Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The passing of a great man.

On Thursday night (22nd May) I received devastating news. My sensei and friend, Robbie Smith passed away suddenly in his home. It has left the dojo members and the greater budo community reeling.

R.I.P. Robbie Smith Sensei.

Having had some days to reflect and mourn I wish to celebrate the good things this man did for me and budo in general.

I would like to start with a comment I wrote on this post back in 2012. I had written this:

"Not only is Robbie an exceptional martial artist he is also an incredibly nice guy."

Such a simple yet no truer sentence. As a teacher and mentor he was patient, kind and had a way of working out what each individual student needed to work on to get better. He set his standards high for his students and even higher for himself. 

Through his effort and expertise Robbie grew a small TSYR study group into one of the strongest TSYR branches in the ryu. He selected quality people who he then invested time into and turned us into a tight group of not only martial art enthusiasts but also good friends. I gave up my aikido training to concentrate solely on TSYR and it was what Robbie had to teach me that sealed the deal. I lament that I couldn't glean more from him. He had so much more to teach. 

NZ TSYR branch with Threadgill Sensei.

Such was the caliber of Robbie's technical ability that Toby Threadgill spoke of being fortunate to have had such a student want to train under him. This speaks volumes for Robbie's abilities as Toby travels the world and has seen what budo talent is out there. 

His technical ability was first apparent in his karate. Robbie held the rank of 7th dan on Wado Ryu karate.
One statement mentioned from the many Facebook posts since his passing has been this one, from Takagi Sensei, 8th dan Wado Ryu:

"Robbie, according to Takagi Sensei, was a true budoka in every sense of the word. He exemplified all that was good about Wado and the Wadokai was a better organization for having Robbie as a member." 

As a teacher he was patient and had an eye for detail. He could distill the essence from a movement and drill the components to make an overall technique stronger or more precise. He enjoyed the sword-work of TSYR as he often said it was new and exiting for him. 

Robbie was very humble. An example of this was when he traveled to Japan for an instructor's seminar for karate. Upon his return his students discovered that he had gone to grade for his seventh dan and had told nobody that he had achieved it. They discovered this at a later date. 
If anyone was to praise him he would brush it off or pass it onto someone else. He simply didn't accept praise. 

In my opinion Robbie saw karate as his work and career but TSYR was where he could really enjoy being a budo student again. However, in both pursuits he put in his all with passion and pride.

It is a great loss to his family, friends and the budo world.

Robbie, may your training continue wherever you may be and that you watch over our own training and keep us on the path.


  1. Beautifully said Dean. He was a remarkable man, friend and teacher who will be forever held in our hearts. We were so very fortunate to have him guide us, accepting his passing is so very difficult as I would give anything for just one more smile. I am glad though that we had the opportunity to share in his expression of life and that is what I'll use to go forward. I will see you soon to join in the celebration of his wonderful contribution to this life.

  2. A great Articale and description on the man he was. It is common ground to say that he was one of the best human beings i have ever meet. We will miss him very much but we need to hold on to the fact that we where fortunate to have him as friend and teacher. He will be deaply missed.

    1. Artur, I agree that we have been fortunate to have had him in our lives. It is because of him that I now know people such as your brother and Toby.