Kenshiro Abbe (1915-1985)
During 1954 the London Judo Society (LJS), a British Judo Assocation 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 instructor. 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
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 spiritualharmony), Kyudo (the way of the bow), Jukendo (the way of the
bayonet), Iaido (the way of sword drawing), Yarido (theway 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 in charge 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
This page is an abridged version of a article
`The Origins of Martial Arts in the UK` authored orginally by