I have known Sensei Eastman for some 12 years
and during those years I have heard so many stories about both Sensei
Eastman and Sensei Ellis and their dedication to the early promotion
of UK Aikido, some of the history highlights their hard training and
appreciation of a true martial art, yet there are many amusing anecdotes.
Sensei Eastman is the only Aikido
student from 1950's "Hut " dojo
who has never given an interview stating that "Sensei
Ellis's story is more interesting than mine". I asked
Sensei Eastman to let the readers decide that on
agreeing to this interview.
Q -DW: Sensei Eastman , first I would like to thank
you for agreeing to this interview.
A -SE: My pleasure
Q -DW: When were you born?
A -DE: I was a premature
baby; I was born 20 years too soon on the 31st-12-1943.
Q -DW: Where were you born?
A -SE: West Kensington
(behind Harrods) London.
Q -DW: Before your introduction
to Aikido were you ever involved in any other
A -SE: Yes, I was
in the County school track and field team and would
often run for my county school in various events.
Q -DW: Now the important question Sensei, What year
did you start your Way in Aikido ?
A -SE: I made a
brief start at the end of 1959. .
Q -DW: Where did you begin your long journey of
A -SE: At the now Internationally famed "Hut" or
as it later became the "Abbe School of Budo" It was
actually called the "Abbe School of Judo" when I
First visit to the " HUT" Dojo.
Q -DW: Would
Judo have been your first introduction to martial
arts on your first visit To the "Hut"?
-SE: I vividly remember that first visit with a friend
of mine, as we walked into the Hall no one noticed
us as all eyes were focused on the action on the
mat. There was a guy in the centre of the mat with
a blindfold on who I later came to know as Sensei
Harry Ellis. The blind folded student was being attacked
by three other high grades, and believe me they were
not messing around, in addition to three students
attacking the blind folded student there was another
guy who was obviously the top man here ( I later
found out he was Sensei Williams). He was whacking
the guy with a shinai (bamboo sword) shouting at
him about his bad posture and not moving around fast
My friend turned to me and said " Jeeezzz Del !
, I don't want any of that, do you?, I'm out of here".
With that he left. Maybe I was not thinking straight
but I stayed around and asked for some club information
on beginners classes.
Q -DW: After witnessing that first insight into
the martial arts, why didn't you make the same wise
move as your friend?
A -SE: I didn't really know
what I was watching, my first impression was that
maybe it could be ju-jitsu or something like that,
hmmm why did I stay? I am not sure, crazier still
the question should be why did I sign up. I belonged
to a motor cycle gang and I was the proud owner
of a Royal Enfield 350cc. I was also too young to
hold a driving license. In those days our favourite
place was the historic town of Windsor, which was
a great meeting place for motorcycle gangs/groups.
The problem was the place was full of soldiers of
the Castle guard. There were always fights with our
guys and the soldiers of the Queens Household Cavalry
who were a tough old bunch of lads. In one of these
frequent battles I got really hammered by one of
the Castle guards, I then decided to check out the
local Judo school, that's it!! I was in there and
I joined there and then.
The Beginning of an Aikido Odyssey.
Q -DW: Sensei, tell me about your first class and
who was your teacher?
A -SE: My first class was in
Sensei Ellis's Monday night beginners class, this
was the biggest class of the week with between 40
to 50 students a night on the mat. Sensei Ellis's
class was always packed to overflowing, and the training
was always hard, yet I enjoyed it and found that
I seemed to fit in naturally to this new martial
art of Aikido.
Q -DW: Sensei, you said at the beginning of this
interview that " I made a brief start in 1959" what
did you mean by a brief start?
A -SE: Well, what happened
was, I had a very serious crash on my motorcycle
and my injuries were severe. I was on crutches for
three months. I made a slow but good recovery and
eventually went back to Aikido. My teacher was still
Sensei Ellis, I had only been back on the mat for
about 4 or 5 lessons when one evening Sensei Ellis
asked Sensei Williams to come on the mat and watch
something. I soon realised that the something was
me, and to my surprise Sensei Ellis was smashing
me all over the mat, as he threw me I just kept bouncing
back up. He then said to Sensei Williams; "Sensei,
have you ever seen anyone ukemi like that before?" Sensei
Williams then took me down in nikyo, a very painful
wrist locking technique, he seemed to hold me down
for a very long time before allowing me up.
He looked at Sensei Ellis and said "He's only a beginner give him time." Sensei
Ellis replied "You told me to take an assistant, that's him!" Sensei Williams
looked annoyed and sharply retorted "No! an assistant has to
be 3rd kyu or higher" Sensei Ellis was persistent and eventually got his way,
of course I was not involved in this discussion. As Sensei Williams walked
away Sensei Ellis then asked me to be his assistant. He said I had a week to
make up my mind, as I walked away Sensei Ellis said "Derek
! you don't have a choice by the way, let me know at the end of class". I become
Sensei Ellis's Assistant .
Q -DW: What were your responsibilities or duties
as an assistant ?
A -SE: I was the only junior assistant
at that time. I was also used by all the other instructors
which was hard for me but also gave me a wider experience.
I didn't like being used by David Williams who was
Sensei Ken Williams brother. David didn't have the
same understanding of Budo as his brother, and I
always felt that he had a very cruel streak to his
nature that went beyond strict discipline. It was
also my responsibility to open the dojo on Sunday
mornings ready for all the high grades. In the winter
I would have to light three paraffin heaters, two
of which were in the changing room. While they were
warming up I would then sweep the frost off the tatami.
I recall one winters Sunday morning I arrived early
and a few minutes later Sensei Ellis arrived. He
said " Derek, you sweep the mat and I will light
the fires for you" I was pleased about that, after
a little while Sensei Ellis came out of the changing
room shutting the door behind him and said " keep
that door shut Derek it will help to warm those damp
gi's" (training suits). Well, all the students and
teachers left their gi's hanging from the ceiling
beams. It was freezing so Sensei and I started to practice to try to warm up,
then about 30 min later John Caldwell and some students arrived. As they opened
the changing room door the smoke just billowed out. Everyone was coughing and
choking, we thought the place was on fire. It wasn't a fire, but Sensei Ellis
had not trimmed the heater wicks. This then caused
the fire to billow out all the smoke and smuts, the
gi's were ruined. Sensei Williams then arrived and
demanded to know who was responsible; he looked straight
at Sensei Ellis who without a word looked at me and
pointed his finger in my direction. After a few harsh
words Sensei Williams made me do 200 press ups on
the backs of my wrists as punishment. Some were demanding
new gi's and others wanted to take their own punishment.
It was a while before I was forgiven.
Q -DW: It sounds tough being an assistant, surely
there must have been some advantages to be had?
-SE: As an assistant I did not have to pay a mat
fee and trained almost every day.
This was a big advantage as I was an apprentice engineer and did not earn much
I also went on with the Judo and Karate classes. I also trained with Sensei
Tomio Otani and I would be uke for all the dan grades at the HUT.
I Don't Like Walking!
Q -DW: Were there any other assistants or were you
the only one?
A-DE: For about 9 months I was the only
one, and then Ken Waite became assistant to the Karate
teachers. Harada Sensei was impressed with Ken and
later made him his own personal assistant. Then a
very young judoka called Trevor Jones joined the
Aikido section, he was a most talented student with
immense natural ability, he was soon promoted to
junior assistant to Sensei K Williams and Trevor
and I shared the dojo responsibilities together and
we became very good friends. Trevor had a big problem
, he had a bad habit of upsetting Sensei Ellis, and
there were many times that Sensei had to sort him out and on several occasions
when Trevor complained about Sensei Ellis's driving. Sensei would stop the
car and throw him out no matter where we were. He
did drive too fast but I never complained as I don't
Lady Baden Powell almost Faints.Q -DW: I know Sensei Ellis and Sensei Foster travelled
a great deal with Sensei Williams, did you get to
travel and visit other dojos ?
A -SE: I did get to
travel but not on the scale of Sensei Ellis and Williams.
Sensei Williams had just made Sensei Ellis responsible for carrying out displays
on his own and I took part in the first one at West Drayton.
We did so many over the years yet there are two that are most memorable, I
know this story is told in Sensei Ellis article in "Fighting Arts International" magazine.
Abbe Sensei told us that this display was so very important as Lady Baden Powell
and the Japanese ambassador were in the audience, and it was hoped that Lady
Baden Powell would promote martial arts within her youth foundation groups
Sensei Ellis was standing back stage near the Japanese ambassador and Sensei
Otani when he thought that a Judo man had insulted Sensei Otani.
There was an altercation between the Judo man and Sensei Ellis, I am not sure
what happened out of site but the Judo man did not go on stage next as he should
Suddenly we heard the announcement and introduction of " Sensei Harry Ellis
assistant National Coach" being called out.
We rushed onto the stage and as I was thrown in the first technique my cigarettes
and matches fell from the folds of my gi.
Sensei went mad and immediately smashed me into, and around the mat.
His aggression demanded a response, I also got angry and fought back, every
attack was for real.
I tried real hard to get him with the club without success. Then when it came
to knife, I really thought I had him when the knife went deep into the folds
of his gi.
Sensei gasped but still took me down in immobilization, as he released me and
I lifted my head off the mat Lady Baden Powell was looking straight at me with
horror all over her face.
I just knew there and then that we had blown it. Lady Baden Powell said to
Abbe Sensei " That was the most horrific display of violence I have ever witnessed,
and not for my girls"..
A meeting with Sensei Tatsuo Suzuki.
Q -DW: You said there were two occasions?
We did a really big display at Crystal Palace in
a Budo and Judo Championships, we always started
with a display but with Sensei having a short fuse
we always ended up having a battle of some sort,
this one was no different. The great Karate teacher
Tatsuo Suzuki who had just been on was now watching
us, as we finished he walked over to us and he looked very stern, I was glad
Sensei was in front of me. As Sensei was about to step off the mat Suzuki Sensei
walked up to him and said, "Thank you, That is the best display of Aikido
I have ever seen", he then bowed
and walked away.
Impressions of the early HUT teachers.
Q -DW: You said you were an assistant to Sensei
Ellis and the only junior at that time and that you
were also the general dojo assistant so you would
have been in close contact with many if not all of
the old teachers, what were your impressions of the
ones you came into contact with ?
A -SE: I will mention
them from the highest grade down.
Kenshiro Abbe Sensei.
I would see Abbe Sensei occasionally on the aikido
mat, he would step onto the mat to make a point or
teach. He didn't often bother to change into his
gi, he would come on the mat in this old brown de-mob
suit; (after the war soldiers were given a brown
suit when leaving the army, and it was called a de-mob
suit, I am sure that this was one).
Sensei Williams would sometimes ask me to take Abbe
Sensei home to Acton in my three wheeled "Isetta" bubble
car, Sensei Williams told me if I had an accident
with Sensei in the car I would have to leave the country and never be seen
again, I believed him.
Abbe Sensei sat in the Bubble car for the first time. He looked around the
little car, then at me, he gave me a very puzzled look and asked " How many
wheels" I replied " 3 Sensei ".
He replied " Necessary, where are wheels?" I said "2 in the front and one at
the back Sensei". He thought for a moment
and then he said " Ahhhh! Strong triangle".
He did not speak another word during the journey, which was normal for Abbe
Unlike some of his so called "FRIENDS" who claim to have had long and meaningful
philosophical /psychological conversations with him, his English was poor and
he did not waste it.
Ken Williams Sensei.
Sensei K Williams the head of the dojo did not use
me as much as the others.
He was in total control of the dojo and all who were in it. He was not only
aikido but 3rd dan judo and a very good one at that. He would officiate as
a referee at the American Air Base at Ruislip, once he was a referee at the
USAF international Judo Championships. We would get a lot of American students
come to train at the Hut in our beginners classes.
David Williams Sensei.
David was in charge of the Karate section before
the arrival of Harada Sensei, I enjoyed my regular
practice with Ken Griffiths, and later Ken Waite
who was to become the first European assistant to
Harada Sensei. However, David Williams in my opinion
had a very cruel streak to his character. Williams
and Ellis and others would teach as Abbe Sensei did
with a shinai. It was used a gentle form of intimidation
to help motivate you with a little whack on the backside
to get your attention. This would be done with a smile
and humour and no one ever objected to this light hearted form of discipline.
Now with David Williams, he meant it!, and appeared
to enjoy it. I will leave it at that as I don't want
to expand on this subject. Closed!.
Eric Dollimore Sensei.
Eric was only 5ft 5in tall and the most dynamic
exponent of aikido in the Hut dojo.
What I remember most of Eric was one Sunday morning when I was practicing at
the bottom of the dojo with some of the high kyu grades. There was quite a
bit of action taking place at the top end of the mat with the dan grades, Eric
did a very hard technique on Ellis slamming him deep into the mat. He then
excused himself saying " Sorry! I have to go, I have to be
at my girlfriends for lunch at 12-00 noon". Ellis got up from the mat and I
could see he was not happy, Eric had now left the mat. Ellis called out to
you want to fight for real?" Eric replied "Sorry Harry, I really don't have
time". Ellis walked back to the other dan grades, probably satisfied with Eric's
excuse. It was then that I saw Eric come back out of the changing room minus
his hakama and called out "OK Harry!! But we have got to be quick". They both
immediately squared up to each other in posture, after a few seconds Ellis
made what looked like a fearful blow at Eric's head, Eric turned under Ellis
with the best Koshi waza technique I have ever seen launching Ellis into and
through the plaster board office partition. Sensei Williams was sitting in
the office when Ellis joined him as he went straight through the wall. As Ellis
sat there covered in plaster board dust, Eric call out " See ya, Ive
got to go I am late for dinner". I have always said it was like something out
of the movies.
Haydn Foster Sensei.
He was a little older than the rest of us and was
regarded with respect and affection. His favourite
technique was Irimi nage as he put you down hard
he always gave that well know throaty laugh of his
after leaving you stunned.
Henry (Harry) Ellis Sensei.
Henry Ellis was my teacher and is continually referred
to in this interview. There is one story that I have
never seen in print that I will tell you of. In the
sixties we heard of another group who were doing Aikido
in North London with a well known Japanese Judo teacher
called Senta Yamada. He was teaching a style we had
never heard of called "Tomiki Aikido" so we decided
to go and check them out. All the dan grades gathered
at the HUT one evening and we set off to this Tomiki
dojo. We just did not know what to expect. When we arrived we respectfully
entered their dojo. Sensei Williams spoke to the instructor in charge and asked
if we could practice. The instructor said "NO!, I am sorry but you wear hakama's
and we don't allow them" Sensei Williams replied "That's ok we will practice
without our hakama's"
The instructor thought for a moment and replied " I still can't allow you to
practice as you are a different organisation to us" It was then that Sensei
Ellis pushed forward and said "Organisations are names
on paper, Aikido is Aikido", The instructor was having none of it and politely
asked us to leave. We were not happy at this, so we then went into a nearby
pub, after about one hour who should come in the pub; you guessed it Dave,
all the students and the instructor. We got chatting to the students and they
were really nice lads. A big guy who was a 1st kyu made the mistake of asking
Sensei Ellis what our nikyo was like. He said it was his favourite technique,
when he tried it on Sensei Ellis, nothing happened. He made another mistake,
he asked Sensei to show him our style, Sensei nearly put him into the pub cellar.
The brown belt guy couldn't believe this and asked his teacher who was now
talking with Sensei Williams. He told him what had just taken place and insisted
that his instructor try to do this technique on Sensei Ellis.
Sensei Ellis offered his arm and the instructor agreed to try. The instructor
could do nothing, then stated "I can not move you because you are making the
ARM of STONE, if I also make the ARM of Stone I will break your arm like a
twig" Sensei Ellis insisted he make his arm of stone, so the guy tried and
to be honest it was no different to the first attempt.
Then! as he was making the arm of stone, Sensei Ellis picked up a full pint
of beer and drunk it in one go while the guy was trying to break his arm! The
guy looked gutted.
Lennie Ballard Sensei and Peter Dowden Sensei.
They appeared inseparable and were really great
friends, they would do most of the knife and club
displays. I would deputise for them in their ladies
classes. They left the HUT shortly after Eric Dollimore.
John Caldwell Sensei.
John was an electrician who worked with Sensei Williams.
He was not only a first dan in aikido but also a
semi professional sparring partner and boxer. He
sparred with some notable boxers such as ex world
champs Terry Downs and Terry Spinks who were both
world champions at their own weight. John once
took me to the 'Thomas A Becket' , a famous training
gym for boxers above a London pub. That was a special
treat for a young lad like me as many world famous
UK and USA boxers had trained there. I also remember
that once when John was out doing some running training
he was attacked by a large alsatian dog which chased
after him. John turned as the dog launched itself
at him. He kicked hard at the dog, kicking it straight
in the throat and it died instantly.
A little different to Abbe Sensei's experience with an Alsatian but non the
Hamish McFarlane Sensei.
Was older and senior to me he was also a good judoka.
He was a 1st kyu (brown belt) in Aikido when I started
yet we ended up taking our dan grade test together
some four years later. When I received my first dan,
Sensei Ellis as tradition demanded presented me with
my first black belt and hakama which was of a very
good quality. No one ever knew where Hamish got his
hakama from. Ellis spread the rumour that the hakama
was an ex war dept army blanket as it was a thick material
with no traditional pleats. That joke never left Hamish, and I even laughed
with Sensei Foster about it recently (July 2003). There was one thing about
Hamish that very few knew. When he first asked if he
could join the Aikido class he told Sensei Williams
that the Doctor had told him he would within 12 months
be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life
because of a serious condition with his spine. He started
Aikido, and practiced until his death in his 60's.
He also went to Japan and trained at the Aiki-Kai.
I have recently heard the sad news that Hamish died
a little while ago.
Early dan gradings.
Q-DW: How do you compare the grading system ofthe
early days at the HUT with some that you have seen
in later years ?.
A-SE: Grading procedures were not
so technically ritualised as they are today.
Where as at the HUT, the grading would be very physical with constant 100%
attack, no one ever got through a grading without a few lumps. I think that
most of the old dan grades would agree that 3rd kyu (green belt) was always
the hardest; considered by both Abbe Sensei and Williams Sensei to be the transition
grade between beginner and high grade and your first step as a assistant teacher.
It was also the first grading where we had to take attack from a real knife.
When it was my first time Sensei Williams asked me "Are you prepared to accept
real knife " I said "YES" but I really meant NO. Eric Dollimore stood before
me holding a large knife in his LEFT hand, I just froze. Sensei Williams said " Derek
you forgot Eric is left handed" then he told Eric
to attack with his right and then his left.
When I took my first dan, what stands out most in my mind was how tired I was
when it was my turn. I had been uke for all the other grades and to be honest
I don't know how I got through it all. I just wanted to get it all over with.
I took Hamish with a positive tenchi nage and really hammered him into the
mat. Nakazono Sensei said he was very pleased with that final technique and
awarded me first dan.
Q-DW: With all the years of hard training and instruction
going up through the kyu grades what was the final
path to your first dan ?
A-SE: I was always fortunate
that not only did I receive personal instruction
and guidance directly from Sensei Williams and my
own Sensei, and all the dan grades previously mentioned.
I also think that being assistant instructor to the
beginners class from 7th to 4th kyu, I was able to
form a good practicing relationship with a small
select group of students who all later became the
second generation of " HUT" dan
grades. The group was made up of people like Ron James at 6ft 5ins tall and
about 250 lbs seemed like a giant to me as a boy.
He never took that into account and never gave me
any leeway at all so it was very hard but good to
train with this giant of a man. He would not "go" for
anyone so he was always a challenge for me. Ron was
a good friend and brother In law to another dan grade
Andy Allen, who was assistant to Sensei Foster. Sensei
Ellis and I would often bring young ladies to the
dojo visitors area. Andy who was the oldest student
of us all was a very dry and dour kind of man. I
would say to him "Andy, she is nice isn't she" and
as long as I knew him I always received the same
grim reply; " Huh! They are all nice until you marry
them!!". Andy was one of my regular
Trevor Jones who was junior assistant to Sensei
Williams was probably the one I trained with most
and we became inseparable not only as aikidoists
but also as friends and we helped each other to prepare
for dan grade. I guess that's how I eventually got
to that point of my preparation for dan grade. I
received my first dan grade just before I became
21 yrs of age. At the same time I had just completed
my apprenticeship as an engineer. It was then that
Sensei Williams asked Sensei Ellis and I to travel
and spread the 'gospel' of Aikido. We were the early
'disciples' as he put it. Although aikido had started
to spread a little, there were areas that had no
knowledge of this new martial art.
My beloved "Isetta" bubble car, which I had pushed
to it's limits, had finally BURST !
It had to be dumped. Luckily at the same time, Sensei Ellis had just bought
a one year old Mini car which was in those days the "business". So looking
at the car and the prospects of aikido and travel and some amorous adventures
I readily agreed to go along.
Q-DW: I have read and enjoyed Sensei's stories
of your travels from his perspective is there anything
that you would like to add as you were also a part
of that experience.
A-SE: At this point Henry and
I had become good friends outside of the dojo, yet
on the tatami I would still give deference, and that
is how it has always been even today.
The first dojo we visited was in Nottinghamshire
and run by George Cotterell, where we were employed
for a short while. Mr Cotterell bred Chihuahua dogs
of which there must have been about 50 or 60 of what
Henry called overgrown rats. These dogs were all
in the paved back yard. The only toilet was situated
at the rear of the yard, next to the funeral parlour.
At night the gate would be locked so the only way
to the toilet was through this dog filled yard. One
night we had just got back from a good night at the
local pub and Henry went straight to bed whilst I
stayed up for a cup of tea and a chat with Mrs Cotterell.
After about one hour, Henry came out of the bedroom wearing just his jeans
with no socks or shoes, and he ran across the yard to the toilet ( that is
some strong ale they drink up North). He made it before the dogs could snap
at his ankles. We heard a lot of commotion and looked out of the window to
see all these dogs yapping outside the toilet door and in their excitement
were doing their "business". Henry was now trying to open the door, and seeing
all the dogs and the mess he then realised he had no shoes on. Mrs Cotterell
and me were in total hysterics at what was going on. Henry was shouting for
me to bring out his shoes but with that northern ale inside of me I felt brave
and ignored him and enjoyed the fun. Watching him running across that minefield
was just like a scene from a Jerry Lewis film. As he ran he was shouting threats
of gross physical abuse at me. Shortly after that we had problems with the
boss over the photos we had taken with the coffins as related in the "Fighting
Arts International" magazine.
We lost our jobs as undertakers assistants and we were now on the road again
to more adventures. Visiting dojos and martial arts clubs, schools, and anywhere
that we were allowed to just show a little of our Aikido in the hope that they
would ask us for more. In those days in the North there was not much work to
be had at any time, so we would take any job that was offered to us and I mean
These included general labourer and building labourer , also working as labourers
on Britains first motorway the M1. Undertakers, Road sweepers, cesspit cleaning,
steel mill worker, deckchair attendants, beach front photographers, painters.
The worst job of all was the "Railway", that was slave labour and we hated
it, that only lasted a few days.
That is how we spent the days. In the evenings we would very seriously spend
that time promoting Aikido including Saturday and Sunday, In what we considered
were successful attempts to extend and build the ever expanding " Abbe Schools
The HUT market!
A-SE: David, I would like to regress at this point
if that is ok with you, It is that I would like to
mention one unforgettable character, who got off
to a very bad start with Sensei Ellis and later became
a very close friend to the both of us - a man called
On the night George made his first appearance at
the HUT he arrived about 30 min before Sensei Ellis.
I was on the mat busy taking preparation exercise.
George being Greek and a trader, came into the dojo with two large suitcases
and within minutes there were clothes on display all over the reception area.
I wasn't taking too much notice as I thought he must have previously arranged
to do this with one of the senior instructors. It was then that Harry arrived
just as George was getting into his sales pitch with two students that were
waiting for permission to go on the mat. This is the only time I have heard
Harry swear in the dojo. Harry shouted " What the
#### do you think is going on in here! What do you think this is Bangladesh
market day?" He then threw the suitcases outside the
dojo door in the rain, with George scrambling around getting his merchandise
together and put it all back in his car.
George then walked back in the dojo with a big smile on his face as if nothing
had happened and asked what was going on in this hall, I explained that we
were doing Aikido classes. He came back the following week with about 8 of
his friends who all joined.
George was a very powerfully built man and also an accomplished street fighter
and he became the one for me to train with.
I did not earn much money being an apprentice engineer,
George was older than me and soon took me under his
wing and quickly embroiled me in his nefarious activities
which included a very profitable enterprise of delivering
black market hooch to all the Indian restaurants
in West London. Harry was angry over my involvement
until he also got involved, and he also got all the
decorating contracts for the restaurants. We worked
on the door of some of the restaurants and from that
day on we always had as many curries as we could
eat and we never had to pay. George became a favourite
of Kazuo Chiba Sensei and is now a third dan, George
was a brown belt when he left the HUT to join Sensei
Ellis at the Slough dojo in 1968, and can be seen
in some photos with Mr Jack Poole who was a beginner
at that time. George remembers him well and was the
one who actually signed him in when he joined. We
could write a book on the escapades we had together.
George was at my wedding and did the full Zorba dance
with the glass of water on his head, my family still
talk about it now.
Relocating and Leaving the HUT.
Q: DW.Sensei, You told me earlier that this was
around the time you got married and moved away from
the HUT and the locality. Could you expand on this
A: SE. Yes, After I married I moved to Basingstoke
My work involved a lot of traveling as I was working
on the drilling rigs, drilling for Gas in the English
Channel just off the River Humber. I would also take
the opportunity to visit local Aikido clubs and train
whenever possible. I later found work nearer home
in 1969, I renewed my contact and friendship with
Trevor Jones who had also married and now lived in
Camberley Surrey only 10 miles from my home. He told
me he had recently opened a new dojo at the Hawley
Hotel. He was now working as an Airline steward and
asked me to look after his dojo and teach when he
was on long haul flights, I agreed. I found that
Trevor's Aikido had definitely moved up a gear, although
the training and technique was still fairly traditional,
he had by far the most powerful aiki movement of
any person I had ever met including the Japanese.
The dojo later moved from the Hawley Hotel to Brookwood,
with two good students Mike Cashmore and Colin Relph
as assistants , I also remember Wasil Kolenkisov
training there as a beginner, he later joined Sensei
Ken Williams as an assistant. At The beginning of
1969 I opened " The Basingstoke Aikido Club" I would
still occasionally help Trevor who had now moved
to a purpose built dojo at the "Frimley Budokan".
Unfortunately, Trevor Later had some health problems
and the dojo was then run by my old friend Andy Allen
from the HUT With the assistance of John Harding
who still practices today and who we are still in
contact with. With Trevor I re-visited many dojos
including Sensei K Williams who had left the HUT
and was now in the Rhonnda Valley in Wales. I also
visited the HUT which was now being run by Sensei
Haydn Foster who always made me very welcome.
Aikido visits to Europe .
Q: DW. Sensei, could you tell me about your visits
to Europe at this time ?
A: SE. Sure, these were good
day's. Trevor and I would visit Noro Sensei at the
Paris Aiki-Kai. Noro Sensei was really pleased to
see us, and on my first visit he surprised me by
awarding me 2nd dan which was unusual as I was not
a regular student, he never ever charged me for gradings
or lessons. Noro Sensei reminded me of the time I
was at the HUT on one of his visits, where he recommended
to Sensei Williams that I should only do backward
ukemi (break falling) until his next visit in two
weeks time, Sensei Williams said he would punish
me with a shinai if he caught me doing forward ukemi,
however Noro did not visit in two weeks but 4 months
later, I had by this time adapted to some amazing
breakfalls from all angles except forward. Noro asked
Sensei Williams in astonishment, "why
is Mr Eastman breakfalling in this odd way". When
informed it was as a result of his instruction, he
just roared with laughter. He then said this was
very similar to an experience he had with Osensei
and then said the experience would do me no harm
Q: DW. Were you still in contact with Sensei Ellis
at this time
A: SE. Yes, I had always kept in regular contact
with Harry Ellis, visiting his Bracknell dojos whenever
possible and his Slough dojo, we would also meet
socially with our families.
It was at this time that Harry's business was expanding and he could not maintain
all of his dojos. He gave his London dojos to Chiba Sensei, and his Slough
dojo to George Stavro who later was to give the mats to a student who had helped
him, a man called Jack Poole.
My own work was now taking me back to Europe. When in Belgium I would visit
Sensei Pierre Nassens dojo. I would visit Leiage often where there were 6 different
Aikido clubs, and in the true spirit and harmony of Aikido they seemed to hate
each other and did not communicate. I did like one dojo though which was run
by Sensei C Van Parys who had assisted the most dynamic swordsman ever to teach
Aikido, Murashagi Sensei, who very sadly was later killed in a car accident.
This dojo was very traditional with strong links to Tadashi Abe Sensei who
was still visiting the area.
Q: DW. Sensei, You have mentioned so many name of
the aikidoists from the old days at the HUT, do you
know of those that are still involved in aikido?
And are you still in contact with any of these people?
A: SE. As of this date 2003, There are only a few
that are still involved and teaching Aikido and I
am occasionally in touch with some of them. Sensei
Ken Williams founder of the HUT Judo dojo and chief
instructor, who was the first student to study Aikido
in the UK, and is now the head of the Ki Aikido Federation
of Great Britain. Sensei Haydn Foster who is still
at the HUT and head of the Institute of Aikido. Sensei
Henry Ellis who is head of the Ellis Schools of Traditional
Aikido. Sensei Ralph Reynolds who was a regular visitor
to the HUT in the 50/60s, who is now the head of
the Aikido Fellowship. Sensei George Stavro who is
associated with several dojos and still linked to
Chiba Sensei. Sensei Les White who is the head of
The Traditional Aikido Ryu. Time takes it's toll
on those we knew and respected.
The British Aikido Board and The Martial Arts
Q: DW. Sensei, When did you become involved with
the British Aikido Board.
A: SE. I had spoken with Jim Elkin of the large
Tomiki group, who suggested that I join the Martial
Arts Commission within a traditional aikido member
group. I agreed to this, but on contacting the head
of this group and submitting our credentials including
copies of my dan grade certificates as signed by
O'Sensei himself; My first impression was that I
would be warmly received and I was informed that
they would pay my dojo a visit, I happily agreed
to this, and said it would be a pleasure to have
them visit and train with me, only to be told they
would not come on the tatami (mats) , they said they
would assess my standard while sitting away from
the mat. I refused the offer, I told him that I may
meet him one time on a mat but not as fellow practitioners.
I thanked Mr Elkin for his help and support , and
said I would not be joining the traditional group.
I liked Jim Elkin and always found him and his associate
Brian Eustace of the Tomiki group very helpful during
our membership of the Martial Arts Commission (MAC).
He also helped us to achieve full technical coaching standard of the MAC.
On later relaying this story to Minoru Kenetsuka
Sensei when I visited him at the Cardiff Aiki-Kai.
He asked me for copies of my certificates with O'Sensei's
signature on them. I later found he had used what
I had told him and the certificates to leave the
British Aikido Board, at that time within the MAC,
saying that they did not recognise O'Sensei as the
founder of Aikido. Sensei Ken Williams had also left
the BAB/MAC for similar reasons. A few years later
I was approached by a BAB member of the MAC, a Mr
Ted Stratton, who I fondly remember as the originator
of 'elbow power' in Aikido which I still use. Sensei
Stratton is sadly deceased and a most respected figure
of Aikido. I then corresponded with Paula Mitchell
of the MAC and using the criteria required at that
time joined the MAC/BAB. One of the criteria was
that we should have our own organisation and title.
I recalled that many years earlier Sensei Williams
had honoured his teacher by calling the HUT dojo " The
Abbe School of Judo" . I decided to approach Sensei
Ellis and asked for his approval to use his name
for the our organisation, I am pleased to say that
he agreed. We then called our organisation "The Ellis
Schools of Traditional Aikido". Sensei Ellis re-opened
the Bracknell dojo and we were again one!