Our beloved teacher and great friend, Christopher Curtis Sensei, passed away at home on June 9, 2023, with his family by his side. Christopher David Curtis was born June 23, 1944, to David Webster and Dorothe Brown Curtis in Upland, California, where he grew up on a ranch in Northern California. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Theatre Arts, he worked as an actor for several years in New York City. In 1969, he first encountered Aikido while preparing for a role with the Open Theatre. In 1972, he moved to Hawaii and worked with his parents on Molokai before moving to Maui. In 1974 his life was completely changed when he met his Aikido teacher, Shinichi Suzuki Sensei. Through the years, he trained with Koichi Tohei Sensei in Japan on many occasions.
In 2000, he was appointed Chief Instructor of the Hawaii Ki Federation, and in 2004 appointed Ki Society Advisor to Europe. He taught many seminars in the United States, Holland, Germany, and Spain. Authoring several books, “Letting Go,” “Ki Aikido on Maui – A Training Manual,” and “Otomo – A Journey.” He was a prolific writer, speaker, and teacher.
He was devoted to training and traveled exclusively with Suzuki Sensei worldwide. Like his teachers, he led by example and asked everyone not just to believe him but to aspire to experience all that is available to everyone. He was larger than life, and his personality and hugs were filled with massive Ki.
He also built a thriving business, Chris Curtis Landscapes, a landscape design, construction, and maintenance company on Maui which his daughter, Aiko, and son, Quinn, now own and operate.
He is survived by his wife, Lynn Curtis; children; Joshua, Jenna, Aiko (Patrick), Quinn (Naomi); sister, Anne Bacon (Nat) of Molokai; brother, Eric Curtis (Mary) of Kona and 6 grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
A celebration of life was held by family, and a public Memorial to Curtis Sensei was held on July 15, 2023, at the Shunshinkan Dojo. The Family has requested that, in place of Koden or flowers, donations can be sent to Hawaii Ki Federation Endowment Fund (at Maui Ki-Aikido/Hawaii Ki Federation, PO Box 724, Wailuku, HI 96793), or by link: https://tinyurl.com/Hawaii-Ki-Federation-Donation
In Loving Memory
Dear Curtis Sensei…
I was wondering what I could write…
The first words that are coming in my mind are “Thank you”.
As I often told you during these three last years :
Thank you for your kindness…
Thank your for your wisdom…
Thank you for your teachings…
Thank you for our emails…
Thank you for your book “Otomo” that you sent to me…
Thank you for your answers each time I had a question about your group discussion…
Thank you for your questions that made me thinking more more deeply…
Thank you for your many advices…
Thank you to have considered me even we never met in person…
Iles de la Madeleine
It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun
Breathless with adoration; the broad sun
Is sinking down in its tranquility;
The gentleness of heaven broods o’er the Sea;
Listen! the mighty Being is awake,
And doth with his eternal motion make
A sound like thunder—everlastingly.
Dear child! dear Girl! that walkest with me here,
If thou appear untouched by solemn thought,
Thy nature is not therefore less divine:
Thou liest in Abraham’s bosom all the year;
And worshipp’st at the Temple’s inner shrine,
God being with thee when we know it not.
I believe this poem by William Wordsworth describes the relationship between me and Curtis Sensei. Me being the child, living life knowing something is going on but not paying attention and Sensei knowing there is possibility in all of us, patiently trying to explain and show how to pay attention and where to look. Every time pointing out that life is perfect the way it is.
You said about the otomo that it is his job to:
walk three steps behind the sensei
walk next to the sensei
walk three steps in front of the sensei.
You were the sensei, thank you for being my otomo.
I am so proud and grateful to be able to say that you were my teacher. And I hope that some day when we meet again you will be able to say that you are proud and grateful to have me as a student.
Over the years I attended many workshops led by Curtis Sensei, sponsored by Chinn Sensei in Torrance, Ca. I appreciated his perspective and his deep desire to share what he had learned over many years of practice. He always challenged his students to be more than what we thought we could be. He wanted us to understand the deeper nuances of Ki. I was in touch with him over the years to ask his advice about ki breathing and meditation and he was always quick to respond. He really was a great teacher. I will miss his thoughtful words and his challenging questions.
I will miss him.
Seattle Ki Society
That’s when I just so happened walked by the dojo. I joined immediately, I trained in the beginning classes for a long time before seeing Curtis sensei.