I trained in Martial Arts throughout most of the1980’s. I studied different styles but kept up Karate the loTHOM_HARINCKforweb1ngest and made it up to blue belt in the Kyokushinkai style. During my last trip to Canada and the US I got the chance to visit the grave of my long-time hero Bruce Lee in Seattle. Here is some info on some of the teachers that I had that shared with me.

I am also the co-author of the book “Thom Harinck: The Godfather of Muay Thai kickboxing in The West”, published in 2016 in both kindle and paperback versions. For more info or to order:


Marcia Pickands/Pai-Bok Hok

The first Martial Art I ever trained in was Pai Lum Kung Fu. This happened during a five-month period in 1981 when I lived in Albany, the capital of New York State, with my parents and sister. Pai Lum is just about what anyone would expect Kung Fu to be. It has monastic origins and relies heavily on animal styles. The late Grandmaster Daniel Kane Pai introduced this art to the US. Marcia Pickands was one of his direct students from the period he lived and taught in Connecticut.
Teachers in this style are always awarded a Chinese name containing the character Pai when they reach black belt level. Marcia was an adopted grandchild of Grandmaster Pai.
Besides teaching Martial Arts Marcia is a psychic, spiritual advisor and neo-pagan high priestess. She is the author of two books on psychic development: The Psychic Self-defense Training Manual and Psychic Abilities: How to Train Them and Use Them. I don’t know many people who are interested in these kind of subjects who are involved in Martial Arts, especially in a country like The Netherlands where people are very skeptical. But remember many Martial Arts had occult stages for advanced students, though most arts currently practiced in the West left these phases behind in the Orient.
I would have liked to have trained in this style longer, but didn’t get the chance as Pai Lum is not taught in The Netherlands. The only country is Europe were Pai Lum is taught is Ireland.

Below: teaching my sister self-defense. This is the salutation of Pai Lum Kung Fu.

Kenneth Leeuwin

Kenneth Leeuwin was my teacher for several years. He belonged to the Kyokushinkai faction within the KBN (Karate-do Bond Nederland), the largest Dutch Karate organization. This faction differed from the other Kyokushinkai faction in the Netherlands that was led by Loek Hollander in that it chose point-competition instead of the knock-down/knock-out rules one can still see today in full-contact Karate tournaments. The Kyokushinkai style was founded by the famous master Mas Oyama (1914-1992), who was himself a student of Gogen Yamaguchi (Goju-ryu) and Gichin Funakoshi (Shotokan). Kyokushinkai was created in an urge to create a more realistic and contact oriented Karate style. One of Mas Oyama’s first foreign students was a Dutchman called Jon Bluming, who was at the time already one of the best Judo men of Europe. In 1961 Bluming was the first to introduce Kyokushinkai Karate in Europe. His dojo (school) in the Valkenburgerstraat in Amsterdam, which is very close to the famous market of the Waterlooplein, became very famous. His most celebrated students are: Jan Plas (who later became the coach of the famous kickboxing gym Mejiro Gym), Willem Ruska (who became an Olympic Judo champion) and Chris Dolman (the main promoter of Free Fight events in the Netherlands who still teaches today). Bluming is now a tenth degree black belt in Kyokushinkai Karate and a ninth degree in Judo.
One of Blumings students was a black man called Otti Roethof who became the first Dutch World Karate Champion. Kenneth Leeuwin was one of Otti Roethof’s top students. Kenneth became Karate champion of the Netherlands 21 times. During the time I trained under him he had an enormous collection of trophies that couldn’t even fit in several closets. He was known at the time not only for his many trophies and blinding speed but also for his somewhat unorthodox “warming-up” routine. While we’re on the subject of speed I have never ever seen a human being so fast as Kenneth Leeuwin. I confess I preferred to watch other competitors at the time solely because I was able to follow their movements. Dutch Karate at the time was in pretty good shape. Appie Echteld, Delano van der Kust (whom I particularly enjoyed watching fighting), Ronny Rivano (who is now a successful free-fighter), Sandy Niesten and many, many others were the prominent fighters of the time. Dutch Karate was very strong in the seventies, when the Dutch team became first at the world championships, but the eighties weren’t bad either! Especially compared to the meager results the Dutch Karateka of today.
I can still remember very well when Kenneth became World Champion in 1986. That world championship, they are held every two years, was held in Australia. The Dutch team, which was coached by Otti Roethof, prepared itself for ten days in Indonesia. Kenneth was at that time enrolled in the CIOS, which is a sports academy for top athletes of all disciplines. The training at the CIOS really boosted his endurance and in the finals he won 2-1 of a Spanish Karateka.
Kenneth now operates a gym in Haarlem, The Netherlands, called
Smile Sport, although he apparently doesn’t teach Karate anymore. Kenneth is the co-founder of Kick Fun, the ultimate workout. Kick Fun is basically Tae-bo with a punching bag.

Below: a Horse Stance and Hammer Fist from the Cat Stance in 1983

Urwin Vyent

Urwin Vyent was my teacher for one year. His school, which was located in the Bijlmermeer (a predominantly black neighborhood in Amsterdam), was aptly called The Black Eagle. The style taught was Kyokushinkai, but the school partook in “All-Style Karate” competition, which has different rules than that of the KBN. Kicks are awarded more points than punches and this gave the competition a different twist. Urwin Vyent was a master kicker. He used both legs almost like hands in combination to reach around and over anything you could throw at him and he could still take your head off with it.
Urwin now lives in Rotterdam with his family. The Black Eagle has been taken over by one of his students.

Martin Smit

Martin Smit was an assistant to Kenneth Leeuwin for a number of years, although he actually practiced the Wado-Kai style of Karate, which is the most popular Karate style in the Netherlands. I trained under both for three years at the All Sports gym, which is now one of the largest fitness facilities in Europe. The combination of these two teachers was excellent. With Kenneth’s techniques and Martin’s discipline and ability to fire up the students you couldn’t go wrong. Sadly, both men parted ways shortly after Kenneth became World Champion.
Martin confessed that he didn’t do all that well in the years that he competed in Karate, but I saw him being the equal in the gym of several champions of the time. His practice of Martial Arts (he cross-trained quite extensively in Muay Thai and Pentjak-Silat) didn’t keep him from being an avid liquor fan. He even put up a giant poster of a “Heineken Beer” on the wall of his gym in Badhoevedorp.
Martin now operates a successful gym in Amstelveen,
Sportschool Smit, and is renowned for his Bokatae workouts. Bokatae is basically Tae-bo with a kicking pad as used in Mauy Thai kickboxing. The last thing I heard about Martin was that he was organizing a fundraising event for the Cliniclowns, clowns that perform for terminally ill children.




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Text and photographs, copyright, Julio Online, 2002.