I was born on 9th August 1959 in Amsterdam.
As you can see in this picture, my childhood period was very different from present times. Here’s me at the age of 3, with my mother and younger sister Esther. Few cars on the road, no TV in every home, we didn’t even get telephone in our house till I was 9 years old.
When I started Judo and Jujitsu in Amsterdam in 1972, as a 13-year-old boy, I had no idea I would end up being a Kendo/Iaido/Jodo teacher many decades later.
I developed a deep interest in Japanese Martial Arts as a young boy and bought the books which were available in the early 1970’s to learn about them as much as possible. Especially the books by Don Draeger Sensei were very well made and described most of the Japanese Martial Arts in detail. I remember I used to read them repeatedly and was always fascinated with learning about these exotic Arts.
After a few years of twice a week practice, I achieved 1st Kyu in Judo and Jujitsu, and I was ready to start serious training for my Shodan. However, by the time I was 16, I found I was unable to beat the much bigger and stronger guys in the Dojo, and I started to develop an interest in Martial Arts with weapons.
At one point, I had a Nunchaku, a long Bo, a Sai, a Tonfa, and a Shinai in my room. I practiced by myself and had many painful encounters with the Nunchaku!
Finally, I found a Kendo Club in Amsterdam, where Willem Alexander was teaching Kendo. I joined in 1976, and I have been practicing Kendo ever since.
My biggest fortune has been that I have met three wonderful Sensei: In 1977 I met Edo Kokichi, my first Kendo teacher, in 1979 I met Iijima Akira, student of Edo sensei and a great influence on my Kendo career, and in 1983 I met Isihido Shizufumi, who generously accepted me as one of his European Deshi (close student), and who has been my Iaido and Jodo Sensei ever since.
Now I’m 60, achieved 7th Dan Kyoshi in Kendo, Iaido and Jodo before I was 50 years old, and retired from a 30-year career in Nippon Express, a big Japanese Logistics Multinational Company.
There is only one other person outside Japan who achieved 7 dan Kyoshi in all three ZNKR disciplines, it’s my long time Budo friend and Sempai, Jock Hopson.
It’s about time to fulfill the wish of Edo Sensei: write down my Budo memoires so that my own students get to know my Budo history in full.
Of course, my Budo history would have been impossible to achieve without the strong support of my wife, Jolanda Dekker. Not only was she far better than me in Kendo, in which she achieved 6th Dan, she also was very strong in Jodo (5th Dan), and even achieved 4th Dan Iaido in the days that Iaido Dan Grades were still a very rare thing in Europe! Unfortunately, she was forced to stop practice after her severe stroke in 2010, but she still joins me on many Taikai and Seminars and enjoys the company of the Sensei and Students a lot.
Because I have students in several countries, I have decided to write this document in English, which is not my native language. I will also add several articles which I wrote in the NKR Zanshin Magazine in the past, these are all in Dutch.
A big thanks to my long time Budo friend and Sempai, Jock Hopson, who provided many of the pictures of “the old days”!