Toyoda ShihanPassing of a Teacher

Fumio Toyoda, Shihan, died on July 4 of a bacterial infection.

Sad news. He was 54.

The first time I met Toyoda Sensei was at a seminar. I had been studying Aikido for about a month. He laughed on the mat, and showed us more techniques than I could possibly remember. On Sunday morning, disgusted with our pathetic attempts to use a bokken, he gave us the gift of 1,000 cuts with a bokken. After about 800, he said, your cuts will start to improve. I held on for dear life, hoping that the sweaty stick wouldn't fly out the window.

Over the years, Toyoda Shihan gathered disaffected and ronin Aikido teachers, and built an Aikido Association of America and Aikido International Foundation, organizations with more than 100 dojos world-wide. Holding together this coalition must have been tricky, but he made it look effortless. His specific dedication to training Aikido instructors was unique and original -- a simple goal, to improve the quality of Aikido instruction. A vision worth striving for.

It is no coincidence that the Aikido International Foundation headquarters, completed shortly before his death, features a kamiza with a rounded front and a tilted ceiling -- the acoustics are designed so you can hear the instructor even when his or her back is to you.

As a teacher, Toyoda had the rare skill of being able to address all skill levels simultaneously. In a single class he could teach beginners posture, intermediate students techniques, advanced students subtleties, and give instructors lessons on how to teach. Usually while laughing and cracking jokes.

As a person, he was above all approachable. He enjoyed good company, and made time in his busy seminar schedule to talk with beginners and advanced students alike.

In an interview with Aikido Journal, Toyoda Shihan once said, "What we do in Aikido is harmonize. I like that. Mutual cooperation, and training in harmony."

We send him a deep bow of respect and gratitude for the gift of his teaching.

- Mark Binder, Way of Harmony, July 5, 2001