Kaze Uta Budo Kai

My Personal Opinions & Reflections Regarding the Judo Legacy of Karl Geis

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.


—Nick Lowry


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

Tim Joe

Chuck Caldwell

Bob Rea

Felix Robles

Rick Pollard

Gary Berliner

Greg Ables

Kyle Sloan

Dan Martin

Brent Zurbingen

Paul Morrison

John Amuedo

Jay Andrus

Danny Carrillo

Prentis Glover

James Easom

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.

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