I first met Sensei Allen Wakai some dozen years ago when he visited our club as one of several long-time black belts Sensei Ed had brought along with him on a joint training session at HISkarate.  Although he had begun training many decades before, I recall that he insisted on wearing a white belt for the purpose of attending our class.

Then, about a year later, a bunch of our brown and black belts attended a training seminar given by Kancho Nobuaki Kanazawa, head of the SKIF world-wide.  Sensei Peter and I had a great time working out during the several-hours long session with many senior karateka from other dojos.  I remember mentally comparing my speed/power in technique to the younger black belts around me and feeling pretty good about myself, haha.  Big, big mistake!  In all of my life, I had never encountered any difficulties with any long training session.  Then the Kancho called a short break with 15 minutes to go…and as I walked back for some water, both of my 60 year-old legs suddenly surprised me by cramping up, haha.  As I stiffly limped back to the bleachers, I found Sensei Peter already there – his 60 year-old legs had also gone into full cramps a few minutes earlier! This was a first for both of us!  God was reminding us that we weren’t the young, tireless karateka we thought we were.  Fortunately for us, a few feet away was a Godsend…a man was waving at us with bottles of Pedialyte (an electrolyte).  I recognized the burly man to be Sensei Allen (this time, wearing his black belt) and we gladly accepted his generous offer.  After chugging the Pedialyte down, we felt fine just a few minutes later.  What a blessing to have run…er, limped into him!

Shortly thereafter, Sensei Allen asked if he might join HISKarate, and never left us.  Over the years, his creative teaching style blended in well with the way Sensei’s Peter, Wayne, and I taught and I know that he really enjoyed sharing his extensive knowledge of the art with our members.  He was also a fountain of information about everything under the sun, having degrees in the fine arts (pottery was a specialty), studied the culinary arts, had been a gentleman farmer and interpreter in Japan, a teacher, even a professional poker player, among other things.  Yes, a wealth of information about everything – kinda like the human version of Wikipedia Encyclopedia on the internet.   That’s why, in my mind, I sometimes thought of him as “Wakai-Pedia”, haha (a double pun for carrying bottles of Pedialyte around with him).

We really enjoyed our lunches with him after karate when he’d share many of his interesting stories about his life adventures.  In the dojo, he could be gruff, opinionated, and loud; often correcting and scolding students even from the sidelines.  Yet he was also kind and generous, and wouldn’t hesitate to give a gi to a needy student, magically pulling one out from his car trunk.  He might have been past his karate prime by about 40 years and by a hundred pounds, but he could still effectively teach karate by making ingenious and creative use of props and having someone younger like Sensei Trish, demonstrate a technique the way it should be done.  Sensei Allen was a bear of a man and his natural strength and presence was obvious.  I always thought that he’d live to a ripe old age like his late father, the Reverend Masayoshi Wakai (99+ years old), who sometimes joined us for a post-karate lunch. Unfortunately, that was not to be.

With the pause in training due to the pandemic, I hadn’t seen Sensei Allen since way back late summer, 2020.  Last month, he’d heard that we were finally going to gradually restart karate classes and he was intending to come in May.  On April 28, he sent Sensei Peter a text that he wasn’t going to make training because he wasn’t feeling well.  A week later, he was gone. We were shocked.  HISKarate has lost a good friend and devoted sensei.  We will miss him.

Rest In Peace, Sensei Allen.

One thought on “Wakai-pedia

  1. Sensei Wesley, thank you for sharing about your experiences with Mr. A. He was a reliable substitute teacher for us here at Dole Middle School. Unfortunately, we have a lot of bureaucracy in the DOE, so we were unable to do a wellness check when we missed him. How were you able to find out about Mr. A? Do you know anything about his memorial? Please let me know what/when you do! Thank you again!

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