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