At the age of 13, Seagal lied about his age and got a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant named The Wagon Wheel.[ci-tation needed] One of the cooks at the restaurant was a Japanese shotokan karate expert and noticed Seagal moved very quickly around the kitchen. He taught Seagal the basics of karate. Seagal began training in aikido under master Harry Kiyoshi Ishisaka, founder of the Orange County Aikido School (Orange County Aiki Kai) (OCAK) in 1964. Seagal considers him to have been the most important martial arts teacher in his life. Seagal moved to Japan at some point between the ages of 19 and 21 with his father who was visiting for military purposes, and met karate masters and deci-ded to remain in Japan. He received his 1st dan degree (Shodan) under the direction of Koichi Tohei. He continued to train in aikido as a student of Seiseki Abe, Tohei (whose aikido organization, Ki Soci-ety, Seagal refused to join in favor of staying with the Aikikai), Kisaburo Osawa, Hiroshi Isoyama and the second doshu Kisshomaru Ueshiba. He attained a 7th dan degree and Shihan in aikido and became the first foreigner to operate an aikido dojo in Japan.
After returning to California in 1974, Seagal met Miyako Fujitani, an aikido instructor teaching in Los Angeles. He returned with her to her native Japan in 1975 where they married. When Seagal's father-in-law, also an aikido instructor, retired, Seagal became the new head of the organization known as Tenshin Aikido in Jūsō, Osaka ci-ty (affiliated with the Aikikai). Seagal is known by his students as Take Sensei. When Seagal left his dojo in Osaka, his then-wife Miyako became the caretaker of the dojo which has continued to the present day. Seagal initially returned to Taos, New Mexico, with his student (and later film stuntman) Craig Dunn, where they opened a dojo, although Seagal spent much of his time pursuing other ventures. After another period in Japan, Seagal returned to the U.S. in 1983 with senior student Haruo Matsuoka. They opened an aikido dojo, initially in North Hollywood, California, but later moved it to the ci-ty of West Hollywood. Seagal left Matsuoka in charge of the dojo, which he ran until the two parted ways in 1997.
He has helped train Brazilian mixed martial artists Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida. Silva, who is the former UFC Middleweight Champion, went on to knock out Vitor Belfort with a kick, in their fight at UFC 126 in February 2011, and Machida also credited him for helping him perfect the front kick that he used to knock out Randy Couture at UFC 129 in May 2011.