Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jon Bluming: Karate and Judo Giant

I have become aware that a lot of recent visitors to Cook Ding's Kitchen are from the Netherlands. Welcome! They have mainly been finding their way into the kitchen via a Dutch blog at:

In honor of my new Dutch friends, I decided to post a short biography of one of the true giants in modern martial arts history, Jon Bluming. Mr. Bluming is one of the highest legitimately ranked individuals in both Kyosushin Karate and Judo. The biography is from Wikipedia. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article where you'll find some useful links if you'd like to learn more. Enjoy.

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Jon Bluming (born February 6, 1933) is a Dutch international icon as an instructor of Judo, Kyokushin Karate, and MMA.

Born in Amsterdam, he was 16 when he applied for the Marines and was accepted to the bootcamp in Doorn in July 1949. Just one year later, in the summer of 1950, the Korean War started, and he applied as a volunteer in the van Heutz regiment. When he was wounded, he was transported to a Japanese hospital in Tokyo. There he saw Judo for the first time when he visited the Kodokan in March of 1951. When he saw a demonstration by an elderly man, he knew that this martial art would change his life for good.

Martial arts career

Back in Holland in November, 1953, he came upon the Tung Jen Judo Club, an accident which would change his life. His teacher, Dr. Schutte (then 4th dan Tokyo Hirano), gave him his first dan after only 12 months. In 1955, he received his second dan, and in 1956 he was the first Dutchman to become a Kodokan member, promoted by Ichiro Abe, then 6th dan in La Baulle France; he was then captain of the Tung Jen team, winning the European championships in Bellevue, Amsterdam in September 1956. In 1957, he received his third dan from Tokyo Hirano at a Dutch summer camp when he threw 75 judoka from 4th kyu up to 4th dan in 26 minutes even though he had broken the big toe of his right foot.

Then he broke his right knee and went into surgery. In 1957, he was invited to train a police dojo in Berlin, Germany and a private judo club for several months. The money he earned there was invested to go to Canada. He went to the Canadian embassy, threw his medals on the table, and asked for a chance to go to Canada. His wish was fulfilled, and in January 1958 he arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He was hosted by an old friend and introduced the next day to Dalhousie University. There he started his career as a professional budo teacher; he gave lessons for two dollars an hour. He also founded the Maritimes Judo Association and became a lifetime honorary member.

Back in Tokyo, he started under the guidance of Donn F. Draeger. Weight training for judo and karate allowed him to finally achieve the desired transformation to heavyweight at a solid 102 kg from his previous 79 kg. Nobody could stop him anymore because he also kept his middleweight speed during which Dreager taught him.

In May 1960, he defeated the Japanese champion Kaminaga with a strangulation hold, which knocked him out cold. During the Olympic training summer of 1960, he finally threw Isao Inokuma, his very close friend and training partner, after an hour-long fight with Uchi mata makikomi. He also received his 4th dan from Kodokan in competition. In April of 1959, Dreager asked him to go with him to the police dojo and train under the famous 10th dan Shimizu and Kuroda in bōjutsu, kendo, and iaijutsu. During the all-Japan police championships (Kendo), they were asked to give a demonstration of bojitsu and earned a standing ovation and a third dan in both disciplines from the Japan Kendo federation. Bluming did another examination for Ichitaro Kuroda in iaijutsu and got his third dan from the JKF.

In 1961, Bluming was invited to make a gonin gake (a match against 5 third dans) instead of Inokuma who was in hospital with a bad back injury. Dreager said to him, “Do it, that’s good for your name,” and it was. He won in less than 4 seconds in each match.

[edit] Back to Holland

Bluming received a letter from Holland in which Opa Schutte asked him to come back and teach at the old dojo and the Amateurs Association for a year on contract. Bluming, who by then had a reputation in Japan and was unbeaten in Judo and Karate, went back to teach his old friends, make some new ones, and participate in the world championships in Paris (Dec 1961). It went very differently than planned.

Bluming became coach of the Dutch Amateur Judo Association. He made his name throughout Holland and Europe solely because of his fight against the Judo Union of Anton Geesink, who told tales to the press about Bluming but refused several times to meet Bluming on the tatami. Bluming, under false accusations, was not allowed to participate in the Paris competitions. The press was amazed, especially when Bluming was introduced to the black belts of the NAJA as the new coach in the first week of December 1961 in Bloemendaal. He made a match against all comers, some 80 judoka from 1st dan to 4th dan, and threw them all within about four seconds in full view of the press.

Reporters wrote the next day that Holland would be first and second in Paris and that Bluming must be allowed to fight. This did not help, and Bluming watched the victory of Anton Geesink in Paris. It made him so miserable that he stopped competing and focused only on teaching instead.

In his career as a teacher he has coached several champions, such as:

    • Chris Dolman (four-time world champion),
    • Willem Ruska (double Olympic champion in 1972)
    • Ottie Roethof (world champion in soft style karate and the team world champion, three times world champ judo),
    • Semmy Schilt (at the top in K-1 and free fight winner three times in the daido juku and three time King of Pancrase),
    • The students of his students like Jan Plas (who fought well against Ernesto Hoost and Peter Aerts), Peter Adelaar and Jan Kallenbach.

Bluming traveled throughout Europe and founded the European Kyokushin kai kan. The first karate union in Europe was founded by Bluming in January of 1962. The first-ever karate championships were held in Krasnapolsky Hotel Amsterdam in 1965. The first international match was held against the team of Steve Arneil (a student of Oyama and Bluming in 1967) and was won by the Budokai dojo.

[edit] Kyokushin Kai Karate

On January 15, 1965, Bluming was the first foreigner awarded the 6th dan in Kyokushin karate from the Kyokushinkaikan Honbu by Mas Oyama. The karate world, which was not big in those days, was shocked. Oyama put a classical samurai end to that spectacle and told the karate world that they could fight Bluming man-to-man without any rules in a boxing ring. The one who could beat Bluming that way would win $100,000 from Oyama, who would stop karate and take away Bluming's 6th dan.

In the period after this, Bluming delivered a lot of teachers who sometimes went their own way. One example is Loek Hollander, who was at odds with Bluming. The animosity reached such a level in Japan and Europe that the Japanese organization eventually sided with Loek Hollander. The Dutch Karate Organisation (NKA), an initiative of Bluming, grew larger under Hollander and split in the 1980s when several teachers left Hollander due to "irreconcilable differences".

In January 1989, Bluming received his 9th dan in Kyokushin karate from Japan. The same year, he also got his 9th dan in Judo from Japan; he was the only one in the world who had both of the highest grades in martial arts from the Japanese organisations. In November 1989, he received a visit from Akira Maeda, 8th dan of the Budokai. He told Bluming that Mas Oyama had sent him to talk to Bluming and that he wanted Bluming back in the Honbu and to make him President of the World Karate Kyokushinkai-kan. He wanted Bluming to teach the karateka of the Honbu who were keen on fighting professionally in all-round karate, especially in the fight organisation “RINGS JAPAN“, of which Maeda was then President. Bluming said that he would do so only if Loek Hollander was out of the Honbu. Maeda said that Mas Oyama was aware of the problems but for several reasons could not agree with that.[citation needed]

In April 1994, Bluming received word that Mas Oyama had died suddenly. Devastated, he went to Tokyo to pay his respect and say sayonara to his teacher. On September 4, he received a fax from Kenji Kurosaki that he was awarded with the grade of his teacher Mas Oyama and received his 10th dan signed by 5 big organisation of Budo in Japan. He was the first 6th dan in Honbu.


Anonymous said...

In '62 our basketball team at a small college in Indiana were jon's fans and marvelled at the big guy's accomplishments. I still look him up on the net occasionally. What can you say but wow! What focus. Al

Carol said...

What a great karate and judo career! Sounds like a great man and instructor.