Our training is firmly rooted in the bold, dynamic style of the late
Fumio Toyoda Shihan (November 8th, 1947 – July 4th, 2001). Toyoda Shihan’s ultimate goal was to elevate the martial aspects of Aikido in the United States, and use the Art to develop practitioners’ valor.
Toyoda Shihan was an expert martial artist in many ways, one being his ability to identify and fill the role of each practitioner’s needs. He was a coach to some, a mentor to some, and to some, he was even a father figure. In this way, he was a powerful and motivational center in a community of practitioners that looked up to him.
Toyoda Shihan understood that for the Art of Aikido to progress, it needed instructors that were professional. He was very strict in his methods of developing Aikido instructors, and held them to high standards. He taught instructors to be clear, accurate, concise and consistent.
Many of us never had the pleasure of taking ukemi for Toyoda Shihan before his passing. Noble Sensei describes it well, “Toyoda Shihan required full-on attacks, similar to a freight train. Grabbing him felt like grabbing air, and then suddenly you were slammed to the ground. His attackers had to be highly responsive, and never preemptive, simply to maintain their own safety as they attacked him.” From Johnson Sensei, describing attacking Toyoda Shihan as a 6th-kyu student: “I suddenly felt like I’d been shot out of a cannon. I was completely bewildered as it felt like I’d done it to myself.” And recalling a particular katatori attack he made on Toyoda Shihan as a nidan, “The moment connection was made, I was led to a position where all slack was removed from my body. Somehow, every muscle and tendon in my body was stretched to the limit, from my toes to my scalp. To me, it seemed like a razor-thin line between harm and safety, but to him, it was an eight-lane highway. I was in no danger whatsoever.” From Guilbault Sensei, recalling Toyoda Shihan’s curtness, “Toyoda Shihan came up to me during bokken kata and whispered in my ear, ‘What the hell are you doing? Your butt is sticking out!’” After Guilbault Sensei’s nidan exam, “Toyoda Shihan said my test was okay but that I needed to throw more dynamically. This was the exact thing I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it. His comment impacted the way I looked at Aikido moving forward.”
Toyoda Shihan began his Aikido training at the age of 10. He trained under Koichi Tohei Shihan at Aikikai Foundation’s Hombu Dojo in Tokyo, Japan. At age 17, Tohei Shihan recommended that Toyoda Shihan begin Zen training, and so he trained at Ichikukai Dojo in Tokyo. At age 18, upon starting law school, Toyoda Shihan became uchideshi (resident student) at Ichikukai Dojo, and lived there for three years. At that time, Toyoda Shihan was training full steam in Aikido, Zen, and law school. From the wear-and-tear of Aikido throws, to the pancake-sized blisters on his knees from meditation, to the mental exhaustion of studying law, Toyoda Shihan forged rock-solid dedication. He did so through pain and exhaustion, honing the commitment skills he later applied to his leadership.
In the years following, Toyoda Shihan went on to do great things, from becoming the first uchideshi (resident student) of Kisshomaru Ueshiba Doshu after Morihei Ueshiba’s passing, to starting several international organizations and cultural centers to further the Japanese culture into Western Society.
Toyoda Shihan’s spirit was a force of nature. To this day, those that trained with him reminisce of his inspiring technique and leadership. They tell stories that are grand and full of admiration. We, Zenshinkai, aim to preserve his spirit through vibrantly training in his honor, in the way that he passed down to us.