Saito Sensei and Bill Witt ~ The Early Years

1969 & 1971

1971. The original crew at that time.

1971. In front of Saito Sensei's home in Iwama. Bill Witt (glasses), Saito Sensei, Shigemi Inagaki, Hirosawa and Komatsuzaki in back; Okusan and Hitohiro in front. At this time, Saito Sensei was a relative unknown and had only a few regular students.

Bill Witt provided the original photographs to me from his collection of early photos taken during the time he began coming out to Iwama from Tokyo as a very new shodan. Shigemi Inagaki and Komatsuzaki were the first deshi he met in Iwama.

Regarding the ragged, worn hakama: "Everybody was poor then and didn't have money for new hakama just because one wore out." A lot of suwari-waza and hard training is evident in those hakama.

Photo: Bill Witt


1969. Saito Sensei works on morote-dori with two uke, including Komatsuzaki and the spectacularily worn hakama.

1969. Morote dori.

1969. Jo-dori with Komatsuzaki

1969. Jo-dori with Komatsuzaki.

1969. Bill Witt with the kids class

1969. Bill Witt and the kids class.

1969. Saito Sensei strikes high to Bill Witt's wrist. On the shomen is the board with O-Sensei's ink brushing--before it was smeared by accident by a nameless uchi-deshi.

1969. Saito Sensei strikes high to Bill Witt's wrist.

1969. Saito Sensei with Bill Witt, showing the classic Iwama hip set

1969. Jo work showing the classic Iwama hips set.

1969. Saito Sensei strikes to Bill Witt's knee

1969. Saito Sensei strikes to Bill Witt's knee.

1969. Saito Sensei works with a short stick against Bill Witt's ken. Back then, the dojo wainscoating was still blonde;now it has become dark and polished by countless daily "soji o shimasu"

1969. Saito Sensei works with a short stick against Bill Witts' ken

1969. Saito Sensei with stick vanquishes Bill Witt with ken

1969. Saito Sensei with stick vanquishes Bill Witt with ken.

1969. Saito Sensei tosses Bill Witt a respectable distance

1969. Saito Sensei works with a short stick against Bill Witts' ken