STEADMAN Davies or ‘Stead’ as he was known to many who had the good fortune to have known him as a coach, a mentor or as a friend, was a larger than life local legend in every sense of the word.
He could usually be found at the Sanshirokwai dojo on Old Castle Road or at any of the many cafes along Station Road or in the front room of someone’s house sipping tea.
A tall and rather lean man welded inside a tracksuit with a tuft of chaotic hair and a hypnotic voice is how I remember him. Standing in the doorway of the Rolly Polly Bakery on Stepney Street going through some judo exercises whilst greeting those he knew with a loud hello.
I had the great pleasure of attending the dojo for a while and being taken around the mats by this great man. It was an experience I will never forget. I was quite literally floating as we held on to each other eyes closed going through some judo moves.
There will be hundreds of people with their own unique memories of this man who from the outside looked unable to exhibit any great amount of physical strength. But looks can be deceiving and it is not the brutal heavy blow which counts as he would say. It is the gentle way of the warrior.
The Sanshirokwai Dojo is a place, which could go un-noticed yet each week hundreds of men women and children went through its doors in search of physical exercise and in many cases enlightenment.
It all started back in 1958 when the young Steadman Davies began teaching judo in his pigeon shed at 16 Spring Field Terrace, Bwlch-y Gwynt at the request of Alf Tovey and Malcolm Guy.
In 1962 due to an increase of students, the club moved over to the old Siloam Hall on Ann Street.
By the mid 60’s the club officially named as Sanshirokwai (‘Mr. Shiro’s Society’) named after Japanese judoka (judo practitioner) Shiro Saigo, one of the very first judo students who was considered to be one of the finest judo technicians of all time. It was also around this time that aikido began to be taught at the club, again at the request of the students.
By 1966 (March 28th) the first annual Sanshirokwai display took place in the Market Hall.
The programme included not only judo but aikido and also karate.
In 1973 The Old Castle Road Sanshirokwai building opened its doors for the first time. Steadman, who was working for a reputable building firm Isaac Jones at the time, along with his many friends and some total strangers came together and built the new dojo themselves. With the new club came the addition of Yoga classes to the club’s already busy schedule.
In 1985 Sanshirokwai welcomed the Hobokken Judo Club from Belgium for a weekend training session followed by a team match, where a victorious Sanshirokwai proudly received the elegant hand carved trophy.
Steadman received the coveted ‘Torch Trophy Trust Award’ in recognition of his services to aikido, judo and yoga in 1986 and in 2002 Steadman Davies was awarded an MBE by Prince Charles at Cardiff Castle for his services to the martial arts.
It was in 2010 (August 9th) that Steadman Davies passed away.
This year (2018) the club turns 60 and to celebrate they will holding a judo display at St. Elli Shopping Centre, Llanelli on Saturday August 4th between 12-1pm.
No doubt that Steadman’s presence will be felt by those who he taught and inspired who in turn have gone on to teach and inspire others. His mantra could be epitomised in the verse Desiderata.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Strive to be happy.
Max Ehrmann, 1927
Steadman Davies MBE (Sensei) 1925 – 2010