Diane Bauerle

(b. 5 April 1960). 3rd dan Tomiki Aikido-JAA, 1990 [rank authenticated]. B. Lafayette, Indiana. Master of Library Science and M. A. in English Literature from Indiana University. Freelance historical children’s literature scholar; editor of the English edition of AIKI NEWS. Began training in 1982 at the Indiana University Aikido Club and was co-instructor of same from 1986-87. Moved to Tokyo in February 1987. Studies at WASEDA UNIVERSITY AIKIDO CLUB under Head Coach Shogo YAMAGUCHI and at Okubo Sports Kaikan under Kinuyo SAKAI and Mitsue YAMAGATA. Also practices jukendo and naginata-do. Interviewed AN#85.

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Interview with Diane Bauerle

New AIKI NEWS English Editor offers a glimpse of her life as a foreign aikidoist in Japan and gives an insider’s view on Tomiki aikido.


Diane, how long is it now that you have been in Japan?

Three years.

You’re a fairly tall person, certainly by Japanese standards, and also, of course, you’re a foreigner. Would you tell us what it was like when you first joined the Tomiki group at Waseda University and the club at Okubo Sports Kaikan?

It was very funny. Once, we were doing a movement exercise, where we stand tegatana to tegatana and practice moving and responding to the other person’s movement around the dojo. I knew enough about the basics at that point to know that you were supposed to be at least looking at the person’s eye level, and certainly not at their hand. My partner was sort of looking at my throat. So I said, “Me-tsuke, look at my eyes.” And he said, “But they’re blue! I’ve never had to do tegatana with a person with blue eyes!” As a university organization, the Waseda Club is by definition a closed group, but finally, after three years, they really consider me as sort of a special member, and that’s unusual. It was much harder with them than it was with the Okubo club, where they accepted me from the beginning.

Waseda University, as Kenji Tomiki Sensei’s alma mater, occupies a special place in Tomiki aikido. Would you describe the importance of the University and the club there?

Well, it was really Tomiki Sensei’s testing ground for the formation of his own style. He had done a little bit of his own experimentation when he was in Manchuria at Kenkoku University [in the late 1930s and 40s], but he really started trying to figure out how to make a kind of aikido that had randori or free-practice in it at Waseda. He did this as the coach of the Judo club and as a professor in the Physical Education Department. He would work with the Judo club, and after Judo practice he would have an additional aikido practice where he taught students techniques employing an aikido ma-ai (combative distance), and kansetsu (joint locks) and atemi-waza (striking techniques) that weren’t allowed in Judo because he thought they were important. He believed they were a part of Judo. He felt that it was something that Kano Sensei had left out and that should be brought back in. Eventually, some people ended up preferring those techniques over Judo, and gradually, in about 1958, the real aikido club was formed, separate from the Judo club. So he was there at Waseda University for the rest of his working life after World War II. It was there that Tomiki aikido really was developed.

Diane, you began your aikido career, not in Japan, but in Indiana.

At Indiana University.

When you started learning Tomiki aikido was it because that was the style practiced at the dojo near you, or did you check out several styles and then decide on it?

At that time in Bloomington, I don’t think there was any other aikido. When I started I had no idea that there was any difference. But fairly early on my instructor explained the situation.

Tomiki aikido is known generally among other aikidoists as the competitive form of aikido. Would you describe how much emphasis is placed on competition in practice sessions?

Many people mistakenly assume that we do aikido in order to compete. Actually, competition is just one portion of a very wide spectrum. Tomiki Sensei always used to tell Yamaguchi Sensei, who now tells me, “Randori and kata are the same.” Without randori, kata techniques have no meaning. They don’t mean anything without the chance to test them against a person who is not cooperating 100 percent. Randori without kata is just wrestling, it isn’t aikido. You need the kata techniques in order to do randori. Shiai or competition is just one level of randori. We practice against various levels of resistance. Competition is just one small portion of Tomiki aikido.

As someone who comes from the aikikai style, but who has been around a fair amount, an interesting question comes to mind. In the Tomiki style, one of the rationale for including competition is the belief that mere practice of techniques without actual resistance will not enable a person to use them in a real situation. What would you say that the conclusion of Tomiki aikido stylists is about the effectiveness of aikido techniques in a situation where the opponent is resisting?

After many years of practice, and at high levels, one can execute an effective technique while doing randori or shiai. Sometimes even in the dojo while playing against someone you get a moment when an opening presents itself. You react just right and pull off a technique you know is “real aikido.” It happens, but not often. I would say that it requires a highly skilled player to do it. Unless you get a chance to practice going for an opening, where the openings are changing and shifting, you really can’t learn to seize the exact moment to apply the right technique. That skill is the highest level of aikido. I think some Tomiki players can.

It’s my understanding that the actual number of techniques that end up being used in competition is really fairly limited. Could you describe about how many there are, and maybe mention which techniques seem to actually have applications in real situations?

In the first place, we are actually sort of limited as to the number of possible techniques. We have a randori no kata of seventeen techniques, which are supposed to be the basis for the techniques used in shiai. Of course there are lots of variations on them, but basically it is required that the techniques used in competition be from among those seventeen plus two Judo techniques which we are allowed to use, ippon seoinage, and makikomi. There are about five techniques used frequently. Shomenate, an atemi directly against the chin, is very often used, also in combination with other waza. The real trick is to be able to combine techniques instantly when responding. Another useful technique is waki-gatame, an elbow lock where you clamp the opponent’s arm against your body. It’s not a pin, it’s a standing bar.

We would call it a hiji-waza, an elbow technique.

Then there is gedan-ate where you enter low under the opponent’s arm, and turn using your shoulder and arm, to send him flying. That’s a good one when somebody’s taller than you, and he is countering another technique that you’ve started. Often your opponent will counter in such a way that makes gedan-ate really easy, you just bowl ‘em over. People try to do sumi-otoshi, kotegaeshi and shihonage often, but they’re very hard techniques to get off because they’re easy to resist. However, they’re very good techniques to set yourself up for another technique.

Is the use of atemi or atemi feints allowed?

Yes. A really nice combination technique is to come in like you’re about to do shomenate. As your opponent reacts usually bringing up an arm, you just bring that arm into waki-gatame. You can also do a number of combinations from atemi. They’re very useful to start a combination.

There’s the question of nomenclature within the Tomiki aikido world. I understand that there was an international meeting held last June, and the official term or terms decided on to refer to Tomiki aikido outside of Japan and within Japan were different.

We do have bit of an identity crisis right now. Just as with O-Sensei and the different names he used throughout his career, Tomiki Sensei used different names for his aikido throughout his lifetime. People who started at one time prefer one name while people who came along later prefer a different name. It seems that Tomiki Sensei did not really want his art to be called “Tomiki aikido.” He wanted to have a name like Kano’s Kodokan to represent the style. He had a name “Shodokan.” Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, it was towards the end of his life that he came up with that name. Also, it was attached to one specific dojo, which made other people feel sort of excluded. There was the potential for the Shodokan to get too much emphasis, when in fact there were lots of people all over doing this style of aikido.

It’s been called “Aikido Kyogi,” which is “Competition Aikido.” It’s also been called “Sport Aikido,” and it’s been called Tomiki aikido both inside and outside of Japan. At that meeting it was agreed to call it Tomiki aikido in English because we have an additional problem with the word Shodokan outside of Japan. It’s too similar to Shotokan Karate. It’s funny because there was a little bit in a recent Black Belt magazine about our first international tournament last year, and they got the spelling of the name wrong. They printed “Shotokan Aikido.” As an aikidoka, it bothers me, and it’s very misleading to the public. I think it would be very difficult to prevent that from happening. So Shodokan is too much like Shotokan for English speakers. In Japan the art is still referred to by many different names, but the one I see most often is aikido Kyogi.

For AIKI NEWS readers who have not yet noticed it, Diane has recently joined our staff as English Editor, and her role is becoming increasingly more prominent now that we are publishing two separate magazines, one in Japanese and one in English. Diane, would you explain how you first came upon the magazine.

Well, I don’t know if you remember it, but shortly after I first got arrived in Japan, I bought a copy of your Complete Guide to Aikido. I was looking through its list of articles published in AIKI NEWS, and noticed several about Tomiki Sensei. As an information hoarder I had to have them. I looked at your bibliography too as I had been keeping up my own at that time. So I thought I’d better call you and give you some additional bibliographical information, and see if I could get those back issues. I called, and you said, “Come on over.” I did, and bought some back issues. At that time, we were both busy with lots of things. I would send you a letter once in a while and we kept in contact. My association with AIKI NEWS really started when you attended the Sport Aikido tournament last year in Tenri. You came down to tape the event for the Tomiki video. At that point I was involved in a couple of other aikido publishing projects. It seemed to make sense as a rewriter and aikidoka to see if I could help out with some of your rewriting work. Then it sort of snowballed.

People who have some understanding of what aikido is know that there is some kind of ethical or spiritual concern in the art. Would you say, even though competition is included in Tomiki aikido, that this spirituality or ethical aspect is preserved in the dojo?

I’d say that the ethical concern very much is. The idea of working together, the idea of improving yourself through aikido is very much our goal as well. A good aikido club, Okubo Sports Kaikan being a perfect example, is a family.

There’s no question that the way we care about, and are responsible for each other, is very special. That’s the way an aikido club should be. We don’t have to hurt people in order to be able to do an effective technique. Ego should not be involved. It is sometimes, but we’re training to get rid of that. So I don’t think we have lost the ethical side. We are not as spiritual or ki-oriented, as other styles. Tomiki Sensei was an academic, physical education type person and very practical. His own emphasis was on figuring out the principles of things. But he never abandoned the higher purposes.

Throughout the history of the development of Tomiki aikido there’s another outstanding figure, Hideo Ohba Sensei. Would you briefly describe him and talk about his place in Tomiki aikido history.

I never met him, as he died a year before I got to Japan, but from everything that I can tell, he was a very special person indeed. He had dan ranks in Judo, aikido, Naginata, Kendo, Iai, Jukendo, and maybe a couple of other arts too. He was an all-around budoka and also apparently a wonderful person in all respects. His belief in and support for his students were total. He met Tomiki Sensei when he was quite young at high school age. Tomiki Sensei went to teach Judo in Kakunodate [Akita Prefecture] which was near Ohba Sensei’s home town. When they met Ohba Sensei was already an accomplished judoka, so naturally they got together. When Tomiki Sensei was in Manchuria, he found that he didn’t have anybody to help him teach. So he said, “I need you,” and Ohba Sensei dropped whatever he was doing at that time and joined him there. That happened again when Tomiki Sensei came back to Tokyo. Ohba Sensei had gotten out of Manchuria, and escorted Tomiki Sensei’s family back to Japan before everything fell apart at the end of the war. Tomiki Sensei was in a prisoner of war camp in Russia for a while, but Ohba Sensei and the family got out. After Tomiki Sensei returned and got established in Tokyo, he said, “I could really use your help down here.” So Ohba Sensei, left his wife, who is a famous koto sensei, and family in Yokote and came to Tokyo to help out. Usually during the week he would live in Tokyo, and then some weekends he would go back to Yokote. He also had a large role in the development of parts of Tomiki aikido. Tomiki Sensei was interested in randori and how to make competition work in aikido. So he sort of assigned Ohba Sensei the role of preserving the classical techniques that they had both learned. Apparently, Ohba Sensei also studied with O-Sensei in Manchuria. I think he received his sixth dan from O-Sensei. In Tenshin Aiki Budo.

Probably about 1942.

Ohba Sensei took over the development of the koryu no kata, the classical kata, which were basically the techniques they had been taught by O-Sensei during the aiki Budo period. [The term kata in Tomiki aikido does not refer to a set of continuous movements performed independently as in Karate, but describes rather a series of separate techniques performed in uke-tori pairs]. What he did was assemble a set of techniques around a basic concept. The dai-san was based on the Kodokan goshin-jutsu, which Tomiki Sensei developed. The koryu dai-san is a self-defense-oriented kata. The dai-yon is a kuzushi, large, flowing movement type of kata; dai-roku is a slow, intricate, detailed and difficult kata. They each have a character and he put together strings of techniques that fit. There’s usually a series of suwariwaza (seated techniques) in the beginning, and the tachiwaza (standing techniques) fit in a rational way together, and there’s a progression. Ohba Sensei developed six of these kata and was working on a seventh at his death.

Would you talk about the spread of Tomiki aikido outside of Japan?

The most outstanding figure is Senta Yamada Sensei who also worked closely with Tomiki Sensei from the very beginning.

Tomiki Sensei was interested in spreading his aikido worldwide from the very early times. This is the source of one of the problems we have today. People learned from different sensei at different stages of development of aikido abroad. For example, a fifteen technique kata was developed before the seventeen technique kata. People who learned in 1963 learned that and some people got confused when a new Japanese sensei would come and teach them something new and different each time. Basically, Tomiki aikido has been evolving all this time, and is still although the rate of change is slowing. Senta Yamada went to England in 1958 and stayed for two years and taught Judo. He was also an accomplished Judoka. He taught Judo and aikido to whomever wanted to learn. He got a small aikido group started there. I believe Yamada also studied with O-Sensei. I think that was what brought him and Tomiki Sensei together. Because he was also a high-ranking Judoka, it seems he was interested in Tomiki Sensei’s approach.

After that, a series of fresh Waseda graduates went to England. Tsunemitsu Naito went there briefly in 1968 and introduced some of the ideas of tan to randori (free-style with wooden knives). Takeshi Inoue was in England from 1968 to 1971. He worked very closely with Tomiki Sensei and Ohba Sensei, and started aikido when he was twelve. He came in and taught the koryu no kata to the English. Kogure Sensei, currently acting Chairman of our organization, the Japan Aikido Association (JAA), was also in England for a time in the second half of the sixties. The British got this wonderful, constant influx of the very best teachers from Japan. So they are so far ahead of everyone else in the world as far as having good aikido and good aikido teachers.

In the States a few people were starting to teach the art in the late sixties. Some of them came from other styles of aikido and switched. Seiji Tanaka, who was the first captain of the Waseda Aikido Club, ended up in Denver and taught there. Riki Kogure taught aikido in Houston, Texas to Karl Geis and his group who have now more or less broken away from the mainstream. Development in the States had been very fragmented until just recently. We are now getting our act together, making connections, and standardizing things.

In Australia, a British woman, Leoni Heap (later Gay) introduced Tomiki aikido first, and was followed soon after by John Gay, who had studied with Yamada. They started several clubs. It’s rather fragmented there too. There is also an aikido club in Brazil. There are some in Europe. The European Aikido Association has strong clubs in Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, and England. Kogure Sensei also taught in many odd spots in Europe, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, etc. He did a lot of early proselytizing for Tomiki aikido.

Who are the major figures in the Tomiki aikido world now?

Well, obviously, we have our shihan, Tetsuro Nariyama Sensei and Fumiaki Shishida Sensei. Nariyama Sensei has been at the Shodokan in Osaka since 1970, I believe. He was basically Tomiki Sensei’s last deshi, and closest at that time in his life. Nariyama worked closely with Tomiki Sensei while he was experimenting during his later years. Tomiki Sensei used to go down to Osaka once a week I believe. Ohba Sensei used to go down once a month. Nariyama was also connected with Hirokazu Kobayashi Sensei of the aikikai in Osaka. I think he is 5th dan aikikai. Shishida Sensei is based here in Tokyo. He was until two years ago the coach of the Waseda Aikido Club and also started the Sports Aikido Club. He is the instructor for the aikido physical education classes there and also a professor of Budo Theory and Philosophy.

What are your thoughts, Diane, about women practicing aikido here in Japan?

Japanese women have a lot of problems continuing aikido. There are very few high-ranked women in the other styles from what I understand. Tomiki aikido is different in that respect. We have some high-ranked women. There are two sixth-degree women at my dojo who were both deshi of Tomiki and Ohba Sensei. Then there’s Dr. Ah Loi Lee in England. And there’s also Miyake Sensei who’s retired, but who still teaches Judo at the Budokan. So there are at least four female 6th dan in the world. That gives Tomiki aikidokas in Japan a place where they can go and learn from women. We have a high proportion of 3rd dan ranked women in our dojo. The problem is, and I’ve seen it with a lot of friends and university students, that when a woman gets married, she stops. Or when she gets married and gets pregnant, she stops. She doesn’t even try to consider aikido as something that she could continue to do. I think this is a big problem in Japan. One of the reasons we don’t have shiai competition for women in Japan is that there aren’t enough women who are willing to compete, who’ve been around long enough and have the experience.

So Japanese women haven’t figured out how or have haven’t been permitted to try to integrate aikido into their lives. They haven’t seen enough women who have succesfully done it. Abroad, there are more. But still there are problems. Having kids and doing aikido is a rough combination. But in Tomiki we are lucky because there is a group of us, who are very committed, who want to encourage other women to continue, and want to provide role models. Now we just want to provide an environment for more women to be able to enjoy aikido throughout their lives.


Diane Baurrle Profile

Born in Indiana in 1960. Graduated from Indiana University in 1985 with Masters in Library Science and English Literature. Became a member of the IU Tomiki Aikido Club in 1982. In 1987 moved to Tokyo, where she currently resides; she now holds the rank of sandan, JAA. Has published several articles in the field of historical children’s literature, and is the co-editor of the forthcoming Tomiki 89, which chronicles the spread of Tomiki aikido during the ten years since Tomiki Sensei’s death.

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