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The Passing of a Great Master: Koichi Tohei (1920~2011)2011.05.23

    The Passing of a Great Master: Koichi Tohei (1920~2011)

    Koichi Tohei, the founder of Shinshin Toitsu Aikido, known in the West as Ki-Aikido, passed away peacefully at 9:14 am on Thursday, the 19th of May, 2011. He was 91 years old, and one of the greatest masters of Aikido of our time.


    Tohei Sensei was the first to be granted the rank of 10th-dan by the founder of Aikido, Master Morihei Ueshiba, and he played a leading role in introducing Aikido to the world outside Japan. It was a pioneering role, in that Tohei Sensei not only helped spread the martial art of Aikido, but also the philosophy and practice of Mind and Body Coordination, known as Ki Training for daily life. He also taught Ki practices for health such as breathing, meditation, and Kiatsu massage, giving people a means of putting their health back in their own hands. He taught a practical and comprehensive way of life, which filled a gap in education and in the martial arts.


    As with many pioneers, his life was filled with controversy, not only for his being the first to split from the original Aikikai organization to form his own school, but also because of the strength of his personality, and his remarkable ability to get results through his teaching, even in fields completely outside of Aikido. He taught and inspired people from many walks of life, musicians, teachers, doctors, and police officers, and professional sportsman.


    One of the the most famous athletes who benefited directly from Tohei Sensei’s personal instruction was baseball champion Sadaharu Oh, who in 1976 broke Babe Ruth’s record with 715 home runs, and in the following year became the world’s top batter, breaking Hank Aaron’s record with 756 home runs, eventually becoming manager of the Yomiuri Giants. Oh is the first player to achieve world class fame applying Aikido principles of balance, focus, and concentration to baseball. Other Japanese baseball players who learned from Tohei Sensei include Yomiuri Giants pitcher Suguru Egawa, and Hiromitsu Ishige of the Seibu Lions.


    Tohei Sensei also influenced Chiyonofuji, the 58th Yokozuna Grand Champion of Sumo, remarkable for winning 31 championships, as well as for his longevity at the top rank, and his ability to throw much larger opponents. Tohei Sensei also taught Ki principles to Takamiyama, the first foreign-born Sumo wrestler to enter to the top division championships, who himself coached fellow Hawaiian born Akebono to the rank of Grand Champion.


    The people he attracted to Aikido were often highly educated, and working at a level where they had to perform under pressure. The principles of Mind and Body Coordination which he taught were applicable and meaningful not only in Aikido, but also in helping people to remain calm and do their best in challenging circumstances.


    Tohei Sensei was my teacher for several decades, and one of the principle reasons I first came to Japan in 1972. Twenty years later, with Tohei Sensei’s blessing and cooperation, I also had the privilege of writing his biography, which is still the most comprehensive digest of his teachings available in English. Ki: A Road That Anyone Can Walk, by William Reed (Japan Publications, 1992,


    Wikipedia dedicates a one-page summary to Tohei Sensei’s life, but the achievements of a master can hardly be compressed into so few words. Search Google for Videos of Koichi Tohei, and you will find hundreds of entries, though most of them are from the mid-1960s to early 1980s, even though he was vigorous and active beyond those years.


    Tohei Sensei was a great teacher, and a remarkable man, warm and approachable, with a great sense of humor and a broad smile. Having used the power of life energy in Ki to overcome illness, he survived the field of battle, brought challengers to his side around the world, healed and inspired others, and helped people gain world class results in fields beyond his own discipline.


    Thomas Jefferson said that happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind. This is an enviable and all too rare condition in the modern world. Yet it need not be the case. Thanks to the teachings of this great man, and the legacy of Aikido teachers in countries now around the world, there is a better way.


    William Reed


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    Article Writer

    William Reed

    William Reed is a renowned author-speaker who coaches physical finesse and flexible focus for a creative career path. A certified Master Trainer in Guerrilla Marketing and 7th-dan in Aikido, he combines practical wisdom of East and West to help you learn personal branding at the Entrepreneurs Creative Edge.

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