“He trains killers,” they said.
“He’s mean,” they said.
At first, when I met Ahti Keand 27 years ago, I believed them. I was afraid of him; I believed the legends when
I compared them to the man. But it did not take me long to discover the man and the myths were two different
I came to know a man with an open heart. I came to know a man with a wonderful sense of humor, a man with
the force of personality that could fill a room, a man with a passion for life.
I came to know a man who would give everything he had to those close to him. Ahti Kaend gave much more
than in the material sense. He gave in the form of caring, in such a way that he knew when we needed to be
guided by strength and when we needed the support of his concern.
Ahti Kaend was not always an easy man, nor did he pretend to be, but he was a consistent man. I knew when
conflicts would arise, I knew when he would laugh, and I knew when he was hurt. And I knew, above all, he
was a man to be counted on when we needed him.
Ahti Kaend was a lucky man in that he was able to pursue his passions and enjoy life. He had the love of his
wonderful wife, Olga, the support of a great family, and he had friends around the world.
At one point recently, when Ahti was particularly down due to his illness, I spoke to him. I asked him to fight, to
draw on his strength, to hang on. I told him that many of us needed him, more of us that he even knew. “Ahti,”
I said, “I need you. You are like family to me.” He replied, “You are all family to me.”
Ahti Kaend drew out strong emotions in people. Those who did not truly know him often misunderstood him.
But those who did know him knew him to be an honest man. He was honest in what he said and what he did,
and that honesty created in him a strength of character we could all rely on. I ask nothing more of a man that
this sort of honesty.
Ahti Kaend was born in Estonia in 1931. His family left Estonia during World War II when Ahti was 13 years of
age and traveled to Australia. He spent his life in a number of pursuits, but primary among them was his
training in and teaching of Uechi-ryu karate. He started dojo in Australia that are currently going strong and
started a large following of Uechi practitioners in India. He taught Uechi-ryu karate in Southern California for
many years, right up to the time of his passing. He gave everything he had to his students, and we are all
grateful for the training and knowledge he passed on to us.
My definition of immortality is this: It is when the spirit of a man lives on in the hearts of others. Ahti’s spirit will
always be in our hearts. On behalf of those who knew him, loved him, and trained with him, we will miss him.
Ahti Kaend. Mentor, teacher, friend of our hearts, will all miss you.
Central Coast Uechi-ryu Karate-do
San Luis Obispo, CA