Shodokan Aikido: A Sport for the Mind and Body in Osaka

Shodokan Aikido: A Sport for the Mind and Body in Osaka

Ian Box

It is often called “Sports Aikido” or “Tomiki Aikido,” but its actual name is Shodokan Aikido. Tomiki Kenji, the founder of this style of Aikido, chose this name. The name Shodokan derives from the Japanese era, Showa and the location of the principal or headquarters, dojo; in Showacho, Osaka.

Brief History


Tomiki sensei, was a skilled judo practitioner or Judoka, who had studied under Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano. He also trained for many years with the man who made Aikido what it is today, Ueshiba Morihei. After years of practicing both arts, Tomiki wanted to see Aikido evolve, like Judo, and become a sport that everyone – from child to adult – could practice and learn relatively quickly. Traditional Aikido required and still requires, many years of practice before perfection. Shodokan, however, through its judo teaching philosophy makes it easier for beginners to pick up the fundamentals of the art in a shorter amount of time. With his creation of seventeen primary techniques which I must add here, has hundreds, if not thousands of combinations, Tomiki was able to formulate a training system where students would be able to compete with each other. He based these seventeen basic techniques on the techniques of traditional Aikido; the methods that could be safely applied in competition. Over many years of trial and error, Shodokan Aikido evolved until a training system was established in the late 1970’s. Tomiki Shihan died in 1979 and his assistant Hideo Ohba continued Tomiki’s teachings until his death in 1986. With the passing of Ohba sensei, Tomiki Shihan's last deshi (apprentice) Nariyama Tetsuro took over the mantle of spreading Shodokan Aikido around the world. From the early 1980’s Nariyama Shihan, along with his skilled assistants, has continued to improve and build on Tomiki's original teachings and concepts with the ultimate aim of making Shodokan a style known and practiced around the world. Today, international membership is increasing as interest in not only the competitive aspect of Shodokan but also its philosophy grows.

What Exactly is Shodokan Aikido?


Shodokan is a system of Aikido training which, as mentioned above, adds a sports aspect to traditional Aikido which doesn’t have this option. Traditional Aikido or Aikikai as it is named, only practices embu or form whereas Shodokan offers Aikidoka a choice of either embu or randori (free fighting). Shodokan closely follows judo in it teaching method as many of the balance-breaking points are either the same or similar.

Shodokan Competition


Shodokan Aikido competitions consist of two (sometimes three) different categories. These are randori (free fighting) and embu (form demonstrations). In some matches, there is also a weapon (wooden swords known as Bokken or wooden spears) category. Let me now explain each competition category Competition.
  • Randori

Randori is free fighting between two players. In order not to make the sport look or be like judo, one player has a soft rubber tanto (something resembling a knife). The object of the tanto welding player is to make clean, in posture, “knife” attacks directed at their opponent's upper body. If the “knife” strike is clean, then that player receives a point. The opponent must use Aikido to either throw the attacker or render him or her immobile or controlled using Aikido techniques. After 90 seconds, the roles reverse with the tanto changing to the other player. The rules for a randori competition are very similar to judo. There are three judges – two corner judges and one center judge. Judges ensure that all techniques are applied safely and that there is no serious injury. Randori competition is particularly popular with university students.

  • Embu (form demonstrations)
Embu or form, commonly called kata competitions are demonstrated before three judges or a panel of four of five judges. Pairs of Aikidoka perform kata against each other. Judges watch for posture, balance-breaking, eye contact and different essential facets of Aikido. Unlike randori – which has resistance and is two opponents trying to throw one another – with embu there is no resistance as it is a demonstration of Aikido techniques. Aikikai competitions are only embu.
  • Buki (weapon) demonstrations
Although usually not part of Shodokan competitions, there are, however, some competitions using weapons. Weapon kata demonstrations are performed by high-grade players. Buki practice is, however, practiced in the dojo as it is part of Shodokan’s training curriculum.


Health and Fitness


Aside from the competitive aspect of Shodokan Aikido; health and fitness, like other martial arts, is also one of the reasons many people practice. Unlike karate and other more aggressive sports, Shodokan can be practiced by people of all ages. In Honbu dojo, for example, children’s classes are well attended, and in adult classes, one can find many members in their senior years. With continual practice, you - the practitioner - will become more flexible, have more energy and a better, albeit stronger posture. Indeed, you'll find, after a short time of practice, that touching your toes is no longer an impossibility but an exercise easily performed. It is also worth bearing in mind that Aikido not only trains and- teaches body control and movement but is also an excellent way of relaxing your mind. Over the weeks, months or years of practice, you'll notice a change in your thinking – you'll learn patience and understanding. Even those who believe that patience is one of their virtues, somehow find a “renewed” or different kind of patience. Yes, Aikido is good for your mind and body.

All Are Welcome


Shodokan Honbu in downtown Osaka, as well as all dojos throughout Japan, welcome all visitors. No matter where you come from or what you do, you are always welcome in a Shodokan dojo. Visitors may observe classes or experience the art itself by joining a lesson. There is no need to worry, all Shodokan instructors are highly trained and able to teach a class based on your abilities. If interested, please contact a dojo on our website below and make an appointment.

Official Website