On Aikido grading

For several years, I’ve been on the verge of writing something about grading within Kinokawa. Stefan Stenudd has, hit all the high points, and saved me a lot of effort:

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22277

Therefore, though with some reluctance, I have kyu and dan gradings in our dojo, trying to make sure that everyone advances in grades in accordance with his or her advancement in aikido. That’s not rocket science, but it’s not a piece of cake either.

~ Stefan Stenudd

If you’ve been studying with Sensei Wirth for some time, you’ll notice a few obvious differences – things like our having changed to colored belts for kyu ranks ~2001/2002, hakama for dan ranks, etc. He also dives deeper into the details of performing higher level dan gradings – which is something that I don’t have to worry about.

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About Koichi Tohei, Sensei (1/1920 to 5/2011)

Koichi Tohei (藤平光一, Tōhei Kōichi) (born January 1920, died May 2011) was a 10th Dan aikidoka and founder of the Ki Society and its style of aikido, officially Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido (literally “aikido with mind and body unified”), but commonly known as Ki-Aikido.

Our friends over at the Bryn Mawr dojo of Kinokawa Aikido have an article providing a survey of the basic information about Sensei Tohei.

Unfortunately, I never saw Sensei Tohei in person. Today, the closest one can get is any of the myriad of videos which remain. One can find a great deal on YouTube. However, a much better place to go is to Aikido Journal (AJ). If you’re an aikidoka, you should go over to AJ immediately and join. There is an enormous amount of information available in general, and about Sensei Tohei in particular.

In particular from AJ, you can find books, DVDs and ebooks for download that are specifically about, or written by, Sensei Tohei. Log into the members site and search for ‘koichi tohei’. You’ll find interviews of Sensei Tohei conducted by Stanley Pranin, details of Sensei Tohei’s split from the Aikikai (including his resignation letter), and much more.

As for Kinokawa’s relation to Sensei Tohei, remembering his soft and flowing style is something to which we continuously pay attention. Sensei Wirth provides some more details related to Kinokawa’s history:

The grace and power I witnessed in those first few hours at the Dojo drew me into the way of Aikido.

In those early days we spoke little and trained very hard. There were only a few students who endured for long.

Maruyama Sensei was a student of Koichi Tohei Sensei and O’Sensei. By 1971, two years after O’Sensei’s death, divisions of viewpoint regarding who was to lead Aikido and how it was to be conveyed and directed lead to a split between Tohei and Kisshomaru Ueshiba, the Founder’s son. Maruyama Sensei aligned himself with Sensei Tohei, and so it was that our practice in the 1970’s reflected both the early style and training of O’Sensei as preserved and conveyed by Aikikai and the flowing late life Aikido of O’Sensei presented by Tohei.

~ Sensei Wirth, from ‘A History of Kinokawa ryu Aikido’

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