Learning Aikido Techniques

By: Derek Eastman Co-author Of The New Book Positive Aikido

Interview with



Sensei Derek Eastman. 5th Dan.

By David J Wilson E.S.T.A. secretary. - July 2003.

I have known Sensei Eastman for some 12 years and during those years I have heard so many stories about both Sensei Eastman and Sensei Ellis and their dedication to the early promotion of UK Aikido, some of the history highlights their hard training and appreciation of a true martial art, yet there are many amusing anecdotes.
Sensei Eastman is the only Aikido student from 1950's "Hut " dojo who has never given an interview stating that "Sensei Ellis's story is more interesting than mine".
I asked Sensei Eastman to let the readers decide that on agreeing to this interview…

Introduction

Q -DW: Sensei Eastman , first I would like to thank you for agreeing to this interview.

A -SE: My pleasure David.

Q -DW: When were you born?

A -DE: I was a premature baby; I was born 20 years too soon on the 31st-12-1943.

Q -DW: Where were you born?

A -SE: West Kensington (behind Harrods) London.

Q -DW: Before your introduction to Aikido were you ever involved in any other sports.

A -SE: Yes, I was in the County school track and field team and would often run for my county school in various events.

Q -DW: Now the important question Sensei, What year did you start your Way in Aikido ?

A -SE: I made a brief start at the end of 1959. .

Q -DW: Where did you begin your long journey of Aikido?

A -SE: At the now Internationally famed "Hut" or as it later became the "Abbe School of Budo" It was actually called the "Abbe School of Judo" when I first joined.

First visit to the " HUT" Dojo.

Q -DW: Would Judo have been your first introduction to martial arts on your first visit To the "Hut"?

A -SE: I vividly remember that first visit with a friend of mine, as we walked into the Hall no one noticed us as all eyes were focused on the action on the mat.
There was a guy in the centre of the mat with a blindfold on who I later came to know as Sensei Harry Ellis.
The blind folded student was being attacked by three other high grades, and believe me they were not messing around, in addition to three students attacking the blind folded student there was another guy who was obviously the top man here ( I later found out he was Sensei Williams).
He was whacking the guy with a shinai (bamboo sword) shouting at him about his bad posture and not moving around fast enough.
My friend turned to me and said " Jeeezzz Del ! , I don't want any of that, do you?, I'm out of here".
With that he left.
Maybe I was not thinking straight but I stayed around and asked for some club information on beginners classes.

Q -DW: After witnessing that first insight into the martial arts, why didn't you make the same wise move as your friend?

A -SE: I didn't really know what I was watching, my first impression was that maybe it could be ju-jitsu or something like that, hmmm why did I stay? I am not sure, crazier still the question should be why did I sign up.
I belonged to a motor cycle gang and I was the proud owner of a Royal Enfield 350cc.
I was also too young to hold a driving license. In those days our favourite place was the historic town of Windsor, which was a great meeting place for motorcycle gangs/groups. The problem was the place was full of soldiers of the Castle guard.
There were always fights with our guys and the soldiers of the Queens Household Cavalry who were a tough old bunch of lads.
In one of these frequent battles I got really hammered by one of the Castle guards, I then decided to check out the local Judo school, that's it!! I was in there and I joined there and then.

The Beginning of an Aikido Odyssey.

Q -DW: Sensei, tell me about your first class and who was your teacher?

A -SE: My first class was in Sensei Ellis's Monday night beginners class, this was the biggest class of the week with between 40 to 50 students a night on the mat.
Sensei Ellis's class was always packed to overflowing, and the training was always hard, yet I enjoyed it and found that I seemed to fit in naturally to this new martial art of Aikido.



Q -DW: Sensei, you said at the beginning of this interview that " I made a brief start in 1959" what did you mean by a brief start?

A -SE: Well, what happened was, I had a very serious crash on my motorcycle and my injuries were severe.
I was on crutches for three months.
I made a slow but good recovery and eventually went back to Aikido.
My teacher was still Sensei Ellis, I had only been back on the mat for about 4 or 5 lessons when one evening Sensei Ellis asked Sensei Williams to come on the mat and watch something.
I soon realised that the something was me, and to my surprise Sensei Ellis was smashing me all over the mat, as he threw me I just kept bouncing back up.
He then said to Sensei Williams;
"Sensei, have you ever seen anyone ukemi like that before?"
Sensei Williams then took me down in nikyo, a very painful wrist locking technique, he seemed to hold me down for a very long time before allowing me up.
He looked at Sensei Ellis and said "He's only a beginner give him time."
Sensei Ellis replied "You told me to take an assistant, that's him!"
Sensei Williams looked annoyed and sharply retorted "No! an assistant has to be 3rd kyu or higher"
Sensei Ellis was persistent and eventually got his way, of course I was not involved in this discussion. As Sensei Williams walked away Sensei Ellis then asked me to be his assistant.
He said I had a week to make up my mind, as I walked away Sensei Ellis said "Derek ! you don't have a choice by the way, let me know at the end of class".
I become Sensei Ellis's Assistant .

Q -DW: What were your responsibilities or duties as an assistant ?

A -SE: I was the only junior assistant at that time. I was also used by all the other instructors which was hard for me but also gave me a wider experience.
I didn't like being used by David Williams who was Sensei Ken Williams brother. David didn't have the same understanding of Budo as his brother, and I always felt that he had a very cruel streak to his nature that went beyond strict discipline.
It was also my responsibility to open the dojo on Sunday mornings ready for all the high grades.
In the winter I would have to light three paraffin heaters, two of which were in the changing room.
While they were warming up I would then sweep the frost off the tatami.
I recall one winters Sunday morning I arrived early and a few minutes later Sensei Ellis arrived.
He said " Derek, you sweep the mat and I will light the fires for you"
I was pleased about that, after a little while Sensei Ellis came out of the changing room shutting the door behind him and said
" keep that door shut Derek it will help to warm those damp gi's" (training suits).
Well, all the students and teachers left their gi's hanging from the ceiling beams. It was freezing so Sensei and I started to practice to try to warm up, then about 30 min later John Caldwell and some students arrived. As they opened the changing room door the smoke just billowed out. Everyone was coughing and choking, we thought the place was on fire.
It wasn't a fire, but Sensei Ellis had not trimmed the heater wicks. This then caused the fire to billow out all the smoke and smuts, the gi's were ruined.
Sensei Williams then arrived and demanded to know who was responsible; he looked straight at Sensei Ellis who without a word looked at me and pointed his finger in my direction.
After a few harsh words Sensei Williams made me do 200 press ups on the backs of my wrists as punishment. Some were demanding new gi's and others wanted to take their own punishment.
It was a while before I was forgiven.

Q -DW: It sounds tough being an assistant, surely there must have been some advantages to be had?

A -SE: As an assistant I did not have to pay a mat fee and trained almost every day.
This was a big advantage as I was an apprentice engineer and did not earn much money.
I also went on with the Judo and Karate classes. I also trained with Sensei Tomio Otani and I would be uke for all the dan grades at the HUT.

I Don't Like Walking!

Q -DW: Were there any other assistants or were you the only one?

A-DE: For about 9 months I was the only one, and then Ken Waite became assistant to the Karate teachers.
Harada Sensei was impressed with Ken and later made him his own personal assistant.
Then a very young judoka called Trevor Jones joined the Aikido section, he was a most talented student with immense natural ability, he was soon promoted to junior assistant to Sensei K Williams and Trevor and I shared the dojo responsibilities together and we became very good friends.
Trevor had a big problem , he had a bad habit of upsetting Sensei Ellis, and there were many times that Sensei had to sort him out and on several occasions when Trevor complained about Sensei Ellis's driving.
Sensei would stop the car and throw him out no matter where we were. He did drive too fast but I never complained as I don't like walking.

Lady Baden Powell almost Faints.

Q -DW: I know Sensei Ellis and Sensei Foster travelled a great deal with Sensei Williams, did you get to travel and visit other dojos ?

A -SE: I did get to travel but not on the scale of Sensei Ellis and Williams.
Sensei Williams had just made Sensei Ellis responsible for carrying out displays on his own and I took part in the first one at West Drayton.
We did so many over the years yet there are two that are most memorable, I know this story is told in Sensei Ellis article in "Fighting Arts International" magazine.
Abbe Sensei told us that this display was so very important as Lady Baden Powell and the Japanese ambassador were in the audience, and it was hoped that Lady Baden Powell would promote martial arts within her youth foundation groups internationally.
Sensei Ellis was standing back stage near the Japanese ambassador and Sensei Otani when he thought that a Judo man had insulted Sensei Otani.
There was an altercation between the Judo man and Sensei Ellis, I am not sure what happened out of site but the Judo man did not go on stage next as he should have.
Suddenly we heard the announcement and introduction of " Sensei Harry Ellis assistant National Coach" being called out.
We rushed onto the stage and as I was thrown in the first technique my cigarettes and matches fell from the folds of my gi.
Sensei went mad and immediately smashed me into, and around the mat.
His aggression demanded a response, I also got angry and fought back, every attack was for real.
I tried real hard to get him with the club without success. Then when it came to knife, I really thought I had him when the knife went deep into the folds of his gi.
Sensei gasped but still took me down in immobilization, as he released me and I lifted my head off the mat Lady Baden Powell was looking straight at me with horror all over her face.
I just knew there and then that we had blown it. Lady Baden Powell said to Abbe Sensei " That was the most horrific display of violence I have ever witnessedFree Articles, and not for my girls"..
Continued in Part Two:

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