The Five Main Styles of Aikido


The art of Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba in the first half of the twentieth century both as a method of self-defence and as a way of building character and moral fibre in its practitioners.By the 1950s, some of Ueshiba’s best aikido students were responsible for the growth and spread of the art, and most styles practiced today can trace their roots back to this period.

Also Read : The History of Aikido

Aikikai Aikido

The Aikikai Hombu Aikido School is a direct continuation of Ueshiba’s own school, known as the Kobukan Dojo. In this style, there is less emphasis on the fighting side of the art and more focus on developing its practitioners as well rounded, productive members of society. The initial success and spread of Aikikai aikido was largely down to Koichi Tohei (pictured above), a student of Ueshiba who frequently travelled to America to teach there. However, when Ueshiba died in 1969, his third son Kisshomaru became the Doshu (leader of the way) leading to Tohei’s departure from the style a few years later.Kisshomaru Ueshiba is credited with implementing administrative protocols and with streamlining and simplifying the curriculum which has helped the number of students who practice the style steadily grow in the decades following his appointment.

Shinshin Toitsu Aikido

Koichi Tohei left the Aikikai style in 1974, retiring as the Chief Instructor due to philosophical differences between himself and Kisshomaru Ueshiba. In the same year he established the Shinshin Toitsu style which has an emphasis on the use of internal energy, so much so that it is often referred to as the Ki Society.As well as teaching the use of Ki within the fighting techniques, Shinshin Toitsu also incorporated internal energy healing techniques into its syllabus through Kiatsuho, which he founded in 1980. Tohei retired from teaching in 2007, being succeeded by his son Shinichi Tohei as head of the organisation who continued to teach and spread his father’s style all over the world.


Yoshinkan Aikido

Yoshinkan aikido is considered to be the second largest of the styles after Aikikai. It was founded by Gozo Shioda in the early 1950s and is known for its frequent use of jujitsu-like techniques which are used to subdue would-be attackers. Yoshinkan is a non-competitive art which has a heavy emphasis on basic movements and on a philosophy of cooperation and respect for all human life. In order to spread his version of the art, Shioda wrote several books on the subject and occasionally travelled abroad to teach students in the West.

The International Yoshinkan Aikido Federation (IYAF) was founded by Shioda in 1990 to promote the development of the style worldwide and a year later, he created an intensive eleven-month international instructor’s course to help maintain the high standards expected while Yoshinkan aikido grew. After Gozo Shioda’s death in 1994, his eldest son Tetsutoro took over his role and today there are over ninety schools in Japan with Yoshinkan aikido also being taught to riot police in Tokyo.

Tomiki Aikido

This style of aikido was founded by Kenji Tomiki, an expert at judo and one of the top students of its founder, Jigoro Kano. In 1926, Morihei Ueshiba met with Kano to demonstrate his new art and the judo master was so impressed he urged him to take Tomiki on as a student. His philosophy on martial arts was, as a result, heavily influenced by both Ueshiba and Kano so not surprisingly his style attempts to blend the competitiveness of judo with the spiritual serenity of aikido.

Drawing on his knowledge, he devised a series of techniques that permitted aikido to be practiced as a sport with open competition to allow his students to have an objective way to measure their development. This take on the martial art was largely rejected by the other aikido schools as it went against some of the teachings of Ueshiba, however the Tomiki school has continued to grow and international competitions within the art are now held all over the world.

Yoseikan Aikido

Yoseikan budo was established by Minoru Mochizuki (pictured below) in 1931 who like Kenji Tomiki was an early student of both Morihei Ueshiba and Jigoro Kano. He was also an expert in Katori Shinto-ryu sword techniques and karate, and developed his style by selecting the best elements of the arts he had studied as he believed a good fighter should learn several disciplines to be able to cope with any type of attack.

Mochizuki is thought to have been the first person to teach aikido outside of Japan when he spent two years in France from 1951 teaching both judo and aikido. In 1957 he sent his son Hiroo Shihan to continue his work in France where the style still has a large following today, as well as being practised in many other countries all over the world.