Kenji Tomiki was born on March 15, 1900. He was a Japanese aikido and judo teacher and the founder of competitive aikido (aikido kyogi) style. The style is referred by several names including Tomiki Aikido, Shodokan Aikido and Sport Aikido.
Kenji Tomiki was one of the early students of the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba. Kenji Tomiki began training with Morihei Ueshiba in 1926. He also trained with Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. In 1928 he obtained 5th dan in judo and in the following year he represented Miyagi Prefecture in the first judo tournament held in front of the Emperor—this tournament became the All Japan Tournament the following year.
From 1936 until the end of the second world war Kenji Tomiki lived in Manchukuo (Manchuria) where he taught aikibudo (an early name for aikido) to the Kanton army and the Imperial Household Agency. In 1938 he became an assistant professor at Kenkoku University in Manchukuo.
Kenji Tomiki was awarded the first 8th dan in aikido in 1940 and an 8th dan in judo in 1978. He was kept as a prisoner by the Soviet Union and after returning he taught both judo and aikido at Waseda University for many years. It was at Waseda University that he formulated and expanded his theories concerning both kata based training methods and a particular form of free-style fighting which would put him at odds with much, but not all, of the aikido world.
Kenji Tomiki’s attempt to convert aikido into a sport led to a split with aikido’s founder Morihei Ueshiba and the Aikikai and Tomiki was urged by the Aikikai to adopt a different name for his art other than “aikido” if he intended to introduce his system of competition. Kenji Tomiki was convinced that aikido needed to be modernize and he stood his ground and persisted in his efforts to develop a modern form of competition.
In 1953, Kenji Tomiki went with 9 other martial art instructors to tour US Air Force bases in the United States and he was therefore the first aikido instructor to visit the United States.
In the judo world, Kenji Tomiki is best known for his influence in the developing of Kodokan Goshin Jutsu kata. His work Judo, published in 1956, is considered a classic. The aikido appendix to the book is thought to be the earliest English language text on aikido.
Kenji Tomiki opened his Shodokan Dojo in 1967 and he used the school as a testing ground for his theories on aikido and competition. In 1970, Tomiki retired from Waseda University and, in the same year, he ran the first All-Japan Student Aikido Tournament. The basic rules for holding aikido tournaments had been set down by this time but there was an ongoing experiment in an attempt to develop a viable form of competitive aikido.
In 1974, Kenji Tomiki founded the Japan Aikido Association (JAA) from an earlier organization of the same name and he used the organization to promote his theories.
With the support of Masaharu Uchiyama, Vice-Chairman of the J.A.A., Kenji Tomiki set up a new dojo for the Shodokan in Osaka on March 28, 1976. This dojo was intended to be the headquarters of the Japan Aikido Association and Tomiki served as its first director.
Professor Kenji Tomiki died on December 24, 1979 leaving his closest disciple, Hideo Ohba as head of the Japan Aikido Association (JAA).
The current head of the dojo and chief instructor of the Shodokan Aikido Federation is Tetsuro Nariyama.