Steve Seaquist started doing judo for self defense around 1961 or 1962, at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, TX. The first time he used it for self defense (and every time since), it worked. This put an end to many years of beatings he had endured. Out of gratitude for that fact, he remains a judo instructor in hopes of helping someone else overcome the enormous cruelty of bullies.
His original instructors at Sheppard were a brownbelt, Sgt. George S. Hunn, who ran the club, and a third degree blackbelt from Holland, Airman Christian Betz. At first, it seemed to be an unusual arrangement, because a lower rank ran the club, but a a higher rank was the chief instructor. But in fact, it wasn't unusual. It was a lesson in the nature of respect in judo: All people are given respect, each according to their role.
When Steve's father was transferred to Wiesbaden, Germany, he studied under Rene Pomerelli (fourth degree blackbelt?), who later went on to become an instructor at the Air Force's basic training facility at Lackland AFB (San Antonio, TX). Up until this time, although he could now handle bullies, Steve still had not developed the fighting spirit necessary to win fights against other judoists. Being unable to win a match, he remained a yellowbelt, which was the highest rank you could get without winning a match, while his younger brother Rodger won and got promoted to orangebelt.
Transforming Experience (Lt. Tate): A major change occurred when Steve took up wrestling under Lieutenant John Tate, a former wrestling coach at the US Air Force Academy. Lt. Tate tought fighting spirit as part of his training. This transformed Steve from someone who was unable to win into someone who was unable to lose: He remained undefeated in interscholastic competition for nearly 2 years. (Others benefited as well. The team took All-Europe.) As a result, many of Lt. Tate's training methods persist in Steve's teaching style to this day.
After a 3.5 year layoff during college due to a wrestling injury, Steve resumed judo under the late Don Quesada (who got his second degree blackbelt at the Kokokan in Tokyo). The appeal, at the time, was that he was required to take a PE class at the University of Maryland at College Park, MD, and they offered judo, but soon he rediscovered his love of it. He also helped Don teach the women's PE classes and taught several "Free University" courses in Self Defense for Women. He resumed competing and found that his wrestling knowledge helped him win at judo.
Transforming Experience (Chuck Medani): At the promotional tournament where he was promoted to his first senior rank (gokyu), he won with several armlocks. Afterwards, a fledgeling third degree blackbelt by the name of Chuck Medani asked him if he wanted to try a little standing randori after the tournament. Chuck threw Steve approximately once every 5 seconds for the first minute or two, but then gradually got tired and slowed down to once every 15 seconds or so. Perhaps Chuck saw how much Steve was winning with matwork and wanted to make a point about the importance of standing judo. But whatever his reasoning, the lesson that Steve derived from the experience was that being a "competitor third degree" was something very close to a license to perform magic. (Nowadays we see movies in which Steven Segal just grabs ahold of people and throws them. There really are people like that in real life!) Whereas many people set a goal of blackbelt, and many of them drop out of judo when they get their first degree, this experience made Steve's goal to become a "competitor third degree".
He heard that the German national high school judo team was training at the Washington Judo Club, then in Alexandria, VA, so he signed up to work out there for a month. One month later, he returned to train there all the time under Jim Takemori (now seventh degree blackbelt). Being an empoverished college student, and later an empoverished unemployed person still living with his parents, he became the club janitor to pay his dues.
Transforming Experience (Learning the meaning of myoyu as a greenbelt): When Steve was a greenbelt fighting for his brownbelt in a promotional tournament, he fought another greenbelt from the Roanoke, VA, area. The experience transformed his view of judo: His opponent was taller, stronger, more ferocious, more determined to win, faster and probably trained harder for the tournament. In his mind, Steve saw no way at all to win. He stepped onto the mat for the match, more out of a feeling of obligation than anything else. But then a wonderful thing happened: His opponent immediately entered "o soto gari", an overpowering throw. Without thinking about whether or not it was the right thing to do, Steve stepped back with his opposite-side foot and applied "o soto gaeshi" (using o soto gari to counter-throw o soto gari). Miraculously, his opponent felt as light as a feather. Instead of losing the match, he had won it with a perfect throw in about 2 seconds!
Later, Jim Takemori would explain that a "perfect throw" (one that not only resulted in victory, but also the opponent feels as light as a feather), was something that could be developed. Over time it could be made to happen more and more often.
Transforming Experience (Learning the meaning of judo at the same time): The experience taught myoyu, but for Steve it went deeper than that: SO MANY people believed that judo meant winning with MORE: more size, more strength, more ferociousness, more determination, more speed and/or more technique. It was as if people had abandoned the Founder's ideal of beating an opponent by using his own strength and attack-strategy against him. It was as if no one believed that anymore. But the experience with the greenbelt from Roanoke showed Steve that it was possible to win with LESS. Despite having less of everything, even less belief in one's self, it was still possible to win, if you simply believed that it was possible to use an opponent's attack against himself. This was epiphany. There was no longer any excuse to lose to anyone.
Transforming Experiences (The relationship between successes in judo and successes in life):
The only reasonable explanation is that judo demands more of the spirit than anything else one attempts. If you can achieve success in judo, you can achieve it in all walks of life. Psychologists call it the "halo effect". But it seems to be "directional" (one-way).
For example, we all know of singers who have tried to become actors and succeeded, some of them "big time": Cher ("Mask", "Mermaids", "Moonstruck", "Silkwood" and "Witches of Eastwick"), John Denver ("Oh, God!"), Whitney Houston ("The Bodyguard", "The Preacher's Wife" and "Waiting to Exhale"), Bette Midler ("Beaches", "Down and Out in Beverly Hills", "The First Wives Club", "Get Shorty", "Outrageous Fortune", "The Rose", "Ruthless People" and "Scenes from a Mall"), Paul Simon ("Annie Hall"), Will Smith ("Bad Boys", "Enemy of the State", "Independence Day", "Men in Black" and "Wild Wild West"), etc, and actors who tried to become singers and failed: Don Johnson, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, etc.
The exceptions are so rare, you can count them on the fingers of one hand (singers who haven't had significant success as actors, such as Madonna, and actors who have had significant success as singers, such as Kevin Bacon and Jim Nabors).
This is not intended to be any insult to actors. It's just that the "halo effect" seems to be very directional. Singing is so much more demanding than acting. (In fact, singing includes a little bit of acting, but acting does not usually include singing.) So success in singing implies the possibility of success in acting, but not vice-versa.
In the same way, judo is extremely frustrating. As soon as you achieve a success, you reach your next frustration point. Some would say that it's the process of learning how to overcome your frustrations that makes judo worthwhile. If someone seeks only that which comes easily, and quits when it becomes hard, nothing great will ever be accomplished.
"When things aren't going well, work on improving your judo."
The formation of Myoyu Dojo: Steve had been wanting to work out with really strong adults and, for that reason, approached the Prince George's County Police Academy when they were located in Forestville, MD. There wasn't much positive response at that time to an outsider (non-police-officer) coming in to teach Defensive Tactics. But years later, not long after he got his third degree, he got a phone call from Tony Avendorph asking him to be co-instructor of a soon-to-be-formed police judo club. The club was in the gym of the newly-relocated Prince George's County Police Academy in Palmer Park, MD. It was quite a pleasant surprise.
Previously, the club had been called "Temple Hills Community Center Judo Club", but this seemed unduly restricted as to place. Steve and his co-instructors could teach in many places, not just there. Worse, it didn't convey any ideal. So Temple Hills Community Center Judo Club, on the inclusion of Prince George's County Police Judo Club, became Myoyu Dojo. And now there's a University of Maryland branch of the club, the Terrapin Judo Club. All 3, taken as a whole, are Myoyu Dojo. The goal we strive for is the development of myoyu, that wonderous quality that makes technique flow like water, and makes an opponent feel as light as a feather.
Steve has trained numerous students to the level of brownbelt and one to blackbelt. Several have become East Coast champions. He has also taught judo in defensive tactics classes for 3 or 4 sessions of the Academy itself (the cadets). (Sessions are a 6-month process. Cadets are not permitted to join the judo club until they graduate, since this could distract them from their studies.)
In 1994, he received the Chief's Award, the highest award that the Prince George's County Police gives to a civilian. He has also won awards for his talks at national computer organizations and for his hard work at the Small Business Administration.
Current Activities: For several years now, Steve has been the videotape librarian for Maryland Judo Inc, the Maryland state branch of US Judo Inc. Since MJI members rarely or never check out the tapes (for some unfathomable reason!), Steve has held judo videotape viewing parties, which featured Steve's personally-owned "Fighting Films" tapes of the 1993 and 1995 World Championships. If you're an MJI member and would like to attend a future party, just send Steve an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org , or ask him about it at the next local tournament, and he'll tell you the URL of a page that has directions to his condo.
Steve is single and lives with his pets, a dog Barney and 2 kittens, Sugar and Spice. He still works on contract to the Small Business Administration in Washington, DC, primarily as a computer programmer and WebMaster.
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Last updated 02/22/2009.