Akira Tohei Shihan, Founding Instructor

July 2nd marks the passing of our late instructor Akira Tohei Shihan. Please keep him in your thoughts and maintain his spirit in your practice.

The M.A.C.’s Founder and Chief Instructor since inception has been Akira Tohei Shihan. He was born in 1929 in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, and began training in Aikido in 1946 under the direction of Aikido Founder, Morihei Ueshiba.

Tohei Sensei had been a staff instructor at Aikido World Headquarters (Hombu Dojo) in Tokyo and at several affiliate dojo throughout Japan. He also taught for one year in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1966 he was awarded the title of Shihan (Master Instructor, ‘teacher of teachers’) by the Aikido Founder. He came to Chicago in 1972 and was promoted to 8th Dan in 1989 by Aikido Doshu, Kisshomaru Ueshiba. He spent the next 27 years teaching and promoting the ideals of the Aikido Founder throughout the Midwest, serving as the Chairman of the Technical Committee of the United States Aikido Federation as well as Chairman of the North American Shihankai. Up until his death July 2, 1999, he was the most senior Aikido instructor in the United States.

Tohei Shihan’s senior students are now currently responsible for leading the daily instruction at the MAC, and his many students continue to train diligently to honor his legacy.

Read Excepts from the Question and Answer sessions held at the MAC with Tohei Sensei.

Taitetsu Unno on Tohei Sensei

We are saddened to hear that Tohei Sensei ended his sojourn on earth. But we also celebrate his life which he dedicated to the spirit of Aikido.

Originally inspired by O-Sensei, Ueshiba Morihei, he received vigorous training under the Master, which he transmitted to his students in Japan and abroad, including the founding of the Midwest Aikido Center.

Studying under Tohei Sensei at the Aikido Headquarters in Tokyo, He taught me more than Aikido as a martial art, but as a way of life: how to uphold oneself before and after each practice and before and after each test for advancement.

He exemplified single-minded dedication to his craft; his teaching was kind, sincere and meticulous. Although his human presence is no more, his legacy will live on as we abide by his teachings.

In remembering Tohei Sensei, I recall a dream of Rennyo Shonin, who lived in 15th century Japan.

When Rennyo lost his second daughter, he saw a dream. From her cremated remains emerged three lotus flowers. There then appeared a statue of the Buddha, radiating a golden color in all directions. This Buddha soon turned into a butterfly which soared up into the deep, blue sky.

Tohei Sensei is now the Buddha who has become a butterfly. He hovers over the flowers, plants, and landscapes, watches over his loved ones, friends, and students, reminds us all of the fragile nature of human life, and urges us to live in the way of Aikido, the way of harmony in all aspects of this unrepeatable life.

Taitetsu Unno, Ph.D.
July 5, 1999
Translator of Nidai Doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba’s
The Spirit of Aikido