I am a martial arts veteran of twenty five years, Co-Founder of the Totejutsu Association of America (TAA) and Co-Founder of Northwest Martial Arts (NWMA) dojo in Bothell Washington. Brent Yamamoto and I created the system of arts called Ki-Totejutsu which is primarily based off of Ryukyu Totejutsu (Karate) and Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido as these were our primary areas of study. We formed this new organization not to invent something new, because these arts are not new, but rather to facilitate the growing interest of adapting concepts of relaxed power to Karate training.
The focus of my teaching has been on practical uses and development of Internal Power, rather than competition style of martial arts. Many schools offer a mixture of martial arts, but the TAA and NWMA offer an integrated method of instruction. Over the last decade, I have worked to incorporate all of my arts and I teach them in a way that is accessible and easily applied.
I began learning martial arts seriously in January of 1988 and later I became a live-in student with the Chief Instructor for North America for Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido where I practiced for over forty hours a week for five years. After graduating from this program, I began to pursue studies in other systems including swordsmanship and Jujutsu along with my regular Karate and Aikido training. It was in this time where I became aware that all of the arts were connected, and that there was simple glue that bound all arts together; Internal Power. If one truly understood a technique, they should be able to perform it immediately.
Relaxed power developed through mind and body coordination training is used in all of my arts, and has always been a focal point in my pursuits. Utilizing the minimum amount of power (for the maximum amount of effect) necessary to throw an opponent, block an attack, or strike down an opponent has been my ideal of mastery.
Masters do not have to move quickly, nor do they have to get out of the way of an attack if they don’t care to. Using the principles of Ki-Totejutsu, one need not be physically strong or even fast to perform the arts well.
Strength and speed both diminish in time, but with proper structure and proper procedure, internal shifting of weight can magnify power in ways that look impossible or even magical to the novice. This internal way of practice becomes stronger with age, not weaker.
The style of Karate I learned from Ito Sensei is called Ryukyu Totejutsu, which just basically means Okinawan Karate. The main distinction of this style from other Japanese styles is that there is absolutely no emphasis on Sport Karate. We don’t practice tournament style Kata, nor tournament style sparing. We don’t use long stances like Zenkutsu Dachi, and we don’t rotate our hips while punching. After meeting Ito Sensei my power quintupled; this is not an exaggeration. For twenty years, i was under the impression that the Karate I was doing was real. It wasn’t, and Ito Sensei opened my eyes to this falsehood. Ito Sensei says there are only two types of Karate: Strong Karate, and weak Karate.
Our primary Kata we practice are Naifanchi and Sanchin (One Shurite, one Nahate). Both of these kata demonstrate a distinct fighting style, and we incorporate both into our practice. Although Ito Sensei encourages us to primarily practice only these two kata, we do practice others such as all five Pinan, Ananko, Seiunchin, Basai-dai, Chinto, Tensho, Gekisai, and Niseishi.
The majority of our practice is spent understanding proper body structure, allowing us to “shut off” the solar plexus making us immune to punches or kicks to this target. Proper body alignment also allows us to shift our weight internally as to hide our movements, and to hit much harder as a result. Ryukyu Totejutsu is about 80% hand technique and 20% foot technique. We don’t kick above the waist, and most of our kicks are to the knees or groin, or used for take downs.
The four major principles of Ki-Totejutsu:
1- Correct Structure
2- Relaxed Power
3- Hide Technique
4- Move your hand first
Each of these principles requires a book to thoroughly illustrate, so I will have to save that discussion for another time.
The Lineage for my Karate training is as follows:
Chotoku Kyan–> Kudaka–> Ito–> Me
The style of Aikido I practice is called Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido, or Aikido with mind and body coordination. Now, in the martial arts community, there is either a lot of love, or a lot of hate surrounding Aikido. The hard-core martial artists look at it as weak because it is not seen in MMA fighting rings, and it tends to attract a those persons who are not interested in fighting.
Aikido comes from Samurai battlefield arts, and so there is a great deal of misunderstanding of these practices. We don’t kick or punch in Aikido for two fundamental reasons. One: Samurai were armed with big-ass swords. Two: Your opponent is likely wearing some hefty armour. Ever try punching a steel breastplate? Good luck.
The primary offensive weapon for the samurai was the sword, the spear, the short sword, the tanto, or the bow. Aikido techniques then would be employed should all those other weapons not be available.
Now, not many of us wander around the city with a sword, so in modern times these hand techniques have had more emphasis than in the past. However, if you look at Aikido from an armed perspective, it then makes a lot more sense. This is why we do not grapple in Aikido. Any person with a piece of glass, a small knife or whatever can open you up pretty successfully while rolling on the ground. Many of the original techniques were designed to break your opponent’s neck by either manual manipulation, or by throwing them upon their neck and allowing the ground to do the work.
Most practitioners of Aikido never really see that level of violence in the arts, as the arts themselves have morphed into ones of “peace and harmony.” We don’t throw people on their heads anymore, probably because of something called lawsuits. So, the ambitious goal of Aikido then is to incapacitate an opponent by neutralizing their aggression, and not neutralizing the person. This is a very difficult thing to do, because quite honestly, a single blow is often more easy to do, especially when you are frightened for your life.
I look at Aikido as a tool to make all of my arts better. It is a distinct way to practice all arts using the power of calm relaxation. It’s also a method to throw each other in a very vigorous and yet safe manner so that no injuries occur.
Aikido also tries to look at other areas of self defense. Now, for most of us martial artists we have this fantasy of that “encounter” with a big bad man in an alley and that we have to use our arts to survive. But lets back up. What the hell are you doing in a back alley, in this part of town, at this time of night? That’s pretty much looking for trouble.
Now, I had a friend who was an amazing martial artist. He was a fourth degree black belt in his system of Kung-Fu, and he was very good at what he did. His fight though, was not with a man in an alley, there was no visible opponent to conquer. His fight, was with brain cancer. He struggled with this for about two years before he died. This experience really opened my eyes to what “self defense” really means.
Self defense can mean protection from a bad guy…sure. That’s probably why most of us endure all the Rocky Montage moments of our training. But more than likely, your opponent will be the pains of sitting behind a desk for ten hours at a time, five days a week. Or coping with family stress, work stress, or relationship stress.
Aikido gives you tools to “combat” these not so glorious attackers, but attackers that all humans have to face, not just MMA prize fighters.
I often do Jujutsu techniques while teaching Aikido. Perhaps this is not the most politically correct thing to do, but I feel that there are many valuable lessons in Jujutsu that are not present in Aikido. Core throws being one of these, like Koshi-nage! Aikido has many extremity throws, such as Ikkyo, Nikkyo, Sankyo, Yonkyo, Gokyo, Shihonage, and Kote Oroshi all of which are very effective in specific circumstances. All of which could get you killed if used in the wrong situation. Core throws, I find, can still be sloppy and work.
Here I am doing a version of an Aikido standing pin. It’s what I would call street Aikido. One of my students once asked, but couldn’t your Uke bite your foot. I replied, I’m not sure how much biting power he would have after I kick stomped his jaw. This isn’t your flowery version of Aikido.
The Lineage for Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido is:
O’Sensei–> Koichi Tohei–> Koichi Kashiwaya–> Me
Yeah yeah yeah…what’s this guy’s credentials?
Co-Founder of Ki-Totejutsu
Co-Founder of Totejutsu Association of America
4th Degree Black Belt in Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido
3rd Degree Black Belt in Kei Shin Kan Karate
3rd Degree Black Belt in Ryukyu Totejutsu
Come visit my dojo in Bothell, Washington.
Special Thanks to White Crane Photography!