Sunday, 30 May 2010

Two Letters ~ Robin Otani Sensei ~ President BJC & Mrs Teresa Reeve widow of Bill Reeve Sensei.

Dear Harry,

Happy New Year
Thanks for your e-mail.

The only George Mayo I know was invited to do a short display at one of Abbe Sensei's events in early 60's 1960-61? It was possibly at York Hall in E. London.

He was then purporting to be a 'Master' of 'Ju-Judo' which was his form of a 'Gentle Gentle Way' of doing Judo.

His display was in my opinion 'laughable' he only did light randori type practice with Juniors and he explained there was no contest allowed in his form of judo.

He wore a Gold embroidered black belt, I think it had Dragons on it, which I also thought was laughable.

At this time I was secretary of the BJC and to my knowledge Mr. George Mayo was never invited again to Abbe Sensei's events. I also recall Abbe sensei's opinion of Mr. Mayo ability was of low . I believe Abbe Sensei's tolerance was only because he had been invited to do courses for Mr. Mayo.

Of course I have met many people who say they do Abbe Sensei Judo but I have seen none who could prove it in combat 'on the mat'.

Over the years Mr. Mayo's name has cropped up and we have had the occasional member join the BJC from his organisation.

I know nothing more of his history or his credentials except that he is unknown and unrecognised in the Judo world known to the BJC.

I would refute any suggestions that he had anything to do with Abbe Sensei's creation of the Kyu Shin Do theory which was totally conceived by Abbe Sensei from his renowned experience of Judo.

I think this can also be held up by the fact that the philosophy of Kyu Shin Do (Harmony with the Universe) is very close to the Japanese Buddhist and Shinto religious thinking and today it is difficult to see exactly what is the philosophical difference between Kyu Shin Do and Jigoro Kano's Kodokan theory of Judo.

However, Abbe Sensei was adamant that on the mat, practical Kyu Shin Do Judo movements were superior, being based on the circular movements of the Universe, whilst Kodokan was a more linear theory. Myself and all those others who were privileged to experience randori with Abbe Sensei have never doubted that his Judo was the best.

Unfortunately since Abbe sensei's death, I know of no one with his practical randori/contest ability who could prove the superiority of Kyu Shin Do Judo.

None of his students ever reached his ability and although they may have been trained by Abbe Sensei they could not mirror his judo ability in randori and contest.

Consequently Kyu Shin Do only lives on as a philosophy of a great and revered Judo Master.

I hope this is of help.

Yours sincerely

Robin Otani
President of the British Judo Council.

*********** ANOTHER IMPORTANT LETTER BELOW ! **********

Important letter from Mrs Teresa Reeve the widow of Bill Reeve Sensei.

Dear Henry,

Thank you for bringing Mr Mayo to my attention and also this letter that his organisation claims proves his close association with Sensei Kenshiro Abbe.

Yes my husband Bill Reeve, who was BJC secretary at the time, wrote the letter under the express instruction of Mr Abbe. He did not want to write it as Mr G. Mayo was considered an irritating joke, but Mr Abbe hoped that this letter would encourage Mr Mayo and his clubs, I believe he had a couple in Essex at the time, to join the BJC when hopefully they could be introduced to a genuine judo system.

Mr Abbe did not have a good command of English and used a very limited vocabulary in order to communicate, as those who attended his classes would remember. How could he then spend hours in philosophical discussion as Mr Mayo claims and to what benefit for Kenshiro Abbe,an All Japan Champion to train and practise with George Mayo whose qualifications appear to be self graded and by his own admission non-competitive.

I also remember the appearance and display given by Mr Mayo and some of his students at York Hall, Bethnal Green. The commentator refused to introduce him and a short silence prevailed which became embarrassing. Eventually he was introduced but as far as I know was never invited to take part in any other judo demonstration arranged by the BJC. He almost appeared to be in fancy dress with numerous gold flashes on his belt denoting his "grade" I presume. Already equal to Mr Abbe!

Unfortunately, the key people here have all passed on and I only have my memory to rely upon. I never met Mr Mayo but I do remember my husband speaking of him and his judo "system" in a less than favourable way. This is the truth of the matter and his claim to friendship with Mr K.Abbe is insulting to the memory of a man who excelled in all aspects of the martial arts. I can't help but believe that Mr Mayo was attempting to achieve some reflected glory.

Kind regards

Teresa Reeve

A Tribute to Masutaro Otani Sensei

M Otani Sensei was also a swordsmith at Wilkinson Sword company. Here Sensei is making the sword for Kirk Douglas for his part in the film " Spartacus " the actor visited the Wilkinson company where he was presented the sword by Otani Sensei.
Photo sent to Henry Ellis by a member of the Wilkinson family.

A Tribute to Masutaro Otani Sensei

By W. Stopps

Personal Aide to Masutaro Otani Sensei from 1947.

Privilege and Honour

I t has been my privilege and honour to have known Mr. Otani for the past thirty years. What can I say about such a man? Reflecting back over the years I well remember my first encounter with him, I was seventeen then, interested in wrestling and gymnastics when I heard of a man who taught “ju-jutsu” over a stable in Harlesden, London.
A Winters Night 1947

A fter several fruitless winter evening journeys, all those years ago in 1947, I was at last rewarded by a flickering light down a dark mews. Kicking the snow from my shoesI climbed the stairs to find myself in a bare freezing whitewashed roomunder slates that were glittering with frost . A man was absorbed in cleaning some oil lamps and hearing me, looked up, smiled, asked me what I wanted, When I started stammering something about Japanese wrestling he indicated me to sit down and continued to clean his lamps.

In the ensuing nervous silence (on my part) I was able to study his unhurried and calm movements as he completed his task. His friendly and serene manner communicated itself to me as he lit the four lamps, the dojo no longer seemed bleak and icy but cheerful and warm in the glow of the gentle oil light.

Call me Smiler !
I do not remember what took place then. But as no other members appeared, Mr Otani apologised for not practising, locked the dojo and we walked to the bus-stop. To my astonishment over two hours had passed. As the trolley bus appeared, I asked how shall I address him “Mr Otani, Sir, or what?” As he stepped onto the bus he laughed and said “ Why, what everybody calls me, Smiler of course”, So began an association that lasted thirty years.

Recalling memories
I n recalling these memories it is astonishing to realize how things were then. There were no Judogi’s available and you manufactured your own out of surplus ( if you could get one) naval hammocks. Much boiling and scrubbing was necessary ( no launderettes then) to render them reasonably flexible, a quick sawing movement from a lively opponent could remove the skin from the back of your neck.

A bout that time there were only three Judo clubs of note. The Budokwai, Ealing JudoClub and the Jubilee ( Mr Otani’s club) . Visitors were frequent from the Budokwai including Mr Gleeson and Mr Jack Turner. Between Ealing and Jubilee a very friendly rivalry existed and randoris were hotly contested. The emphasis was upon skill, makikomis were never seen. Indeed, any throw (except Tomonage or Yoko Sutemi) that caused you to fall with your opponent was a cause to be reprimanded by Mr Otani and in those days that was not so light a thing.

Strict Discipline
A member ( now a high ranking grade) recently confessed to me that on acquiring his black belt he high spiritedly began to bounce everybody around, after a few gruelling sessions for his opponents Mr Otani quietly took him aside and said if he didn’t allow any lower grades to throw him and ease up a little he would have to leave the club. He had obtained his knowledge and skill through other high grade’s indulgence and it was now his turn to conduct himself as they had towards him.

Another Incident
B eing single in those days I used to have late nights and spend time lazing in bed, one Saturday morning about midday ( give or take an hour or so) I awoke to find Mr Otani peering at me and anxiously enquiring if I was ill, on hearing my bleary mumblings he berated me for wasting time that could be used for practising and, willy nilly, I had to arise and that very afternoon. I recall he graciously allowed me time for a cup of tea before setting off.

Judo expands and so does the problems
Time passed and other clubs began to spring up, new members joined and suddenly the Jubilee Club seemed to be torn with bickering and argument. One Sunday morning we were about to practice when Mr Otani called us together and demanded to know what the grievances were about. After one or two minor complaints one of the new members boldly suggested the reason for the trouble was that one of the committee members was coloured (this member was missing that morning) Many of the old members including myself were dumfounded and it was then that I saw another side of Mr Otani’s character

He said angrily “ You forget I am also a yellow colour , Judo is for all, let nobody here forget that,”! This was one of the very few occasions I saw my teacher furious. Shortly afterwards that complaining person and his faction left and a harmonious period again resumed.

The Founding of the M.O.S.J.A.
Judo was growing and the A.J.A. and the B.J.A. were formed. Declining offers to join these organisations he founded the M.O.S.J.A. which with the arrival of Mr Kenshiro Abbe merged to become the B.J.C.

One day whilst travelling on a bus, I was expressing my concern over the hopeless task ( to me) of competing with the other organisations. Looking at me he said “No matter how hopeless the task a man sets himself, if he doesn’t struggle and easily gives up, he may as well be dead.

A nother time he was being courted by a well known club in South London. We were invited there and made very welcome. Later in the evening the Chief Instructor proceeded to give a demonstration lesson on a particular throw, finishing with a flourish he bowed to Mr Otani and said he hoped it was satisfactory, Mr Otani rose and bowed back “Very good”. Returning home that night I sounded off in a fine old frenzy over ( to my mind) incorrect instruction of that particular throw and asked why he had replied “ Very good”. He said mildly that, first, we were guests in that club, secondly, to correct an instructor in front of his pupils was unthinkable, and lastly, as I was useless at that particular throw anyway I should hold my tongue”!

Once when invited for a friendly evening at Windsor Judo Club which at the time

had its dojo in the “Star and Garter” ( where the famous American boxer Sugar Ray Robinson trained), we were on the coach when one of our team was bragging good naturedly about his contest and his confidence in its outcome. Mr Otani admonished him saying “Your attitude is incorrect and truly deplorable , you should not say you are going to beat your opponent , but you should say ,if asked, You hope not to lose “ . All I remember about that “ friendly” evening was I sported a black eye for a week afterwards.

Mr Otani taught for many years at evening institutes and an incident happened in which I was able to help him.

O ne day he called me in to show me a letter from the “authorities” requiring him to be examined as to his ability and qualifications in Judo. His indignation was not concerning the exam but that the examiners were probably people he had taught years ago and were now sitting in judgement over him. I thought , and a brainwave came to me , knowing how officialdom works we composed a letter saying Mr Otani would be pleased to attend the exam , however, as it is a Japanese sport it was only fair that to avoid any ambiguity and to get the correct nuance of the sport, he would answer their questions also in Japanese. To our delight a letter arrived apologising, in view of his experience, oversight, etc., that there was to be no question of his taking an examination whatever .

Kenshiro Abbe sensei
One further example of this remarkable man’s approach to life was during the first time Kenshiro Abbe came to this country and devastated the best of our dan grades in the country. People who remember him taking on black belts at the Royal Albert Hall display in 1963 still speak of it with reverence. However, on returning to our dojo Mr Otani announced that his own Judo was now old fashioned and obsolete and we must now learn Mr Abbe’s method and in this he included himself.

T o me it was shattering, here was a man who could calmly throw away a lifetimse work and start again at the beginning without turning a hair. At this moment my esteem for my instructor crystallized and I knew whatever happened in the future, that incident would cancel anything. Mr Otani began to study these new techniques but fortunately Mr Abbe spotted what was happening and pointed out that the style and method of Mr Otani was now so rare that he must keep teaching it to preserve such a unique skill and knowledge.

The Passing of a Legend
H aving practiced with both men, I would say that in randori with Mr Otani I always felt I had thrown myself in some frustrating and mysterious way, but a practice with Mr Abbe

It seemed as though a sudden release of explosive energy hurtled one to the mat.

I feel sad younger members of our organisation did not see my teacher in his prime – I did - and I will always be thankful for that chance remark that enabled me to meet such a man. His affect on people was amply demonstrated by a number of friends who attended his funeral. Who, when seeing him appear in the dojo did not notice a change in the very atmosphere and make a more conscious effort to practice his Judo more skilfully.

W ith Mr Otani’s passing we have seen the last of the Old Time greats, an end of an era and a new one beginning. His own instructor was the famous Yukio Tani whom he held in affection and great esteem. I once asked “ Who taught Yukio Tani ?” and he answered “Why , his father”, and “ All Yukio Tani’s forebears were Judomen”. And so I now think we see this tradition repeated with his son Robin Otani becoming our new instructor.
H e is bringing in a new age and has my best wishes, my respect and whole hearted support.

Some Incidents in Thirty Years of Mr Otani’s Judo

I n 1947 I had my first randori with Mr Otani, - I appeared in the dojo proudly wearing my homemade jacket with ex-army shorts to match. I was requested to demonstrate a few break fall’s, so I threw myself enthusiastically around the mat doing (so I imagined) magnificent break fall’s. I must be fair at this stage and admit I had a book called “Ju-Jitsu” by Unenishi and diligent study of this book had convinced me that I knew it all. However, after this “brilliant” display Mr Otani smiled and said he would practice with me. After a kneeling rei ( standard practice in those days) I confidently seized Mr Otani’s jacket and attacked, ( No hesitation here, I had a useful cross buttock and I was going to use it) a fierce push and I nearly fell over, a quick pull and there was nothing to pull, again, leaping for my throw I grabbed nothing – I couldn’t understand it, Mr Otani appeared to be standing still and I was rushing around the mat like a lunatic. Taking a deep breath (it was getting difficult) I feinted and managed to secure a good hold, exultantly I applied leverage and heaved, it suddenly seemed I was trying to lift a house, or perhaps , on reflection, a church.

With the rich blood pumping into my face and my eyes bulging out of their sockets I staggered back to face Mr Otani and fell over, I laid on my back for a long moment, climbed to my feet, reached out and somehow, fell over again! What was happening?

I took another step and again I was looking up at the slates.

E ven today after many years of practise I still marvel at the sheer magic of that skill, at no time was I aware of being thrown or hurt in any way, just simply I would keep finding myself flat on my back. Mr Otani at no time appeared to be doing anything, it was as if I was obeying his will and nothing else.

A range of emotions swept over me, frustration, nervousness and confusion. Mr Otani smiled, soothed me and said “ Have a rest now” but no, I wanted to wrestle on the ground . Mr Otani obligingly laid upon his back and waited. Recalling my reading of strangulation techniques my hands were soon locked around his neck and applying pressure after a little scuffle, In which I was on top. Watching carefully for submission

( I had really studied that textbook! ) I exerted myself even more. Mr Otani didn’t seem to be discomforted at all and actually appeared to be smiling. Gradually, a lethargy began to creep over me and Mr Otani’s face started to fade and grow dim. The next thing I remember was coming awake from a very deep sleep (which in fact, It had been!)and being helped to my feet and being led back to the form where I sat for the remainder of the evening. In spite of my (feeble) protests I was not allowed to practise anymore that evening. Sitting there watching the others practise, the dojo would occasionally seem to change shape and the mat would appear to tilt alarmingly. As I departed from the dojo Mr Otani laughed and said “Next week, you learn to do properly”. I stayed in bed all of the next day feeling very feverish.

King Kong

I n the early days at the Jubilee Club (before all these prohibitive rules came into being) It was deemed quite reasonable to put on the odd leg or wrist lock and sometimes for a treat one managed to get a neck lock on a fractious opponent! Although this sounds dangerous to people nowadays, one watched closely for a signal to surrender and release the victim almost before he tapped. However, one day a visitor arrived and started using methods that even by our liberal standards seemed a trifle unruly. His locks and throws were carried out with such vigorous abandon that he made King Kong look like a benevolent old uncle. One of our members fighting for survival in a ferocious randori with him felt moved to protest at the mauling he was receiving . When the visitor had left and we settled down to nurse our bruises, Mr Otani spoke a few words over this conduct.

“Never” he said, complain during a randori that this or that lock is not allowed , If he gets such a hold on you, try your utmost to get out. He then emphasized”, After your practise you may quietly tell him such and such is not permitted”.

T o the general relief of us all we never saw that visitor again, although for several weeks afterwards we all gave nervous starts whenever the dojo door clicked open!!

A ll teachers have their favourite sayings and these were some of Mr Otani’s.

To become 1 st dan you must practise with 1 st dans.

A new opponent may catch you with his best trick once – the second time he tries he should find it difficult and – the third time impossible.

If you have one hour for practise and there are thirty opponents, that gives you two minutes with each so you had better be quick.

He also became irritated, if during a hard randori you allowed your mouth to open to gasp for much needed air. “Close your mouth” he would cry “ What are you, an animal?”.

One day I was changing for a practise when I found I had mislaid my belt. Mr Otani lectured me most sarcastically. “ You “ he ended up saying “ Are like a soldier going into battle without his rifle!” I never forgot my belt again.

At a practise one day at the London Judo Society, ( a club run by Mr Chew and a Mr Dominy) I found myself engaged with a chap called ( I think) Cribben, who I believe was at that time their club champion.

He was lean, and rangy and (so I thought) tailor made for my style. What a mistake that turned out to be!!! Having secured his favourite hold he proceeded to Hanegoshi me all around his dojo. At the next session in our own club I asked Mr Otani what I should do against such an opponent . He showed me a simple method to nullify the hold and said “ You didn’t use your head, all you could worry about was your own throw which didn’t come off”. I protested that he was always telling me not to think too much during practise. “That is quiet right” he replied, “ But, I didn’t say stop using your head altogether!”

Time passed and on one occasion we were giving a demonstration at the Elstree Club.

In those days we used to invite members of the audience to come onto the mat and try their skills at beating us.

Well, It was my turn to face the opposition and a rather tough man about my own age accepted the challenge. As he was donning the jacket a member in the audience urgently whispered to me “Watch out, He’s an ex-commando and he has been boasting all week just what he’s going to do to you lot!” A dark cloud suddenly spread over my innocently happy disposition and the young man appeared to grow even larger as he stepped onto the mat, It was extremely fortunate I had been forewarned for without any preliminaries he launched himself at me and tried everything except kicking ! ( in fact, I was hard put not to do a bit of kicking myself). However, using our principals of non resistance to the utmost I survived his attacks and he very soon began to puff and slow down . I suddenly realised he must be feeling as I had felt when I first encountered Mr Otani.

He attempted another rather frantic onslaught and although, I say it myself, he walked into the best Kata Seoie I have ever performed. The thud as he landed on his back was music to my ears and completely winded him as I didn’t dare attempt to cushion his fall too much in case he wanted to continue. He couldn’t have been very popular as the applause that greeted the throw was quite gratifying.

Going home on the 52 bus afterwards I was jubilant over my success. Mr Otani was pleased but tempered my delight by saying – “You were lucky, if he had known a little more the result may have been a little different”. However, he went on, “ If you ever encounter another opponent like that one, get a shime-waza on him quickly and send him to sleep, but, “he laughed” make sure I am nearby to bring him back to life!!

Posted on behalf of Sensei Bill Stopps by Henry Ellis

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