Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tomiki Sensei's false modesty

I've recently heard some very highly-ranked instructors express reluctance to refer to what we do as "Tomiki-ryu" or "Tomiki style" or even just "Tomiki aikido." They say Tomiki sensei didn't want it called this. He preferred to simply call it, "aikido."
I say this is basically false modesty (on the part of both Tomiki Sensei and these later instructors) and this line of argument gets them into a logical deadend...
  • If we think that Tomiki's opinion carries absolute authoritative weight on the subject... If what Tomiki said goes... then it really is Tomiki's thing - Tomiki's aikido that we're doing, and it would be appropriate to call it Tomikiryu.
  • On the other hand, if we don't consider Tomiki to absolutely own the aikido that we do... If Tomiki's opinions are guidelines or starting points but not final rules or laws... then who cares what he wanted us to call the thing? We are free to take his expressed wishes into consideration but still do contrary.
I say we ought to proudly refer to the thing we do Tomiki Aikido because...
  • The thing that we do has been commonly referred to as Tomiki-ryu or Tomiki Aikido for at least 30 years, if not longer. People in the aikido community understand what we're talking about when we say "Tomiki aikido," even if the purists feel like they have to constantly correct that usage.  
  • When we tell someone, "We do aikido," then they practice with us, a long, drawn-out discussion always ensues, "We don't do it that way..." until we finally admit that we do Tomiki aikido.  Why not get that out of the way from the start just for the sake of clear communication?
  • I think an homage to Tomiki sensei is appropriate, and that Tomiki's reported modesty does not carry the weight of law. Tomiki's modifications to Ueshiba's teaching methods were truly revolutionary and worthy of respect and remembrance.
You guys can do what you want, but as for me and my family, we do Tomiki aikido.
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