Dante Roccisano (2007)

Inducted into the A.M.A.H.O.F.(Inc) for 2007
Lifetime Achievement Award – Aikijitsu (SA)

Inducted into the W.K.U.H.O.F. for 2007
Lifetime Achievement Award – Aikijitsu (SA – Australia)

 

Sensei Dante Roccisano was born in 1949. During the mid-fifties, after spending six months in the Royal Adelaide Children’s Hospital, and sickly from recurring bouts of pneumonia, he spent extended periods of time at Escourt House (a recuperation facility) and St Joseph’s Orphanage Largs Bay, among others. In the late ’50s, after often roaming the streets, he was picked up by the authorities, became a ward of the State, and was admitted to a government facility for largely neglected children at Glandore.

That remand facility, with its own school, was a melting pot of about 150 boys from all types of ethnic, social, and abused backgrounds. Fighting and bullying were everyday occurrences with regular bashings amongst the students the norm, the supervising staff often turning a blind eye. A trained medical Sister was permanently employed to deal with the regular injuries. If they didn’t already know how to fight to defend themselves and their friends, they were forced to learn very quickly. They had to watch their backs at all times. Even when asleep they were at risk from a bully’s cronies in their own dormitory, or from bullies sneaking in from another dormitory.

Since fighting was an everyday occurrence the administrators reasoned that they may as well teach the boys to do it properly, and so besides the regular football and cricket practices, a diversity of boxing, wrestling, Judo and Jujitsu instructors were encouraged to regularly volunteer their skills to instil some sort of respectful order to the mayhem that often occurred in the grounds of the facility. The officers would often try to get the boys to settle their differences in the ring and leave it there. Sometimes they would give the boys a choice: Would you like to settle your dispute by boxing, by wrestling, or by Judo, or just plain slug it out? Whatever the case, it had to stay in the ring or on the mat and not be carried on into the grounds outside. This wasn’t always successful, but on the whole some semblance of a moral code did slowly sink in.

Some three and half years later in 1963 Dante was released from Glandore, and besides being dux in all grades of the schooling provided, he came away with a brown belt in Judo and Jujitsu and was quite proficient in self-defence. Black belts were never awarded to anybody. Only the instructors had those and most of the guys didn’t care — they just wanted to get out of the place.

In those days, aside from boxing and wrestling, there were few other martial arts available in the community at large, apart from what one could learn from overseas students. Also, friends who were sailors kept him informed as to when any Japanese ships might be heading to Port Adelaide. Sometimes there were personnel on board who were proficient in some aspect of Japanese martial arts. Although brief, these were very valuable encounters, Judo was soon to become accepted in the Olympics, and in the ’60s Judo clubs had sprouted all over the place. There was a Judo club on Friday nights at Boys Brigade in the local church hall across the street from Dante’s home. There was another Jujitsu club at the end of the next street where the instructor also inspired him in Aikido. And so began a serious collection of old martial arts books, as he chased the dream of secret knowledge. Pretty soon Dante was back in training nearly every night of the week. If it wasn’t Jujitsu or Judo it was Aikido or Karate. When playing football the ukemi from Judo proved very useful and on occasion, during a match, when rival football heavies tried to intimidate him or his team mates, Jujitsu and aikido principles quickly came to the fore and they soon learnt to stick to playing the game they were supposed to be playing.

When he told his family that he wanted to save up to go to Japan to extend his studies in Judo and Aikido the family could not accept or understand such a concept and told him to stick with his academic studies. With the news of O’Sensei Ueshiba’s passing in 1969 he decided to spend his savings on acquiring more books on Aikido, Jujitsu and martial arts, and train with whoever he could find who had martial arts training and or knowledge, of whatever style whether local or from overseas. During the late 60’s Dante also had the fortunate experience of training in savate for 12 months with a French exchange student.

During the 1960s and early ’70s, while Judo took off with its entry into the Olympics, Dante’s main training was Jujitsu, Judo, Aikido and Karate, and eventually he also discovered Kung Fu. Throughout the 1970s and ’80s Dante trained and instructed for more than twenty years in both Tai Chi and Shaolin Five Elder Form Kung Fu, and later in Yeuh Fei Kung Fu, for which he also never pursued any ranking certificates. He just enjoyed the passion of the martial art training without question. During this period he pursued and studied extensively the similarities and differences between the Japanese and Chinese approaches to Chi or Ki, trying to understand the biophysical principles, especially those related to concepts of AiKi as opposed to KiAi.

Dante developed a special interest in kata (or forms, or patterns) from all styles, including Karate and Kung Fu, single or two-person, their parallels in the various styles, and their bunkai and jujitsu applications. He was particularly interested in the advanced katas of Judo, which he believed to be distilled summaries of exemplary but limited range of Jujitsu techniques. The majority of the Judo community ignored most of the katas, preferring randori drills for competition, however, Dante continued to incorporate them in his martial art classes during the 70s and 80s.

So much so, that 1998 he was the first person from South Australia for many years to present the Goshin Jitsu kata in the Kodakan National Kata Competition, in which he placed third.
In the late ’90s Dante also taught and assisted Sensei Bob Paterson of Miwio Jujitsu (4th Dan at the time) with the Kime No Kata, which he eventually used to obtain his 5th Dan in Jujitsu.
In 1999 Dante instructed Sensei Michael Headland, the head coach of the Adelaide University Judo Club, in the self-defence katas of Judo, namely the Kime No Kata and the Goshin Jitsu No Kata, which he (Michael) eventually used to obtain his 6th Dan ranking at a Judo Federation of South Australia Dan grading.

From the early 80s Dante has been involved with the Australian Martial Arts Association, in either a referee, judge or committee member capacity right to the present day, second in service longevity only to one of the remaining active original founder members Shihan Karl Stokjo, who is also a life member.

In the year 2000 at an Australian Martial Arts Tournament Dante was persuaded to demonstrate a number of applications of minimal motion Aikijujitsu, after which he was presented with 7th Dan certification. Dante was also presented with a special gold medal from Kancho Bill Vaughan, who personally attested that it was one of the best Aikijujutsu demonstrations that he had seen in a very long time. Not long after, in that same year, Dante entered the Fudoshin Jujitsu Open Triple contest and became the weapons kata winner.

Regardless of these excursions into competition, and more so after suffering a major stroke in 1993, Dante continues to research and pursue any martial art that will eventually enable him to attain that elusive dream for many jujitsu techniques — maximum result with minimum effort. It has been this ideal and direction that has kept him searching and researching all types of martial arts including physical and kinesthetic principles. Dante feels very strongly that this goal has given him many insights that he may never have achieved had he accepted the admonitions of most colleagues and instructors over the years that it is only an ideal and that he should subject himself to just one style and one teacher. He agrees that his personal path is not for everybody, but believes that this is the way of growth and innovation for himself. It is this principle that he has applied when hosting and teaching seminars, in attempting to bring something new to the mat at each training session. Budo is for brain as well as brawn.

In 2005 Dante was recognised as 8th Dan by Hanshi Tony Jackson.

In February 2006 he was encouraged by Hanshi Tony Jackson to present and be reassessed by O’Sensei Phil Porter of the USMA Association, after which he was promoted to 9th Dan.
Subsequently O’Sensei Phil Porter nominated him to be a candidate for the USMA Hall of Fame.

In July 2006 he was reassessed by Soke Siegfried Boedeker of Germany and the All Japan JuJitsu International Federation (AJJIF) and promoted to Professor of Aikibudo Arts Hanshi 10th Dan.

Besides his regular Aikijujutsu classes in Adelaide, Dante still conducts, and teaches at martial arts seminars, cross-training workshops and camps several times a year. Consistent with his philosophy of respect towards the various martial arts, his Adelaide seminars often feature guest instructors from various styles and disciplines. He has always been ready to promote friendship and the exchange of information between different people and martial arts, and prefers to leave politics to the politicians.

Dante is also a registered science and mathematics teacher with Masters degrees in Arts and Education, and feels the day is not far away when the same sort of duty of care obligations, regulations and police clearance required of teachers in the schools will also be required of all instructors and teachers of the martial arts.

Dante, a luthier, also teaches musical instrument making. The course that he conducts is now the longest running course of violin and cello-making in all of Australia’s history!

Dante continues to teach Aikijujutsu and Judo and has an insatiable desire to continue to learn and innovate, often subjecting his students to new techniques and variations, which they are encouraged to explore and assess at whatever level they happen to be. He also enjoys the challenge of reassessing an old Jujitsu technique and often tries to experiment and find new ways of applying it or making it more efficient.