What is Kyu-Shin-Do ?

What is KyuShinDo and What it is not!

By Sensei Henry Ellis

Kenshiro Abbe Sensei 1915 – 1985
Kyu = Desire – Yearn – Sphere – Circle – Search – Study.
Shin = Heart – New – Spirit – True – To be true to ones self.
Do = Way or Path , a way of life or self discipline.

I honestly believe that Kyu-Shin-Do has lost its true path in Britain and has become many things to many people.

sensei_abbeKenshiro Abbe Sensei (pictured right) came to Britain in 1955 at the invitation of the London Judo Society ( LJS ). He considered the Judo that he saw to be too concerned with strength, also too physical and hard. It was his intent to introduce his theory of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei to the British Judoka. They in turn found it hard to understand that if they followed his teaching of Kyu-Shin-Do Judo which he himself had studied from as early as 1940 their own Judo skills would become stronger by technique rather than strength.

Abbe Sensei would often say when speaking of KyuShinDo that "one must have the right mind". On one occasion he lined up 31 Judoka dan grades, he walked along the line and informed each Judoka what technique he would use, and whether it would be left of right handed. Abbe Sensei then proceeded to throw each and every single one of the 31 students just as he had said. It is worth being reminded that Abbe Sensei was 40 years of age at that time.

In 1937 Kenshiro Abbe Sensei fought the great Japanese Judo legend Masahiko Kimura, Abbe Sensei beat Kimura and that was Kimura’s only defeat. Kimura Sensei said of Abbe Sensei after his defeat - “It was as if I was fighting a shadow and trying to catch the wind”

My good friend Gerry Gyngell Sensei said to me on this subject of KyuShinDo “ I believe it is as much about mental attitude as it is technique. I also believe that one can only learn by example and this ( I think ) is why so many failed to understand his teachings as they only looked at the physical and not the mental side of what Abbe Sensei was teaching.

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Is Aikido a Martial Art? Part 3

By Sensei Henry Ellis


The Converted
In articles parts one and two I have covered the introduction of Aikido to the West, and the impact on other Martial Artists, Aikido progressed and developed in the UK by visiting existing dojos of all the various Martial Arts and offering to demonstrate and teach for free in the hope of starting a small class in the more receptive dojos, as one can imagine this was no easy task as more often than not our efforts were not an open invitation to most dojos.

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Is Aikido a Martial Art? Part 2

By Sensei Henry Ellis


In my previous article, I attempted to establish the hard style of Aikido that was first introduced to the West in the 1950's. I would like to emphasize the fact that I get no satisfaction from publicly criticizing Aikido and I get a great deal less satisfaction when I see Aikido being brought into ridicule.

To continue from part one.....

Hard training
The training in and exercises in those early days were very hard and physical, with karate style kicking and punching a very integral part of our warm up, followed by 200 press ups on the backs of the wrists, with fingers pointing both inwards and outwards, very often while you were in the raised position Abbe Sensei would instruct another student to sit on your back, as we were the only group of five Dan grades in the UK and all in the same dojo then this was the training in all the Aikido dojos in the UK and today we are the only organization in Aikido still doing these press ups.

The purists say "these press ups are bad for you" what they really mean is they can't do them, this is all part of the watering down of traditional Aikido.

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Is Aikido a Martial Art? Part 1

aikido styleBy Sensei Henry Ellis - 2001


At first sight of the above title I am sure that a lot of Aikidoist's will be angry, they will assume that this is yet another attack on the credibility of Aikido by other martial artist's.

On this occasion they are totally wrong, I have been a student of Aikido since 1957, In those early days I first started Judo in 1956 at the Kenshiro Abbe School of Budo, I studied Karate with Harada Sensei and Kendo with Tomio O'Tani Sensei, so with my background I feel that I have something to offer to this debate.

First Impressions
The Aikido that I first saw being demonstrated by Abbe Sensei in 1956 was without doubt a positive martial art.

I was immediately impressed by its positive techniques and power, and in those days my fellow martial artists and I were in no doubt that we were witnessing a devastating new form of self-defence as demonstrated by Kenshiro Abbe Sensei.

Abbe Sensei had begun his martial arts career at the age of five and became a legend in his own lifetime. At eighteen he was the youngest ever all Japan Judo champion and also the youngest ever 5th Dan at the world renowned Kodokan. He later became the oldest ever all Japan Judo champion at the age of thirty three.

When Abbe Sensei arrived in the UK in 1955 he was 8th Dan Judo, 6th Dan Karate, 6th Dan Kendo, 6th Dan Kyudo, 6th Dan Aikido,
the question must be asked; would this Budo master have studied Aikido if he did not believe it to be a martial art?

It is my opinion that Abbe Sensei would not have studied Aikido as it is today.

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Recollections of the Early Days of Aikido in Great Britain

By Sensei Henry Ellis - Ellis Aikido School

In 1957, I was studying Judo and Karate at the Abbe School of Budo at the "Hut" in Hillingdon, Middlesex, a suburb of London. My teacher was Ken Williams Sensei, and we were all students of Kenshiro Abbe Sensei (8th dan in Judo, 6th dan in Aikido, and 5th dan in Karate and Kendo). At that time, very few people in the United Kingdom had heard of Aikido.

Around 1957, Abbe Sensei told Mr Williams that he had recieved a letter from O-Sensei saying that instuctors outside of Japan had permission to teach Aikido to anyone who wished to learn it. Mr Williams was Abbe Sensei's first Aikido student. Eventually, Abbe Sensei made Mr Williams National Coach for Aikido, and I became Mr Williams assistant - which I remained for approximately 15 years.

Abbe Sensei's Aikido was the prewar style of Aiki-Jutsu, which was very physical. Both Abbe Sensei and Williams Sensei were excellent teachers, who worked very hard to train us while promoting Aikido to an initially unreceptive public. Abbe Sensei and Williams brought eight of us up to 1st dan. At the time, we were the only dan grades in Great Britain, and we were all in one dojo. Sunday morning practice was for dan grades only. Williams Sensei would lock the doors to the dojo, and the real serious practice would start. Williams Sensei would allow the younger dan grades to try and prove themselves against him, but they had no success.

Williams Sensei started to visit other dojos and to introduce Aikido. He was a highly respected Judo teacher, and this helped him to arrange visits to Judo clubs. Occasionally, a Judo instructor would allow a few students to practice Aikido in a corner of the mat.

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