About Aikido Shihan Fumio Toyoda
Fumio Toyoda, Aikido Shihan, was born in Japan on November 8, 1947. The Toyoda
name is an old one, ultimately traced back as a branch of the Fujiwara
clan, one of the ancient noble families that vied for control during the
early civil wars in Japan. It was such conflicts which ultimately led to
the settling of this branch of the Toyoda on their current family lands
in Tochigi prefecture, some 60 miles north of Tokyo. This occurred about
400 years ago; at that time the area was undeveloped and far from the center
of power in Kyoto. It is believed that the Toyoda, having backed a losing
side in war, were forced to move to this place. There, they took up the
life of the samurai-farmer. Their mon (family crest) that of the Fujiwara-
can still be seen on the eaves of the old family farmhouse.
At the battle of Sekigahara, which resulted in a decisive victory
for Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate, the Toyoda
were this time on the winning side. The result was a large amount
of land, which remained in the family until the land-distribution
policies of MacArthur reduced it. Today about 50 acres remain. Interestingly,
these ancestral lands are adjacent to the lands of another prominent
Aikido teacher: Koichi Tohei. The Tohei and Toyoda families have
been neighbors for centuries, periodically squabbling over their
boundary, which is marked by a stream.
This close proximity to the Tohei family was to have a decisive
impact on the direction of Toyoda Shihan's life. His older brother
Toshi, an Aikido student under Tohei Sensei, would often take the
young Toyoda with him while attending classes. At first this was
a babysitting arrangement. At age 10, however, Toyoda Shihan himself
began Aikido training.
He continued throughout his childhood, also studying Judo from age
12 (during which, he recalls, he broke his collarbone twice). Eventually
he abandoned Judo to concentrate on Aikido completely. At age 17
he was awarded his shodan rank. Tohei Sensei was in Hawaii at the
time instructing, so the examination was given by the famous Morihiro
It was at age 17 that Toyoda Shihan also began misogi training,
a tradition at the dojo of Tohei Sensei. In particular, this was
the training in breathing and Zen meditation given at the notorious
Ichikukai Dojo in Tokyo. Ichikukai was founded by a student of the
renowned Meiji-era swordsman, calligrapher and Zen master Yamaoka
Tesshu; it still carries a reputation for extremely difficult training
of a type rarely undertaken by modern persons. Toyoda Shihan recalls
the pancake-size layers of skin that would come off his knees from
kneeling so long on tatami during breathing training, and the scars
many trainees would develop from senior students striking them repeatedly
on the back to help them 'get the air out' even after blood had soaked
through their clothes.
At age 18, Toyoda Shihan entered Senshu University to begin studying
law. He lived for a brief time with the late Akira Tohei Sensei at
an apartment near the Aikikai Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, attending classes
with O-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba as well as the future Doshu Kisshomaru
Ueshiba. Shortly after, while still continuing to train at the Hombu
Dojo, he moved into Ichikukai dojo as Jyoju, a resident disciple.
Here, in addition to the misogi training mentioned earlier, he formally
began Zen training under the guidance of Tesso Hino Sensei, the dojo-cho
of Ichikukai, and Bokugyukutsu Keizan Roshi, Zen master, who would
come once monthly to conduct sesshin (intensive Zen retreat).
For three years he endured the training at Ichikukai, while also
going to school and training in Aikido. He recalls this time as being
one in which there was no time for rest. The severity of the training
at Ichikukai, coupled with his studies, tested his endurance to its
After completing his time at Ichikukai, Toyoda Shihan moved to an
apartment again near Hombu Dojo, where he continued to attend classes
three hours each day. At this time he finished his law studies and
graduated from Senshu. But, upon reflection, he had an important
realization: he was not interested in law as a career. Aikido, and
the life of shugyo or intensive training, was what truly mattered
to him. Making the decision to pursue Aikido professionally, he enrolled
as uchideshi (live-in disciple) at the Aikikai Hombu Dojo. By this
time O-Sensei had died. Toyoda Shihan therefore became the first
uchideshi directly under the new Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
Now at age 22, he was ranked sandan and was assisting with instruction
at several locations. At this time, the current Doshu, Moriteru Ueshiba,
as well as Hayato Osawa, the son of the late Kisaburo Osawa, were
beginning their training.
At age 24, Toyoda Shihan was awarded the rank of yondan. His teaching
activities in Japan would eventually include classes at 11 dojo,
including Daio Bunka University, Seikei University, and International
Christian University. He also traveled to South Korea, where his
instruction included classes for hapkido groups and the Korean CIA.
He traveled often as otomo (attendant and demonstration assistant)
for Kisshomaru Ueshiba, and had contact with many other prominent
teachers such as Saito Sensei and Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei.
The dramatic split which shook the Aikido world occurred at this
time, when Koichi Tohei, then the Chief Instructor at Aikikai Hombu
Dojo, left the Aikikai to develop his own Ki no Kenkyukai (Ki Society)
organization. Toyoda Shihan followed his obligation to his original
teacher, and sided with Tohei Sensei. Eventually, he was given the
position of Chief Instructor of Aikido technique for the Ki Society.
He also was the author of the bylaws for that organization. In 1974,
at Tohei Sensei's direction, he settled in Chicago to begin spreading
Aikido in the United States. He was 27 years old, and now held the
rank of godan.
There was very little Aikido in the mainland United States in 1974,
and so there was little base to build upon. Through tireless
work, Aikido began to spread and develop. Traveling nearly every
for many years to teach and organize across the United States,
Toyoda Shihan (now ranked rokudan and independent from the organization
of Koichi Tohei Sensei) founded his own organization in 1984:
Aikido Association of America. Dojo were established in cities
and towns which had no Aikido; students trained and eventually became
instructors; new affiliates were born.
Along with these travels,
Toyoda Shihan worked to develop AAA's headquarters
in Chicago. It was there that the first of the National Instructor's Seminars
was held; AAA was the first organization to offer such a training, 'teaching
how to teach' rather than simply practicing. It is this recognition ( that
teaching requires a unique and advanced set of skills not necessarily imparted
through general practice alone) that has been at the core of Toyoda Shihan's
work. Today, all of his instructors are required to be re-certified through
attendance at such a seminar at least once every two years.
The result of all of this is that today the Aikido Association of
America is the largest organization under a single Shihan-level instructor
in the United States. With growth continuing at its present pace,
AAA will soon be to be the largest of any Aikido organization in
America. And, more importantly, Aikido can now be found in almost
every major city in America. While it is easy to talk about this
growth as a natural process, it is truly only through the physical
work of Toyoda Shihan, traveling and sacrificing on a daily basis
with the same intensity and energy he learned as a young trainee
at Ichikukai Dojo, that this has occurred.
Growth has occurred internationally as well. Responding to the request
for quality Aikido instruction from many other nations, Toyoda
Shihan founded a sister organization of AAA, Aikido Association
International (AAI). AAI currently oversees instructional programs
nations, including new branches in Japan itself. A third organization,
Aikido International Foundation (AIF), was founded as well.
A federally tax-exempt, not-for-profit educational and charitable
AIF provides economic and other assistance to Aikido practitioners
in many nations.
There have been other activities. The Japanese
Culture Center, a place where persons of any background can
gather to receive instruction in traditional
arts such as the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, calligraphy, as well as
Japanese language and various martial arts, was founded in Chicago in 1978,
and has become the model for several similar institutions across the country.
More than 1,000 persons per year attend classes there, in an atmosphere of
cross-cultural understanding and sharing.
The International Zen Dojo Sogenkai,
a lay organization devoted to promoting Rinzai Zen meditation
and training methods, was also
founded in Chicago in 1979 and has spread to a number of
affiliated branches. Toyoda Shihan, confirmed as a Zen master in
with the Buddhist name of Tenzan Gensei Roshi, acts as chairman
of the board.
The Sogenkai is committed to propagating the teachings of
the late Omori Sogen Roshi, a Zen, sword, and calligraphy master,
the greatest Zen master of the 20th century. Sogenkai is
affiliated with Daihonzan Chozen-ji, a Rinzai temple founded by Omori
in Hawaii and overseen by his successor, Tenshin Tanouye
Toyoda Shihan is a successor of Tanouye Roshi. This unique
the teachings of Zen, Budo, and the fine arts, is unlike
any other in the world.
In 1994 a historic development occurred: Toyoda Shihan re-established
ties with the Aikikai, with the help of Kisaburo Osawa Sensei, a
former mentor, and with the approval of then Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba.
In this manner, it can now be said that the activities of Toyoda
Shihan have brought further connection and growth to the original
home of world Aikido.