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. Â 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. Â Sensei Peter and I had a great time working out during the several-hours long session with many senior karateka from other dojos. Â I remember mentally comparing my speed/power in technique to the younger black belts around me and feeling pretty good about myself, haha. Â Big, big mistake! Â In all of my life, I had never encountered any difficulties with any long training session. Â Then the Kancho called a short break with 15 minutes to goâ€¦and as I walked back for some water, both of my 60 year-old legs suddenly surprised me by cramping up, haha. Â 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! Â God was reminding us that we werenâ€™t the young, tireless karateka we thought we were. Â Fortunately for us, a few feet away was a Godsendâ€¦a man was waving at us with bottles of Pedialyte (an electrolyte). Â I recognized the burly man to be Sensei Allen (this time, wearing his black belt) and we gladly accepted his generous offer. Â After chugging the Pedialyte down, we felt fine just a few minutes later. Â What a blessing to have runâ€¦er, limped into him!
Shortly thereafter, Sensei Allen asked if he might join HISKarate, and never left us. Â Over the years, his creative teaching style blended in well with the way Senseiâ€™s Peter, Wayne, and I taught and I know that he really enjoyed sharing his extensive knowledge of the art with our members. Â 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. Â Yes, a wealth of information about everything – kinda like the human version of Wikipedia Encyclopedia on the internet. Â Thatâ€™s why, in my mind, I sometimes thought of him as â€œWakai-Pediaâ€, haha (a double pun for carrying bottles of Pedialyte around with him).
We really enjoyed our lunches with him after karate when heâ€™d share many of his interesting stories about his life adventures. Â In the dojo, he could be gruff, opinionated, and loud; often correcting and scolding students even from the sidelines. Â 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. Â 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. Â Sensei Allen was a bear of a man and his natural strength and presence was obvious. Â I always thought that heâ€™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 hadnâ€™t seen Sensei Allen since way back late summer, 2020. Â Last month, heâ€™d heard that we were finally going to gradually restart karate classes and he was intending to come in May. Â On April 28, he sent Sensei Peter a text that he wasnâ€™t going to make training because he wasnâ€™t feeling well. Â A week later, he was gone. We were shocked. Â HISKarate has lost a good friend and devoted sensei. Â We will miss him.
Rest In Peace, Sensei Allen.