Part 3 – The Early Years in England No.2

A Hopeless Political Mess

In late June 1966, about two months after my arrival in England, a long-awaited meeting between Mr. Logan and myself took place with the help of a Mr. Kimura, a Japanese interpreter and corporate man for Common Brothers Inc. – the company for which Mr. Logan was executive officer. It was the first such meeting in which I was able to communicate with Mr. Logan and get a clear picture of where I currently stood in relation to the British Aikido Council to which I was supposed to be chief instructor. During this meeting it became obvious that the situation in which I had gotten involved was extremely complicated, and I began to understand that I was now caught in a hopeless political mess. There were five key individuals responsible for the situation that had begun long begore my departure from Japan in early March 1966.

 

1. Kenshiro Abbe Sensei had lived in England for 10 years and was the founder and president of the British Judo Council from which the British Aikido Council (BAC) was derived. Abbe Sensei had returned to Japan in 1964 after failing to achieve his political ambition in his attempts to obtain a position on the British Olympic team for his students. Abbe Sensei had been a prominent Judo teacher at Butokukai in Kyoto (a rival organization to Kodokan in Tokyo): however, Butokukai has been dismantled by order of the Allied forces occupying postwar Japan in 1945, This circumstance directly or indirectly led Abbe Sensei to relocate to Britain after he was forced to surrender his efforts to re-establish Butokukai.

There were two major Judo organizations in Britain at the time: the British Judo Council (BJC) under Abbe Sensei, and the British Judo Association (BJA) – a rival organization that had been recognized by the British authority at a member of the International Judo Federation (IJF). The IJF was a member of the International Olympic Committee, which recognized only one organization per field per country. Thus, the BJA provided the sole representative for the British Judo team in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. The BJA had been founded before Abbe Sensei had established himself in England and was of direct lineage to Kodokan, the Mecca of the Judo world founded by Dr. Kano, the father of Judo. Although the BJC was much stronger than the BJA in terms of membership numbers and training standards (it is said that the BJC had 20,000-30,000 members at the time of my arrival, while the BJA had relatively smaller membership – the exact number of which I did not know), the political connections involved granted the BJA much greater recognition. Abbe Sensei’s long, exhausting battle with the hopeless political isolation and 10 years of life in Britain (which was more or less like self-exile from his mother country and family) inevitable caused him to suffer from mental depression and illness. For the sake of his health, he decided to return to Japan. I first met him when I came to Hombu Dojo to visit O-Sensei.

Kenshiro Abbe Sensei and his students in UK in the 1950s
Kenshiro Abbe Sensei and his students in UK in the 1950s

2. Kisshomaru Ueshiba, Director: as far as Hombu was concerned, Kenshiro Abbe Sensei was the official representative of British Aikido. Therefore, when he requested dispatch of a teacher to Britain, Hombu had no reason to question his authority, and decided to send me to Britain to take the role as head of the Aikido section in his organization.

 

3. Mr. Ken Williams: the most senior student of Abbe Sensei and the British Aikido Council. I believe he was third dan at the time of my arrival; however, Hombu did not know of him, nor did they recognize his active role within BJC. I am certain that he must have felt uncomfortable by the news of my arrival as his replacement without his having received a letter of introduction and explanation.

Mr. Ken Williams
Mr. Ken Williams

4. Nakazono Sensei: A senior Aikido teacher who lived in Paris, France, and who had been serving as technical advisor to the BAC upon request of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei. Again, his involvement and the role he had occupied prior to my arrival was neither known nor recognized by Hombu. I had met him on a couple of occasions while I was an uchideshi at Hombu Dojo, however, I had never seen him in the Aikido community, nor I was told that he was an Aikido teacher.
I remembered him from a farewell party held at Hombu Dojo before he departed to Borneo with his close friend. This friend was a graduate of the Nakano Army Intelligence School who had married a daughter of the chief of the Diak tribe (headhunters) during his tour as an army intelligence officer in Borneo. At the time of the farewell party he was intending to return to the tribe and claim his rights as a legitimate son of the chief (the proof of which was tattooed on his arm) with Nakazono Sensei accompanying him on his trip. I had also known Nakazono Sensei as a direct disciple of Dr. Ohsawa, the founder of the Macrobiotic school. Dr. Ohsawa had sent him to India to help patients with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) by experimenting with the Macrobiotic diet method and its principle in treating their symptoms.

Nakazono Sensei teaching in Great Britain
Nakazono Sensei teaching in Great Britain

To me, Nakazono Sensei was an adventurous idealist who sough romance, thus I was drawn to him as a heroic figure. Nakazono Sensei was not only an accomplished martial artist but was also a close friend of Tadashi Abe, who was an uchideshi of O-Sensei before the war and had traveled to France in the early 1950s to teach Aikido as the first professional Aikido teacher from Japan.
Kenshiro Abbe and Tadashi Abe had worked together as close friends and Tadashi Abe had regularly traveled to England to help the BAC at the request of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei. I believe that long before my arrival in England, Nakazono Sensei had gotten involved in the3 BAC by taking Tadashi Abe Sensei’s role after he returned to Japan in the early 1960s. I had been closely associated with T. Abe Sensei since his return to Japan as I was profoundly drawn to his personal character. I admired the fact that he was a graduate of Yokaren, the Japanese Naval School, and was the sole survivor of special submarine mission during the war. It was he who had witnessed and co-signed my contract with the BJC.

 

5. Mr. Logan: The Chairman of the BJC and a disciple of Kenshiro Abbe who came to Hombu with K. Abbe in 1965 to request dispatch of a teacher to England. He became my personal sponsor.
Apparently, the whole situation in which I found myself upon my arrival in England was the product of a long and complicated history between all of the above-named individuals. It appeared to me that the cause of this political mess was largely Kenshiro Abbe Sensei due to a lack of communication among these individuals, especially between and Hombu Dojo and between Kenshiro Abbe Sensei and Nakazono Sensei. I felt sad that K. Abbe Sensei’s health had so rapidly declined later in his life and wondered if that might have been the cause of his inability to communicate well with people.

From Mr. Logan’s explanation I understood that Nakazono Sensei was so deeply offended that he considered it a violation of martial ethics that he had not been consulted by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei concerning plans for a new teacher to be sent by Hombu Dojo. After all, Nakazono Sensei was in charge of the BAC at the request of K. Abbe Sensei himself. Thus, Nakazono Sensei and Mr. Ken Williams together decided to pull away from the BAC along with the entire membership to form a new organization known as the Renown Aikido Society. As a result, there were essentially no members within the BAC at the time of my arrival in England. Consequently, this put Mr. Logan in a very difficult position as the BJC Chairman and the person directly involved in bringing a new teacher from Japan to whom the BJC was paying a monthly salary, living expenses, plus all of the expenses for the trip to England. To make matters worse, the BJC was drawing zero income as I had not been actively teaching since my arrival. On top of all this, there was another Japanese teacher who was heavily involved in this situation – Noro Sensei, who was my immediate senior in Hombu Dojo. He had traveled from Japan to France in early 1960 and had lived in Paris while helping Nakazono Sensei and Mr. Ken Williams in England. Needless to say, his involvement was also not known to Hombu Dojo.

After everything became clear regarding where I stood within the current situation. I was convinced I had to meet these Japanese teachers in Europe – namely Nakazono Sensei and Noro Sensei – to discuss the situation and seek out some constructive way to resolve this unhealthy and hopeless situation. After learning from Mr. Logan that Nakazono Sensei and Noro Sensei were scheduled as guest instructors for the annual BJC summer school in Chigwell (a large sports and camping site in the outskirts of London), I requested a meeting with them.

Mr. Logan at first strongly objected to my request, as he and Kenshiro Abbe Sensei had intended to rebuild the BAC from the bottom up without these Japanese teachers’ involvement. According to Mr. Logan, K. Abbe Sensei had lost confidence in them as well as his British Aikido students after finding out about the formation of the Renown Aikido Society in his absence. I pressed Mr. Logan into admitting that the problem was basically due to miscommunication amongst the Japanese teachers, and therefore the only way to resolve the trouble would be to meet with them and discuss it face-to-face. With Mr. Kimura’s help and support for my position, Mr. Logan finally accepted my proposal to go the Chigwell for a meeting.
Sometimes around the beginning f August 1966, I left Newcastle by train heading to London and Chigwell. I arrived in Chigwell toward the evening of that day, and a number of meetings with Nakazono and Noro Sensei ensued over the course of the next few days.

Despite their warm gesture of welcome, their stand was solid and uncompromising, and they firmly stated that the only way to resolve the situation would be for me to give up my present position with the BAC and join the Renown Aikido Society. I felt like a blind and stupid fool who had been drawn into this hopeless political entanglement and who was now asked to surrender myself without even a fight. I could not do this – I could not betray Kenshiro Abbe Sensei’s trust in me nor subvert Hombu’s authority in having assigned me as their representative to British Aikido. I refused their proposal without hesitation. My heat was heavy, and I pitied myself for being so naïve about the realities of the world. I has truly believed that if I was sincere and honest then the way to resolve the situation would be found – after all, we were from the same school under the same teacher and share a common culture! I returned to Newcastle and reported the outcome of meeting to Mr. Logan, and he nodded without comments as though he had already known what the result would be.

My mood became increasingly heavy and unpleasant thereafter, and I did little more than take long walks along the beach of Whitley Bay. I had not wished to bother Kenshiro Abbe Sensei when I knew he was ill, so I had written no more than a short note informing him of my safe arrival in England. Neither had I reported the result of my meeting with Nakazono and Noro sensei of Hombu Dojo as I felt that the whole thing was shameful. I sat in my bedroom contemplating what to do next without knowing that this was only the beginning of the challenges I was to face during my life in England.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.