Koichi Tohei Sensei passed away
on May 19, 2011.
He was 91 years old.
Koichi Tohei was born in Tokyo in 1920. When he was very
young, his family moved to Tochigi prefecture where he spent
his childhood. Tohei's health was fragile throughout his
childhood and he frequently was in hospitals and under the
care of doctors. At his father's insistence he took up judo.
Having strengthened his body to some degree, at fifteen
he earned his black belt and at sixteen entered Keio University's
preparatory program. He continued to practice judo enthusiastically,
but contracted pleurisy as a result of excessive training
and was forced to withdraw from school for a year. Doctors
told him he could never do vigorous training again without
risking death. Tohei began reading extensively about religion
and eastern philosophy and decided to begin practicing the
things he was reading about, regardless of the risk. He
began training in Zen meditation and then in Misogi, an
arduous breathing exercise done in two-day sessions. When
he returned to his doctors, all traces of pleurisy had disappeared.
In 1939, at the age of 19, Tohei met Morihei Ueshiba and
became his student. In the short span of half a year he
became the founder's representative (dairi) and, having
yet to receive any official ranking in aikido, was sent
to instruct at the Nakano Police Academy and the private
school of Shumei Okawa.
In September 1942, Tohei Sensei graduated from Keio University
and entered the Toyohashi Officers Preparatory Academy.
In February 1942, at 23, he was dispatched to a platoon
near the Central China front. He realized through personal
experience in battle that he must master calmness and relaxation.
Tohei Sensei learned under fire the secret of directing
ki and maintaining the one point in the lower abdomen. He
gained important insight into his previous training and
how it must be applied to daily life.
In August 1946 Tohei Sensei's platoon was demobilized from
central China. He once more studied misogi and aikido while
at Gokokuji in Otowa, Tokyo. He also studied Tempudo with
Tempu Nakamura Sensei. Tempu Nakamura is credited as being
the first to teach yoga in Japan. His teachings had a profound
influence on Tohei Sensei. Nakamura talked about the importance
of positive thinking and taught what he called mind and
body unification (shin-shin toitsu do). Tohei Sensei saw
that these ideas were fundamental to Aikido and incorporated
them as he developed his own systematic way of teaching.
At 32 years of age, Tohei Sensei began to spread Ki Principles
and aikido in Hawaii. He spread aikido throughout the US
and helped establish schools on the east coast, west coast
and in Chicago, as well as Hawaii. Tohei Sensei sent many
instructors from Japan to the US to teach and lead schools.
Between 1953 and 1971 he visited the United States on fifteen
occasions, staying in the US for up to a year at a time.
Tohei Sensei received tenth dan, the highest rank in aikido,
in 1969. He served as Director of Shihan and Director of
the Aikikai until leaving that organization in 1974. Tohei
Sensei established the Ki Aikido International (Ki no Kenkyukai)
in 1971 (recognized as a non-profit organization in 1977).
The Ki Aikido is the only organization in Japan specializing
in ki training to have been recognized as a non-profit organization
by the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare. Ki Aikido
seeks to provide an organized system of study and support
for its students and instructors worldwide.
In 1983 Tohei Sensei established the Ki-Aikido Academy
(Gakuin). This is a special two-year training program at
Ki Aikido headquarters in Japan for both foreign and Japanese
students. In October 1990, the 20th anniversary commemorating
the founding of Ki Aikido International was held at the
newly constructed Ki Aikido Headquarters complex, Ki no
Sato, in Tochigi prefecture. He has recently opened the
Ki Health Institute in Japan and created an "at-home"
course in which students can become Ki Health graduates.
Tohei Sensei's travels abroad have been infrequent since
1971. He last visited the United States in 1998. In 2001
he announced that his son, Shinichi Tohei, would become
the Director of Ki Aikido International. Tohei Sensei still
teaches at World Camp, held annually at Ki no Sato in October.
This training is open to all students.
Tohei Sensei is famous for teaching Ki to many well-known
athletes, including Japanese baseball star Sadaharu Oh.
He was recently the subject of a lengthy television documentary
in Japan. Tohei Sensei has written many books on Ki Principles
and Aikido including Ki in Daily Life, Ki no Iryoku ("Power
of Ki"), Seiko no Hiketsu wa Ki ni ari ("The Key
to Success is Ki") and others. His latest book is Ki
ni ga Suru no Michi ("The Way to Union with Ki").
Tohei Sensei teaching and demonstrating Aikido inthe early