Meeting Seiseki Abe Sensei (10th dan) and facing the challenge of a shodan test.
Josh Gold: Sensei, didn’t you say you first met Abe Sensei through Seagal Sensei?
Yes. A while after I joined, Seagal Sensei prepared a seminar and introduced Abe Sensei to us. This was the first time I met Abe Sensei, and the first time I saw his shodo (calligraphy). And then I learned that Abe Sensei is the man who taught calligraphy to O-Sensei, Ueshiba Moroihei. And wow, he showed his calligraphy and I was really very impressed, I’m still impressed. I remember Abe Sensei doing calligraphy with his right hand, and with the other hand, someone was grabbing him and he did Aikido at the same time. I didn’t get it then, but now I understand. Now I understand, and now I have many questions for him. I want to see him again.
Sensei, this is an old picture. When was this? Maybe 1978?
This is right before I came to this country. I believe it was 1981 or ’82. There is Craig Dunn.
With a white belt.
White belt, yes.
Was this photo taken at the dojo?
Oh no, this is the branch dojo. We actually tried to expand to the center of Osaka. This was one of the branches. In this picture, this was not our dojo yet. So this is kind of a seminar. The first time I saw Seagal Sensei teach children.
What was that like?
It was a good opportunity for him to cultivate patience. They didn’t listen to him. It was chaotic, very chaotic. But when it came to the demonstration, they all sat down and watched.
So this event was all for kids?
Yes, that’s right.
When he did a demonstration or classes for kids did he treat it any differently than he would for adults?
Same. His demonstration was the same. No half speed. It didn’t matter if it was children or adults. Boom!
So you started under Seagal Sensei in 1976, and in ’78 you took your shodan test, is that right?
Yes, that’s right.
What was your shodan test like? Do you have any memories of that?
The only thing I remember was his voice, “hajime!” (begin) and “yame!” (finish). I forgot everything else. I don’t remember from hajime to yame. What did I do?
How would you compare how our shodan tests are now with the shodan test that you took?
Well I can’t compare easily because my time, my impressions at that time were different. I’m sure everybody here can share the same kind of experience I had.
Was the test format the same as we do now? Same randori?
Sensei, a lot of the hand movements and throws we’ve practiced over the years – I’d not really seen them anywhere else, so were they developed around this time?