Kaze Uta Budo Kai
by Nick Lowry || Tuesday, March 15, 2016
I state the following based on my decades of teaching, my experiences, my training, and personal observations. These are strictly my opinions.
I trained directly and indirectly under Karl Geis in the arts of Aikido, Judo and Jodo from 1982 to 2009. At the time of my departure from his organization (Fugakukai) I was his publicly acknowledged heir apparent and he regarded me as his son. Separating from Karl was painful for both of us, but thankfully, as I built my own independent organization, I was able to step outside the narrow confines of my Fugakukai upbringing, and from this new vantage I was able to appreciate how judo was the central lynchpin of Karl’s reputation in the wider martial arts world. Whatever else the world might think of Karl, he was well known as having world class judo skills and knowledge.
This fact should not have surprised me because for close to 30 years the mecca of judo for me was my teacher’s place in Houston. When I needed a dose of the high octane, real deal judo mojo, that was where it could always be found. His dojo always seemed full of high energy judo players, and top among them were the team captains, guys like Gary Berliner, Rick Pollard, Bob Rea, and Felix Robles.
As much as Karl shepherded my views and attitudes about what constituted real judo, the captains were the hands-on conduits of the nitty gritty nuts and bolts details. They helped instruct and they took out the trash. They were Karl’s top men and they were (and are) each in turn unique assets and great judo teacher’s in their own right.
But now, something has changed at my teacher's old dojo. Since Karl’s death, there has come to be published under rubric of the Karl Geis name, several hundred short video clips featuring Mr. Ivan Spector, Mr. Doug Martin, and Mr. Bob Canup all demonstrating something new that they call Kihara judo.
I feel uneasy with this new product, this Kihara judo. In watching many of the clips I observed that often the language and explanations that these gentlemen use are indeed in keeping with Karl’s own language and technical descriptions of judo, but sadly when it came to the physical demonstration of what they were describing, when they actually undertook to show what they are talking about, too often, in my view, their physical embodiment fell far, far short of the technical precision that was the hallmark of Karl’s approach to judo. In my estimation, the skills these gentlemen exhibit are a far cry from the team captains of old.
Indeed, I believe that to anyone trained in judo, particularly anyone who has trained seriously in Karl’s methodology of judo, what is demonstrated in these Kihara judo videos is so consistently flawed that it is arguably an insult and a mockery of Karl Geis’s real teachings.
One need only compare any of the Ivan Spector, Doug Martin, or Bob Canup Kihara Judo clips, available on the Karl Geis Ryu Facebook page, with teaching clips available online featuring Bob Rea, Rick Pollard, or Gary Berliner, or better yet with those featuring Karl Geis himself, in order to see the real substantive differences in skill and precision.
Again, I state these points because it is important to me that Karl’s teachings remain intact and undiluted. His teaching method’s were profound and in my view ought to be preserved for all future judo players. From my observations and experiences, the development of this new Kihara judo concept and its promulgation by these individuals appears to not preserve the efficacy of Karl’s judo legacy and hence my reflections herein.
It is also notable that the Kihara Judo videos have already caught the attention of public online judo forums, and some judoka around the world are now speculating as to what has gone wrong with Karl Geis judo. It is painful for me (and for others) to witness Karl’s judo reputation being so tarnished and diminished (for instance see the online forum discussion here).
Karl does not deserve this treatment. The former team captains of his judo school do not deserve this treatment.
Karl was profoundly knowledgeable and profoundly skillful, and he was an amazing teacher. Over the course of his teaching career he was willing and able to pass on much of his knowledge and skill to those who adhered closely to his lessons and who spent the requisite time and energy applying themselves.
Throughout my time with him, I can say that his words and his methods rang true because he could and would physically back up what he taught with Compelling Physical Skills. This is a truth that was proved out repeatedly both in contest and in the dojo for many decades as both Karl and his top men met all challenges. In my opinion this is exactly the quality that is absent in the clips published by Mr. Ivan Spector, Mr. Doug Martin, and Mr. Bob Canup. The requisite Compelling Physical Skills seem to missing in these Kihara judo demonstrations.
To put it bluntly, it is my opinion that what is now being offered at the Karl Geis Legacy dojo as Karl’s judo and being now called Kihara judo is a pale shadow of the man’s true judo legacy, and is not an accurate reflection of the touchstone of his lessons that changed the judo world for the better at one time.
I will conclude by saying to the judo world at large: Please don’t mistake the sad spectacle currently being taught under the name of Kihara Judo of the Karl Geis Ryu by Mr. Ivan Spector, Mr. Doug Martin and Mr. Bob Canup for the original legacy of high quality Kodokan judo for which Karl was so well known and respected.
It is my view that the original Legacy of Karl’s Kodokan judo is alive and well in the teaching and in the examples of the men who were his team captains, men like like Ray Richards, Jimmy Wooley, Bill Sanford, Gary Berliner, Rick Pollard, Bob Rea, and Felix Robles, and as well in the senior Fugakukai judo teachers, Clif Norgaard, Tim Joe, Zdenek Matl, Chuck Caldwell, and Rinard Jackson, among others.
I encourage you to take a lesson from any of these men and see for yourself. Compare styles and methods and most importantly, compare the quality of the real tangible skills. You will see what works and what does not for yourself.
Thank you for listening.
The following notable Judo teachers, each highly ranked by Karl himself, have expressly given me permission to add their names in support my statement above:
Zdenek Matl adds:
Nick, this is well written, fully agree with this.
Rick Pollard adds:
Nick, I fully agree that My Sensei and mentor Karl Geis was Bodacious and he for sure could back it up even in his older age. I hear the words in these video clips that last a minute or two, but see a multitude of mistakes that Karl would have not permitted us to make. I have offered my help in consulting any of these folks at anytime to help correct these mistakes but have not had any inquires as of yet. I am just a phone call away.