Karl E. Geis, Hanshi
10th Dan Aikido, 9th Dan Judo U.S.J.A., 8th Dan Jyodo
Karl E. Geis, 10th Dan Professor of Aikido, 10th Dan Professor of Judo, and 9th Dan Professor of Jodo has been a significant martial arts figure in the United States since the late 1950's. He began studying Judo at the Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan in 1955 while stationed there as a member of the United States Air Force and was introduced to Aikido the following year. Upon his return to the United States, Mr. Geis continued his studies, both at home and on a number of extended sabbaticals in Japan throughout the 1960's, 70's, and 80's, expanding his training to include Jodo as well. His extensive martial arts experience covers an impressive four-and-a-half decades, and for over 15 years he has headed an international association of martial artists nearly a thousand strong. His individual blend of Western analytical thought and Eastern understanding makes his technical styles unique and valuable to martial artists throughout the world.
Mr. Geis is known for his vast technical knowledge of Aikido and Judo, along with his ability to demonstrate this knowledge, but he is also known for his ability to teach the martial arts. He pioneered the positive reinforcement method of teaching the martial arts in the early 60's, long before the effectiveness of this approach was recognized and accepted. His work with children is a model for successful schools everywhere.
Over the years Mr. Geis has touched the lives of literally thousands of people and is a living example of a generous and unselfish personality. Following is a brief autobiography of Mr. Geis' martial arts career.
The significant milestones of my career began in 1955 with the study of Judo in the Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan.
I had the great fortune of having the great Judoka Harold Sharp become my mentor in Judo in Japan. Harold Sharp introduced me to the following teachers of note; Mr. Kotani, Sumiuki Sensei 10th Dan, Mr. Osawa, Yoshimi Sensei 9th Dan and Mr. Daigo, Toshiro Sensei 9th Dan, who along with Mr. Harold Sharp have in one way or another guided my acquisition of Judo knowledge throughout my entire career. Mr. Sharp's influence in the Kodokan was extensive and he unselfishly shared it with me. Because of Mr. Sharp's influence I received a vast amount of technical information normally not available to foreigners.
Particular attention must be given to an American expatriate Mr. Larry Okuda of Yokohama. Mr. Okuda documented all of the grappling techniques of both great masters Shirai Sensei 9th Dan and Kotani Sensei 10th Dan. and unselfishly shared this knowledge over many unselfish years with me. Mr. Okuda is truly one of the great repositories of grappling knowledge in Judo.
My principle training dojos were Waseda University Dojo, under the direct instruction of Mr. Osawa, Yoshimi Sensei 9th Dan, the Kodokan Main and Foreign Dojos under the tutelage and direct instruction of Mr. Kotani, Sumiuki Sensei 10th Dan , Mr. Osawa Sensei 9th Dan and Mr. Daigo, Toshiro Sensei 9th Dan, and in the central police dojo under Kudo Sensei 8th Dan and after his retirement Mr. Diago Sensei 9th Dan.
My Judo competitive career was principally in Japan and was not extra-ordinary. It ended with the award of 4th Dan in the Kodokan in 1967. The last 30 years have been dedicated to the technical studies of Aikido, Judo and Jodo and the teaching of these arts efficiently to others.
My tachiwaza (throwing skills) were developed principally under the direct tutelage of Mr. Osawa, Yoshimi Sensei 9th Dan at Waseda University and the Kodokan. I had further significant direct studies with Mr. Diago, Toshiro Sensei 9th Dan in the Kodokan and in the central police Dojo.
I studied the Judo Kata exclusively under the direct and extensive private instruction of Mr. Kotani , Sumiuki Sensei 10th Dan in the Kodokan.
I received extensive grappling training from Mr. Usejima Sensei 8th Dan, perhaps the greatest Japanese grappler of all time. In the middle 1950's Mr. Usejima Sensei was out of touch with the Kodokan. We had to go to his secret dojo in the old Nippon Bank building in order to get to study with him. I was introduced to him by Mr. Walker Edwards, a wealthy judo aficionado who always knew when one of us was out of money or in need of a good meal. He was a friend.
There were few foreigners in the Kodokan in the early days (1950's). The special ones to me were:
Frank Dando, Australia
Harold Sharp, USA
During my studies in Japan I received significant personal instruction from the following Kodokan teachers:
Miyake, Tsunako Sensei, 7th Dan
Kobayashi Sensei, 8th Dan
My central Police dojo judo instructors from whom I received direct personal instruction were:
Ichinoe Sensei, 8th Dan
Ikeda Sensei, 8th Dan
I was briefly introduced to Tomiki Aikido in 1956 and acquired numerous films that allowed me to continue my studies upon my return to the United States.
I was principally involved with Frank Fullerton in founding the first Judo Yudanshakai in Texas and was elected its' first president.
I was very fortunate to be able to spend a large part of the summer of 1972 in Tokyo, at Waseda University in intensive direct personal daily study of Aikido with Mr. Tomiki Shihan. At that time Mr. Tomiki Shihan asked me to establish his Aikido in the United States. Mr. Tomiki Shihan noted at that time that our backgrounds were the same. We understood each other because we were both well founded in Judo.
He made it clear that this Judo background and the understanding of off-balance from the Judo viewpoint was needed in Aikido in order to make Aikido a more effective throwing art, rather than an art depending on pain to achieve its goals. For this reason, in our system we stress the concept of off-balance and breaking the opponents balance before attempting a technique. I believe we have met and exceeded his goals for his Aikido.
I was a principle participant in the founding of the United States Judo Association in 1968 in Chicago. The success of my judo students in State, National, Pan American and international competition carried the competitive banner of the USJA for many years It was in fact the technical superiority of my competitors that proved to all of American Judo that the new founders of the United States Judo Association were for real in the Judo community.
The principals according to my memory who were present in that Chicago hotel room were:
Mr. George Bass
Mr. Phil Porter
My apologies to anyone left out. It was my association with these fine Judoka and the fine Judoka Benny (Night Horse) Campbell, John Osako, Gene Lebelle and Jaques Legrand that kept the martial arts fire burning inside of me during those early bleak years when the Isei and Nisei (American Japanese) dominated Judo Black Belt Federation and exercised profound and destructive prejudicial behavior against all other Americans in Judo.
I was promoted to Judo 4th degree black belt in the Kodokan in Tokyo, Japan in 1967. A rank rarely given to foreigners in Japan. I spent extensive time spent with Miyake, Tsunako Sensei, 8th Dan and Inoue, Takeshi Sensei extensively studying Tomiki Aikido in the early 70's in Japan.
I particularly appreciate the numerous and extensive training tours taken by Miyake Sensei and Inoue Sensei to my Dojo in Houston, Texas. These visits greatly furthered the training of Aikidoka in the United States in Aikido and Jodo.
We were also fortunate to have Riki Kogure Sensei 8th Dan Aikido, current President of the Japan Aikido Association, teaching in my Houston Dojo on most Friday nights from 1970 to 1975. His presence during those early years was invaluable and really gave us a head start, here in the United States.
I was fueled by Mr. Tomiki's request at the time of my promotion to Aikido 4th Dan by Mr. Tomiki Sensei, to also develop a safe, free-style randori system for Aikido. Mr. Tomiki and I agreed that it would need to be a system like the randori system practiced in Judo. Before his death in 1980 Mr. Tomiki realized the complete martial arts development of his Aikido system. Strangely enough it happened in the United States rather than in Japan.
It took us eight years to develop a safe, viable, and real Aikido
randori system. This I believe is a unique and significant
contribution to the art of Aikido. Our randori system was completed
Editor's Note: For information on the origin of KG / Fugakukai Aikido, please go here.
My efforts were rewarded when I was promoted to 6th Dan in 1980 by Tomiki, Kenji Shihan in Tokyo, Japan. With this promotion I become the first, and only, foreigner to be promoted to this rank by Tomiki Sensei.
Dr. Yoji Kondo was a great help to me in those days. He kept the lines of communication between myself and Mr. Tomiki open and the translation clear. Without his help things would not have worked as easily.
In 1996 I received promotion to 8th Dan in Judo and 8th Dan Hanshi in Judo by the United States Judo Association and the United States Judo Inc. Then in 1997 I was promoted to the rank of 10th Dan Aikido by The Fugakukai International Association, in recognition of my significant contribution to the art of Aikido.
During the period ranging from 1984 to 1992 I became partially handicapped by extensive degenerative arthritis in both knees. In 1992 and '93 I had total knee replacements in both knees. This surgery has extended my career and ability to practice and teach the martial arts, as well as work in building our association.
In 1993, at the urging of, and after being bullied by, Mr. George Webber 7th Dan Aikido, I began to record on video tape my various martial arts technical ideas. George Webber has unselfishly born all of the costs of producing these tapes. Profits from these tapes go to the making of more tapes. Mr. Webber projects that it will take 100 tapes to hit the technical highlights of the three arts. George Webber is a true and remarkable martial artist from the old school, and I cannot even begin to give him the tribute he deserves.
Karl Armstrong, a film maker did some fine video work of our system in the early 1980's. However, his untimely move to California and his assault on the real film industry prevented us from completing the project. Karl also bore the cost of the project and was outstanding in his contribution. He is a true martial artist of the old school.
There are a number of people past and present who have at times freely given significant necessary and extra-ordinary help to me. Without this help much of what we have achieved would not have been possible. I have been humbled by their various unselfish and unquestioned contributions and friendship in time of need. They are all true martial artists of the old school. They have my thanks.
Mr. Fred Rizk who had the real estate skills and generosity to help me build my school and give it permanent location in 1968. Fred was at his best in contest.
Mr. Williard Robertson and family's generous gift that made the school debt free and economically independent in 1983.
Others of note include:
Mr. Percy Lampin
Dr. David Andres
Tim Joe taught me my most valuable lessons in loyalty and the art of being steadfast. No one can question his ability in the martial arts. He is the best.
Genni Ruzzi taught me about friendship. She is the kindest person I know.
Rianard Jackson taught me about prejudice and racism, how to tell the difference, and how to deal with them. His lessons in loyalty are color blind. He is a fine teacher and martial artist.
Bob Canup got me into the computer world. His physical understanding of the art is priceless.
Ashley Issacs taught me through the love that he and my son shared that Black is beautiful and true love is color blind. He is a fine Judoka of the old school.
Chuck Caldwell may be the finest organizer of us all. He ran a successful school for 10 years without running water or toilets. He taught me lessons in determination and dedication. Chuck has a fine technical grasp of the art and can do stuff right and pass it on to students.
Michael Macaluso took it upon himself, at his own expense, to republish my book and keep it in publication. He is dedicated to the arts of Judo and Aikido and is a very skillful teacher.
Dr. Clif Norgaard's generous gifts and priceless psychological counseling and advice is indispensable to me. His martial arts career spans many decades and his ability to lead students teach the arts and demonstrate is remarkable.
Henry Copeland taught us about big men and physics and how a big man can be truly soft and a fine technician as well as a great teacher.
Mac McNease has been so unselfish with his generosity and support that it is embarrassing. He always somehow solves the unsolvable problems, sometimes before I know I have a problem. He has had a remarkable Aikido and Judo career and is an organizer without equal. Mac is a fine martial artist and teacher who always sets a good example wherever he goes.
Chris Thygesen - Architect has always been the boss when we had to build stuff, and we built a bunch of stuff. Chris' knowledge of Aikido and Jodo is profound.
Nicholas Lowry, Author of the fine book "Aikido", an extraordinary and extremely successful effort and contribution.
I would like to recognize the following active Aikido, Judo, and Jyodo teachers in our system. Without their help the development and growth of our system would not have been possible. These Aikidoka, Judoka, and Jyodoka are true and honorable martial artists of the old school.
The Future of our Aikido is for the most part in the hands of the above named teachers. The system is now completely viable and along with being a dynamic physical and mental culture it is one of the strongest self defense systems for anyone who expects to get older, slow down and be weaker than others. I look to the future with a great positive attitude and much expectation.