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.