would be the centre for aikido activities. Today, it is the central dojo for both the JAA and the world of competitive aikido. It is headed by Tetsuro Nariyama Shihan, the Chief Technical Director of the JAA. His great contribution to the development of the JAA and Shodokan Aikido should be recognised by everyone.

This is based on an article written by Fumiaki Shishida Shihan, printed in the Shodokan 30th Anniversary commemorative book.