The Eulogy below was given by Jeremy Garmson, 6th dan, during the memorial service for Terry Ezra Shihan on March 11th 2023 in Christ Church in Bebington, United Kingdom. Jeremy Garmson is a direct student of Ezra Sensei and general secretary of the Komyokan Aikido Association.
The memorial service was broadcasted as a livestream and the recording can be viewed here.
I would like to offer a warm welcome to everyone here and those watching in Colombia, Costa Rica, Russia, Spain and also to other individuals watching via live streaming.
A big thank you to you all for being here on behalf of Petra, and Sensei, who I am sure will be looking down on us from somewhere in the rafters of this beautiful church, probably wagging a finger at me and saying, “who showed you to do it like that?”.
Terence William Ezra. How does one sum up the life of such a great human being in so few words and so little time??
Born on the Wirral in 1945, he passed away 77 years later less than half a mile from where he was born. One might easily think that such a person had an ordinary life and never travelled anywhere, but such a statement is far far from the truth. He was an extra-ordinary man who led an extra-ordinary life.
He was utterly driven and did everything at over a 1000%, often more, and for those of you who had the pleasure of receiving cupping treatment from Ezra Sensei, you will know what I mean!
A famous zen master once said, “when you sit in Zazen (that is, in seated meditation), don’t burn like a candle but sit like a raging fire” and Sensei’s life was certainly lived as a raging fire in terms of his indomitable, inimitable and persevering spirit and dedication.
To say he was a truly individual character is a massive understatement. As a child he made aerial rope walks, rope swings and runways in Storeton woods, and made bombs from scratch by mixing together the necessary raw chemicals. I am sure if there was a Guinness Book of Records award for the youngest bomb maker in history, it would bear his name. Also just for the record he did not blow up the Bebington Scout hut!
He was, as they say, ‘a tough cookie’, and as a typical teenager got into a few scraps, on one occasion taking on five guys at once which ended in a draw, and on another occasion, when someone snuck up behind him and pulled his jacket over his head, he wrestled them to the ground, only to discover it was a policeman trying to break up the fight.
After school, he became an apprentice in the marine engineering industry, learning to become an expert in splicing giant wire ropes. A profession that took him all over the world.
He also worked for a while as a professional diver on the Mersey river, and on one occasion had a close shave with death by running out of oxygen whilst finding himself disoriented in murky water beneath a large barge. This was one of many close shaves with death he had throughout his life.
He was also a great prankster, and often played hilarious, and sometimes horrifying pranks on other people, as well as on occasion being on the receiving end of some pranks played on him in return. But unfortunately I don’t have time to recount them now.
He started Aikido at the age of 18 in 1963, and it quickly became the obsession and love of his life. When Chiba Sensei arrived in the UK in 1966, he became a devout student of his, often selling lots of his possessions so that he could follow Chiba Sensei around the UK.
He was involved in the formation of the British Aikido Federation in 1968, and later became its senior instructor and chairman under the direction of Kanetsuka Sensei.
From early on he also incorporated zazen (that is seated meditation) and kototama (that is Buddhist and Shinto chanting) into his practice along with the art of Iaido. Additionally, as a young man he also started to train as a healer under a well known healer named John Cane.
As he progressed through the black belt ranks it clearly emerged that he was a gifted and very special aikido practitioner, and as his reputation grew he started teaching more widely around the UK as well as Ireland, Greece and Norway. He developed a reputation as a person of great intensity and sometimes harshness in both his training and teaching, but this was borne out of a deep love for Aikido and his students. Training with him was hard, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally too. There was a brutal honesty to his teaching, which often left students facing the true reality of their practice and of themselves. Hard things to face as human beings. He never left his students with any delusions of grandeur or self agrandizement.
This perhaps makes him sound like a harsh man, but along with that he also deeply and compassionately loved and cared for all his students; not only concerning their aikido but also their general welfare.
In 1984 he studied in Japan for a short period and a year later, in 1985, he decided to give up work and pursue his Aikido and spiritual training full time.
Then in 1990 he opened Komyokan Dojo (Komyokan meaning ‘the light of compassionate wisdom’), a full time Aikido Centre giving classes in Aikido, Zazen, kototama, Iaido, spiritual development and offering treatments in other healing arts.
In 1999 he decided to leave the British Aikido Federation to form his own association; The Komyokan Aikido Association, which was subsequently officially recognised by Hombu Aikido World headquarters in 2001. This, at the time, was something quite special as generally Hombu only recognised one aikido organisation per country.
Since Sensei dedicated himself to full time training, there emerged a deeply compassionate and loving human being that preciously valued all life. As a consequence, his Aikido changed from being a somewhat harsh and often physically brutal form that he was taught, into one where his aim was to bring the physicality of aikido and its spiritual philosophy of compassion and love into perfect harmony, both within oneself, and with your adversary.
During this time his reputation grew further and he began teaching all around the world, including Brazil, Spain, Bulgaria, Morocco, India, South Africa, The USA, and Austria. And especially in Colombia, Costa Rica, Russia and the Netherlands where he assisted in the establishment of several aikido groups that subsequently decided to follow his teachings, and have since invited him annually to teach on a regular basis for, in some cases, over twenty or thirty years.
O’Sensei (the founder of Aikido) said, ‘Your mind should be in harmony with the functioning of the universe; your body should be in tune with the movement of the universe; body and mind should be bound as one, unified with the activity of the universe’.
For most people these words probably seem just a fantastical theory, but for Ezra Sensei they were a reality. His aikido was about each individual finding harmony within their own body, mind and spirit, about individuals finding their true self, and becoming one with everything; that is, no separation between one’s self, the universe and all other living things. It has been said that the hope of humankind lies in our consciousness of each other, and this was certainly Ezra Sensei’s belief. O Sensei said, there are many paths leading to the top of Mount Fuji, but there is only one summit – love. This was Sensei’s goal and as such his journey incorporated many paths to this summit: Including, the teachings of O’Sensei, Zen Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and the chakra system and kundalini aspects of Yoga. Ezra Sensei’s Aikido was very special, unique even, and personally I have not met any other teacher on his level.
He was without doubt a true 16th century martial arts and zen master living in the 20th and 21st centuries. In the end he developed into a true master of ‘The Way’ where his aikido was not really about technique, but about generating a particular internal and external energetic state allowing complete harmony first with your training partner and then with others around you; achieving this firstly on a physical level, then on a mental, emotional and spiritual level, eventually leading to true harmony with all things.
On behalf of Ezra Sensei I would like at this point to thank the following people and all their students for their support and dedication to Ezra Sensei over the years: All those in the KAA, especially Stella Stevenson, Nick Waites, and all the dojo instructors who have steadfastly kept their dojos going, even through difficult times. From the AFN in the Netherlands; Pieter Lagerwaard and Cathrien de Pater, John & Trudeke Goverts, and Philippe Notenboom. From Colombia; Juan Guillermo Hernandez, Andres Mejia, Gabriel Jaime Tuberquia, Carolina Cespedes and Paula Restrepo. From Costa Rica; Luis Mario Noreña Salazar and Fernando Ng, both of whom are with us here today. From Spain; Tony Stevens. And finally from Russia; Yuri Glazkov, Alex Vasilev, Denis Gataulin and Dima Iurlov.
You all, are his legacy to the world.
In the last few weeks of his life he said to me that the best thing to happen to him in his life was meeting Petra and that she was his greatest love. So Petra, we all deeply and humbly thank you for supporting him in the 18 years you were together, and especially through the difficult last 18 months of his life. For this, we are eternally grateful.
Abraham Lincoln said, ‘And in the end its not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.’
That was certainly true for Ezra Sensei.
I will finish by making a statement that finishes with one of Sensei’s favourite phrases that he would often use after explaining a technique to you:
Terence William Ezra: Aikido teacher. ‘That’s it really’.