Found in the AbiWord FAQ
2.2 How do I switch to VI or Emacs key bindings?
Note: This is not recommended for most users.
Simply edit your ~/.AbiSuite/AbiWord.profile, and find the section beginning with that <Scheme “_custom_”. Simply add the line keybindings=”emacs” or keybindings=”viEdit” as desired.
For all you folks out there, like me, that keep hitting ESC :w before saving regarsless if you are in VI(M) or not.