Walking in martial arts circles usually brings with it a fairly rich family tree of karate. One is generally taught by one’s Sensei, who is taught by their Sensei and so on and so forth. For many, if not most students, being able to trace that lineage beyond the first step is pretty rare. After all, most practitioners in the western world open a dojo and may have a photo of those who taught before them, but general contact is pretty rare. I was fortunate n the fact that Sensei has always kept contact with me. Sensei has always kept contact with HIS Sensei and as a result, I had the pleasure and opportunity to take steps up the ladder to train with those individuals.
One of the most notable individuals that I’ve had the pleasure to meet, was Sensei Bob Blaisdell. My Sensei first met Sensei Blaisdell through a magazine advertisement in the early 1970’s. Sensei jumped into his rundown Mustang and travelled on his own to Massachusetts, intent on convincing Sensei Blaisdell to train him in the Okinawan art of Uechi-Ryu karate. Sensei Blaisdell was leery of this random, French, New Brunswicker who left behind his wife and daughter to travel across the border to learn karate. But something in Sensei’s eyes convinced Sensei Blaisdell to take him on and he became his trusted teacher and mentor. He became his friend. He became his Sensei. Over the years that followed, Sensei would travel down to Massachusetts intermittently for coaching, testing and guidance on teaching at his own school.
I just found out yesterday that after 49 years of being my mentor’s Sensei, Sensei Blaisdell has passed away.
I first met Sensei Blaisdell in the early 1990’s, when I was still a skinny punk who thought he knew it all without the common sense to prevent trying to prove it. We had arranged to bring Sensei Blaisdell up to New Brunswick to help us celebrate Sensei’s 30-year anniversary of teaching. I had the privilege of training with him and getting to know him over the weekend. Armed with a heavy Boston accent and swearing as heavily as a Maritimer, it was an instructive and enlightening weekend. The fact he had embarrassing stories about Sensei certainly helped. Usually, it’s the other way around and Sensei shares embarrassing stories about me.
For the years that followed, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence would carry on through all of us. And rightly so, since my Sensei learned directly from him. The thing that most students fail to understand is that their skills and capabilities are a direct result of those who came before them. Had my Sensei not trained with Sensei Blaisdell and then subsequently trained me, I wouldn’t be the martial artists that I am today. Through his actions, Uechi-ryu karate was brought to Northern New Brunswick and endured as one of the only traditional Okinawan karate schools under Sensei’s teachings in that part of the Maritimes for almost five decades. The man’s signature is on my black belt certificate, for light’s sake…
It’s always important to know where one’s roots come from, in order to acknowledge where we’re going. We’ve lost touched over the past couple of decades. Some of that is my doing. Life rarely cares about one’s plans. That makes his death all the more tragic. Time is fleeting and can never be taken back. And maybe that’s what makes this loss so hard. Or maybe it’s the knowledge that death comes to us all, and that Sensei may be the next loss I suffer. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s making me acknowledge my own mortality. In either scenario, Sensei Blaisdell’s influence continues to teach me something, even in his passing. Rest in peace, Sensei Bob. You will be missed. ☯️
3 thoughts on “From This Life To The Next One…”
Shawn, thank you for sharing your memories of Sensei Blaisdell and your thoughts on his life and his passing. He was a special person, and it’s heartening to hear from others who he impacted through the arts.
I am so deeply moved by how many people my father has touched, enlightened, mentored, guided, and forever changed the direction in the lives of the people that was in his life! I am going to make sure that I come up with a date that everyone that would want to be a part of this service, the celebration of my father the man who has mastered Uechi ru, in his unique way, that could be taught to others through enlightenment
Thank you so much for reaching out and for commenting. I consider your father to be an integral part of the foundation that made me who I am today. My own Sensei has only ever had amazing stories and fantastic things to say about him. please stay in touch and should you ever want to write something about your father that I could share on my site, I would be honoured.
All the best,