Michael Justin “Seiho” Sullivan

Bailey’s prize-winning author, artist, calligrapher and martial-arts guru, Michael Justin “Seiho” Sullivan, died peacefully at his Bailey, Colo. home last week with his beloved wife, Herta, by his side. He was a month away from his 80th birthday.

The Sullivans have resided in Bailey for over a third of a century, where Michael practiced and taught at his Toshoin Studio. He also taught Japanese sword and calligraphy at the Colorado Academy of Martial Arts in Littleton, and at other dojos in neighboring counties.

Sullivan was the author of five novels and “Shingyo,” a treatise on the Japanese translations and calligraphy of the Heart Sutra. He also wrote three workbooks for students of Japanese calligraphy that were published in Japan. His first novel, “WAZA,” about the corruption of Buddhism and the martial arts in America, won the Colorado Co-Visions award for Literature in 1994.

After years of study in Japan, Sullivan was awarded the Kampo calligraphy award, and twice won the prestigious Nippon Shuji Prize for calligraphy. He was the only non-Japanese ever to do so and was awarded the calligrapher name Seiho (Mountain Sage). Sullivan was also a champion of Japanese swordsmanship, winning twice in the city of Takamatsu. A copy of his rare, limited-edition treatise on martial arts strategy, “Sword and Psyche,” is available only in the Pentagon library. His years in, and expulsion from, Japan are fictionalized in the semi-autobiographical novel, “In This Living Body,” which culminates in an act of the now-outlawed practice of self-mummification.

Sullivan was born in St. Petersburg, Fla., and graduated from Boca Ciega High School before going on to the study of classical guitar. He was an acclaimed classical guitarist, giving concerts in the U.S. and  Canada, and eventually taught classical guitar at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.

Sullivan studied creative writing with noted author Andrew Lytle at the University of Florida. He later received his Masters degree in Asian Studies from Florida State University.

In his early years, Sullivan was a sailboat captain, delivering sailing yachts from New England to Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. His near fatal voyage into the eye of Hurricane Agnes is narrated in his trilogy of novellas, “Three-Strand Cordage.”

In his reclusive declining years, Sullivan could be humorously cranky. He once quipped, “The government finally has an agency for my three favorite things: alcohol, tobacco and firearms; unfortunately they’re on the wrong side of all three.”

All of his books will remain in print and are available through quality book vendors and on-line. Most of his pioneering paintings and his tokonoma of large-scale caligraphy are held by friends, private collectors and his students.

Private remembrances are being observed by his many friends and students at home and abroad.