Sensei Jack Leonardo of the New Bedford Aikikai, R.I.P.
"Sensei" Joaquim "Jack" Leonardo
March 6, 1920-March 16,2004
Jack Leonardo was introduced to Aikido over 44 years ago through an article in "Iron Man" Magazine by Koichi Tohei. At the time, he was the owner of "The Squeeze Box" an accordion sale and instructional storefront where he also sold items from his other 2 great loves at the time, Bear Archery bow and arrows and York Barbell weight lighting equipment. at the age of 40, he had lifted weights for years and was a personal friend of Bob Hoffman,owner of the York Company. He trained at George's Gym in the south end of New Bedford and was an avid powerlifter. However, the article on aikido intrigued him. He had read articles featuring Ed Parker and his Kenpo system but the circular motions of the art of aikido and the aspect of "Ki" fascinated him. He bought the various books on aikido and started to study the art of aikido, he made the back room of his studio into a makeshift "dojo" [Training Hall] and started to pass along what knowledge he had learned to others. He then began to study with Mitsunari Kanai, Sensei of the New England Aikikai in Boston as well as training with such sensei as Koichi Tohei,Chiba sensei and many others over the years. He would move the dojo next door where he would open Aikido arts of self defense that would later officially open "New Beford Aikikai" at 1622 Acushnet Avenue and would teach there for 40 years. He is "Father of Aikido" in southeastern massachusetts and anyone who studied Aikido in that area can trace their lineage directly to Sensei Leonardo. Always refered to as "Sensei", his softspoken speech, benevolent spirit and complete dedication to his art was unparalelled and his love for "Aiki" [harmonious spirit] made him a true martial arts master yet he was incredibly humble and as he stated "O sensei [Morihei Uyeshiba] said that he was in just the first grade of aikido,then I must be in the kindegarten of Aikido!". He had taught tens of thousands of students over the many decades of instruction of this great man.He never sought rank or titles,he beleived as Myamoto Musashi wrote in the "book of 5 rings" that "The way was in the training". He was a certified "Sensei" and his dojo was a "Fudoshin" dojo under the United States Aikido Federation.He instructed in the legacy of Aikiken and Aikijo weaponry as well. He was also certified by the Zen Kaminshin Ryu under Shihan John Saviano of Rhode Island in the Iaijutsu/Kenjutsu and the Kobujutsu divisions and was awarded a 6th Degree Black Belt through the Jujitsu division of Nindo Ryu International and was a member of the "Roju" [council of elders] of that group.
Many martial artists who has gone onto become masters and grandmasters of the various martial arts have all studied under this humble "meijin" in his modest dojo in New Bedford. Jack Leonardo passed away at the Hathaway Manor Care complex where he had been for the last few weeks. He had fought a long battle with diabetes for over 35 years and he was always an advocate of such aspects as macrobiotic diet Mitsio Kushi and natural foods and remedies by Dr. Jarvis, Who, Sensei Leonardo knew personally.
On a personal note,I knew sensei leonardo since i was 12 years old, I would many times visit his dojo to watch the aikido classes,buy martial arts magazines,and gain insights into the martial arts, i would eventually study Aiki-ken and aiki-jo under sensei leonardo for several years,following him to teach at satellite locations such as Bob Bethony's Uechi Ryu Dojo in Brockton. Jack Leonardo was such an inspiration to me and was a living example of what a master of the martial arts that I knew he was the "Best Man" for the job of being the Best man at my first marrige. As age and ailments took their toll,He would eventually become, as he would say, the "doorman" for the dojo, opening it for his students to teach as he oversaw the day to day classes. "Sensei" was far more to me than a martial arts instructor, he was a guide,a mentor,an inspiration, and a second father to me. Many a night I would spend until the early hours of the morning chatting,asking questions,sharing opinions and just enjoying his company. Truly, the world will be a little darker for me without him in it...
Domo Arigato Sensei! Rest in peace.
Thank you for your time,
Joseph P. Rebelo II,
"The truth, no matter who it hurts, is still the TRUTH!!"
"When young men seek to be like you, when lazy men resent you, when powerful men look over their shoulder at you, when cowardly men plot behind your back, when corrupt men wish you were gone and evil men want you dead; Only then will you have done your share."