The following article offers those students who
are interested in the true history of
British Judo and Aikido a more comprehensive
view of the profound effect that Kenshiro
Abbe sensei had on British Martial Arts.
We are most grateful to Mr Nigel Porter
of the "Tokushima
Budo Council International (Judo)" and
also the "Traditional Aikido Iwama Ryu GB", for allowing
us to place this article on our website.
THE ORIGINS OF MARTIAL ARTS IN THE UK
By Nigel Porter
Submitted By Henry Ellis
The British Aikido Tree
On the 26th of September 1899 a
British engineer, called Barton-Wright,
returned to England after an extended period of living and working in Japan.
He brought with him an eighteen year old Japanese man whom he had developed
a friendship with, and who he believed had something special to give to the
British people. The Japanese youth was Yukio Tani (1881 - 1950) and he was
an exponent of the Japanese art of Jujutsu.
The combination of Barton Wright, as entrepreneur /manager and Yukio Tani,
a natural showman, led the two men into touring the Music Hall circuit, where
Tani would challenge anyone willing to wrestle with him. With the temptation
of winning £1
for lasting each minute, overan initial 5 minutes, or £50
for winning, there was never a shortage
of challengers. However, at a diminutive
5 feet 6 inches (1.67Mts) Tani allegedly lost only one music hall
match and that was to a fellow Japanese national.
A montage of techniques from Bartitsu. Barton-Wright is pictured in the middle.
In 1900 S.K. Uyenishi joined the circuit, but soon after began
teaching self defence and physical education at the Army Gymnastic
HQ in Aldershot. In the May of 1906 the feet of arguably one of
the most famous Judoka, in British history, touched our shores.
His name was Gunji Koizumi (1885 - 1965), a Chinese lacquer expert
by trade and master of Tenshin Shinyo Jujutsu, Kenjutsu, Akishima
Ryu Jujutsu and Katsu. He was only to stay for a year, training
and instructing his martial Arts around the country, notably at
the Kara Ashikaga Jujutsu school, the Piccadilly School of Jujutsu,
the RNVR ( Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve ), etc. until he decided
to journey to the United States. He did, however return in 1910
and eventually founded the London Budokwai, in1918, offering Jujutsu,
Kendo and other Japanese arts to the British public. A year later
Koizumi asked Tani to join him as an instructor at his school of
Martial Ways and Tani accepted, retiring from his Music Hall bouts.
In 1919 another, yet to be famous, Martial Artist arrived in Britain.
This time it was a Japanese gentleman by the name of Masutaro O'Tani
(1899 - 1977), who had worked his passage on a merchant vessel.
He was a Jujutsu man, having trained in Japan as well as Ceylon,
where he had lived during his passage.
Judo Is Accepted
Koizumi and Tani were teaching
their Jujutsu method at the Budokwai until 1920, when a delegation
formed by Jigoro Kano,the founder of Kodokan Judo, Hikoichi Aida
and E.J.Harrison, both Kodokan Dan grades and members of the Budokwai,influenced
them to covert to Judo. This was achieved and the Jujutsu men were
awarded their Judo 2nd Dans, in recognition of their technique and
status. From there on Judo was formally taught at the Budokwai and
this can be recognised as the starting point of British Judo. Meanwhile
Masutaro O'Tani had been looking to continue his Martial Arts training
and subsequently joined the budokwai in 1921. Within 5 years he
had risen to the position of assistant instruct to Yukio Tani and
become close friends with this character. In 1948 the British Judo
Association (BJA) was formed, uniting the majority of Judo clubs
in Great Britain and installing GunjiKoizumi as President. Two years
later Yukio Tani passed away, having previously suffered a debilitating
stroke. Over the next few years O'Tani became disenchanted with
the Judo that was being promoted by the BJA and it's anglicising
of the Japanese sport he loved. He was also said to be unhappy with
the level of support and care that had been extended to his old
friend Tani. Consequently,in 1954 O'Tani severed his links with
the BJA and formed his own organisation - the Masutaro O'Tani Society
of Judo (MOSJ).
Around that time the London Judo Society (LJS), a BJA group co-founded
by George Chew and Eric Dominy, decided to invite a high ranking
Japanese Judo player/teacher to their society, to become their chief
Kenshiro Abbe and Kyu Shin Do
In 1955 and as a result
of the LJS decision, a man, who's credentials were incredible by
Japanese standards let alone British ones, arrived in Britain. The
man was Kenshiro Abbe (1915 - 1985) and he was single handedly to
have more of an impact on British Martial Arts than anyone who had
gone before or, for that matter, after.
Abbe Sensei was born in Tokushima province, Japan and was first
introduced to Martial Arts by his father, a Kendo teacher,at the
age of 3. Abbe Sensei learnt Sumo wrestling at school and became
the regional school champion. In 1931 Abbe Sensei began Judo and
one year later, when only 15 years old, was graded 2nd Dan. His
Judo prowess grew from there, becoming the Tokushima High schools
champion at 16 and receiving his 3rd Dan from the national Martial
Arts governing body, the Butokukai.
In 1933 he enrolled at the Butokukai's special teacher training
college and later was graded 5th Dan, graduated and retained as
an instructor. In 1935, aged only 18, Abbe Sensei won both the All
Japan East/West Tournament and the 5th Dan championships, a pinnacle
in competitive Judo. It was around this time that Abbe Sensei began
a 10 year study of Morihei Ueshiba's Martial Art - Aikido and formulated
his own Budo philosophy of Kyu Shin Do. Abbe Sensei received his
6th Dan in 1938 and during the war years ran a military training
company, where he studied and mastered Jukendo, the way of the Bayonet.
In 1945 the Butokukai graded Abbe Sensei 7th Dan Judo and 6th Dan
Kendo and in 1949 he took up the position of chief instructor to
the Kyoto Police and the Doshisha University. Six years later Abbe
Sensei was teaching in Britain.
Although initially invited by the LJS to be their chief instructor,
a series of disagreements resulted in Abbe Sensei parting company
with them. The stage was set for Abbe Sensei to teach pure Kyu Shin
Do to the British and in order to achieve this Abbe Sensei formed
a number of martial Arts Councils, including the British Judo Council
(BJC), the British Kendo Council, the British Karate Council, etc.
as well as an overall governing body - the International Budo Council
(IBC). It was through these various councils that, by 1957, Abbe
Sensei had introduced Kendo (the way of the sword), Aikido (the
way of spiritual harmony), Kyudo (the way of the bow), Jukendo (the
way of the bayonet), Iaido (the way of sword drawing), Yarido (the
way of the spear) and Naginatado (the way of the halberd) to Europe.
Around this time (1956) OTani, by then a 5th Dan, made contact
with Abbe Sensei and very soon began training under him. By 1958
O'Tani had been given the position of national coach to the BJC.
The early 60's were to prove very exciting for British Martial Artists
and Abbe Sensei was instrumental in inviting leading Budo teachers
to Great Britain, including Nakazono Sensei - 6th Dan Aikido and
Harada Sensei - 6th Dan Shotokai Karatedo.
In 1964 Abbe Sensei returned to Japan in order to see the Olympics
hosted in his home land and Judo represented for the first time.
It was 5 years later that he finally returned, his delay being caused
by an old injury to his neck, that had gradually got worse since
the car accident that caused it, back in 1960. What he returned
to was a near dormant IBC and a BJC that had changed course in his
absence. He felt that, instead of studying the truth of Budo, most
BJC members only wanted the physical instruction, misunderstanding
the origins of the teaching and consequently corrupting the essence
of Abbe Sensei's KyuShin Do philosophy.
Subsequently Abbe Sensei set about redressing the situation, virtually
dismantling the BJC and leaving in place only those worthy to help
in the reconstruction. O'Tani was made president of the BJC and
graded 8th Dan. O'Tani was also left incharge of the IBC, with a
number of other loyal students. In 1970 Abbe Sensei returned to
Japan and in the same year O'Tani merged the MOSJ into the BJC.
During the early and mid 70's the management of both the BJC and
IBC became difficult for O'Tani and those that had been left to
continue Abbe Sensei's teachings. In 1978 the BJC severed it's links
with the now ' all but' redundant IBC. Since then many organisations
have sprung up, promoting the Kyu Shin Do philosophy, but few truly
grasp what Abbe Sensei meant.
Abbe Sensei sadly passed away on December 1st 1985.
By Nigel Porter