Tanaka was a judo practitioner when he met Ueshiba in 1936. Eager to learn about aikido, he set up a dojo in Osaka for Noriaki (Yoichiro) Inoue, early student and nephew of Ueshiba. He followed Inoue and Ueshiba's teachings until 1939 when he was drafted to go to war. His proficiency in aikido secured him a position as a bodyguard in the army. He returned to Osaka a year after and resumed the practice of aikido.
Ueshiba contacted Tanaka in 1951 and suggested him to build his own dojo in Osaka. He accompanied Ueshiba to Iwama during the construction of the future Osaka Aikikai Dojo. After the inauguration (early 1952), Ueshiba spent several weeks there teaching aikido. 
Tanaka remained the chief instructor of the Osaka Aikikai Dojo until his death. He was 9th dan Aikikai. Yukio Kawahara, technical director of the Canadian Aikido Federation, Higuchi Takanari, chief instructor of the Kyoto Renmei Dojo, Seiji Tomita, founder of the Ban Sen Juku school in Belgium and Ishu Ishiyama, chief instructor of the Vancouver West Aikikai Dojo figure among his students.
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