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Ole Kingston Jensen: Aiki - A Never Ending Journey

by Alec Rice

Published Online

Ole Kingston with Seigo Okamoto Sensei

Ole Kingston Jensen has been training in the Daito-ryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai for over 16 years. He is the most senior non-Tokyo member of the Roppokai, as well as the highest ranking non-Japanese member. He was recently promoted to the rank of 4th Dan and Jun-Dairi-Kyoju (sub-teaching license) by Soshi Seigo Okamoto. Ole also happens to be completely paralyzed from the chest down.
Shortly after his 16th birthday, on December 30, 1975 while riding his bicycle in Copenhagen Ole was hit by a car. Since that time he has lived in a wheelchair. Despite this, perhaps unbelievably for those who are unfamiliar with Roppokai Aiki techniques, he trains and instructs, executing throws while he wheels about.

Ole came to Japan recently for the promotion of the Japanese release of the feature film Aiki. The film, 10 years in the planning and making, was directed and written by Daisuke Tengan. It is based on the story of Ole and his encounter with Aikijujutsu and Okamoto Sensei. It was first released to the public at the 2002 Venice International Film Festival, and in Japanese theaters on November 30th. It has received favorable reviews in Japan, and one of the cast, Ryo Ishibashi, who plays the Aikijujutsu teacher Hiraishi (a character based upon Seigo Okamoto) won the best supporting actor award from Hochi Sports Newspaper for his portrayal in the movie. I had a chance to interview Ole on his recent trip to Japan about his life and Aiki career as well as the movie.

Have you ever trained in any other martial arts, before or after your accident?

I had trained a couple of months of boxing, 3 months in judo, 3 months in wrestling, 6 months of karate and did some Kung Fu—mostly from movies, with a little help from a Grill Bar owner. All of these were from the ages of 8 to 16.

After the accident I trained for 2 years in Shotokan karate, and 2 years of jujutsu, 3 months of Taichi, 3 months of Wing Chung, and 3 months of Hung Gar Kung Fu. All with little luck.

I have watched several hundred movies, exhibitions, and training videos, as well as read many books and magazines over the years, and I now own nearly every Aikido and Aikijujutsu video on the market. I talk to a lot of martial arts people about martial arts.

Poster for new film Aiki based on Ole’s life

How did you first hear about the Daito-ryu Roppokai, and how did you first contact Okamoto Sensei?

A friend saw a video of Okamoto Sensei in an exhibition of several martial arts styles and said to me, “Ole, if he can do it you can too.” The next day we visited the club and I said I wished to start, and they said OK, and I started the next day. It was October 1, 1986.

When did you first meet Okamoto Sensei face-to-face, and what was your impression?

I first met Okamoto Sensei in 1988 at a seminar in Copenhagen, and was amazed by his waza (technique) and his friendly, fun way to be.

Could you talk a bit about the history of the Copenhagen branch of the Roppokai?

The Copenhagen branch started in 1983 when a Danish guy went to Tokyo to visit Okamoto Sensei ( Okamoto Sensei talks briefly about this in the Aiki News Roppokai video). He was allowed to go home and try the waza he had seen in Tokyo at his jujutsu club. Sensei came to Denmark in 1985 to open the Roppokai club. There have always been about 20 dojo members on and off.

In 1990 this guy left the club and the no. 2 became no. 1. In 1993 the no.1 guy left the branch, and Tim Gullaksen, myself, and Sigurd Dahlberg were appointed the heads of the Danish branch. In 1995 Tim left due to a knee injury and I became the no. 1 guy with the highest rank. In 1995 I was promoted to okugi sandan (interviewer’s note: “inner sandan.” In the Roppokai this is the rank between sandan and yondan when the first scroll is received). I continued teaching and I have now been promoted to 4th dan and jun-dairi-kyoju in November 2002.

Could you talk a bit about your tattoos?

On one arm is a wild boar and the kanji for the year of the boar. I am born in the year of the boar and the actual kanji character was written by Okamoto Sensei. It was later copied from his calligraphy and tattooed together with the boar.

On the other arm is “Benkei” (interviewer’s note: Benkei is a historical Japanese character reknowned for his strength, who was the loyal vassal of Minamoto Yoshitsune. To use a Western analogy, their relationship and exploits are something along the lines of Robin Hood and Little John) I had several pictures of Benkei before I got the tattoo, and I also got some stamps from Sensei with pictures of Benkei on them. I later decided to get the tattoo because Sensei said, “You are like Benkei.” Benkei is also connected with the Minamoto clan. All of the tattoo work was done by my friend.

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