Judo was founded in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. Its most prominent object is to either throw or takedown one’s opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one’s opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an opponent to submit by joint locking or by executing a strangle hold or choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defenses are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms (kata) and are not allowed in modern judo competition or free practice (randori). In February 1882, Kano founded a school and dojo at the Eisho-ji , a Buddhist temple in what was then the Shitaya ward of Tokyo (now the Higashi Ueno district of Taitō ward). Two years later the temple would be called the Kodokan.

Sensei Kinshiro Abbe with Sensei Reg Bleakman late 1950's training in Judo at Sensei Bleakmans club in Birmingham

Sensei Kinshiro Abbe with Sensei Reg Bleakman late 1950’s training in Judo at Sensei Bleakmans club in Birmingham

Here at World Budo Kan the style practised is founded in what was taught by Sensei Bleakman and Professor Smith who both received instruction from Sensei Kenshiro Abbe (阿部 謙四郎) , born 15 December 1915 – 1 December 1985) was a prominent Japanese master of Judo, Aikido, and Kendo. Sensei Abbe was a graduate of the famous Budo Senmon Gakko, having studied judo and kendo there. Following an illustrious early career in the martial arts and especially in Judo, he served in the Imperial Japanese Army before and during World War II. He then trained in Aikido under its founder, Morihei Ueshiba, for a decade. Abbe held dan ranks in several martial arts, most notably 8th dan in Judo, 6th dan in Aikido, and 6th dan in Kendo. He introduced Aikido to the United Kingdom in 1955, and founded the Kyushindo system. After introducing Aikido to the UK, he established several Japanese martial arts councils there during the late 1950s. He travelled extensively through the UK and Europe.

Sensei Bleakman was a pupil of Abbe from 1955 to 1964 – the association began at Jenkins Street institute, Small Heath, Birmingham, at a club founded by James Hipkiss before World War Two. Which is where he first met Kenshiro Abbe Sensei, who had a close knit group of followers in Birmingham and surrounding areas including Reg Bleakman & Professor Smith.

This is where Sensei Reg Bleakman began to expand his knowledge of Judo, through the teachings of Abbe Sensei. There was a small number of personal pupils in and around Birmingham who were very close to him, Sensei Bleakman was one of these, others were John Hughes (Walsall otanikwai) Ken Webber (Renbukan,Shard End, B/ham) Ralph Reynalds (Neko Budokan,B/ham) also Mr. Garside, Mr. Babington of B/ham and Sutton Coldfield.

Sensei Bleakman attended all Sensei Abbe’s courses there until the club closed in the early 1960s. It was then in 1957 that Sensei Bleakman founded his own club with Sensei Abbe’s consent named it Kyu Shin Kan School of Judo. Sensei Bleakman went self employed in 1958 – the year his daughter Julie was born. Going self employed in itself was brave as post-war feelings and emotions were still quite high in the country!

Over the years Sensei Bleakman frequently mentioned Abbe as his Sensei for Judo, and had Sensei Abbe do courses at K.S.K from 1957 to 1964. But, it was mostly Nakazano for Aikido, although I saw Reg many times doing the subject with Abbe. (T.Hughes). It was, and is, common knowledge that Sensei Abbe (and other Japanese Masters) stayed with Sensei Bleakman and his family several times and several nights. Liz Bleakman (younger daughter of Reg Bleakman) still has the hand drawing of her as a child that Sensei Kenshiro Abbe did of her after one of his visits to their home in Lady Lane, B/ham. There hung a press cutting for many years from a B/ham news paper, in the Kyu Shin Kan dojo reception with a photo of Sensei Abbe arriving at New St station.

Sensei Bleakman would drive him to other clubs up to 20 miles away and be used as uke, I can bear witness to this (T. Hughs), as they came to my local club, The Otanikwai in Walsall. In addition, Sensei Bleakman had personal tuition from Abbe Sensei at Sensei Bleakman’s own dojo, which being a professional school, had permanently laid out mats, this was well known locally and cause for a lot of jealousy from his peers. Sensei Bleakman was as close a pupil as anyone could be short of being a live in pupil, or a senior member of sensei’s own school. The K.S.K was the last club in the Midlands visited by Sensei Abbe before leaving the UK in 1964, it was the occasion of the opening of K.S.K as HQ of Budo GB.

The event was televised on local TV. Budo GB was affiliated to Abbe’s International Budo Council.

Sensei Bleakman was a member of the B.J.C until he founded Budo.G.B in 1964. At the 1963 B.J.C midland championships which was attended by Abbe, T. Otani and Bill Woods, Sensei Bleakman and Juniors from Kyu Shin Kan started the event with a display of Judo randori, Reg also demonstrated Kime no Kata with J. Hughes of Otanikwai, Reg Bleakman jr. won the junior individual judo event, Kyu Shin Kan won the team event.

In the 1960s he was well known as an excellent Judo technician and teacher; he was invited to attend a meeting of all Judo associations to discuss uniting all British Judo organisations under a single body, the organisers obviously recognised who he was and his qualifications.

Sensei Bleakman also had an article published in the first issue of Judo news a periodical magazine put out by the B.J.C. it was on kata gatame.

Sensei Bleakman was a member of the B.J.C until Abbe left and Sensei Bleakman founded Budo GB. Sensei Bleakman left with the grade of 3rd Dan awarded by Abbe. Sensei Bleakman, as Judo kept altering and modifying over years, Sensei Bleakman still kept to what Sensei Abbe had taught him. He was was raised to 4th Dan and 3rd Dan Aikido when Sensei Abbe visited K.S.K in 1970. Sensei Reg Bleakman was first and foremost, a Judoka, Aikido was his second subject

Above information taken from personal accounts of Sensei Tony Hughes, Soke Phil Bradley & Professor A.D.Smith, Mrs Julie Bose (formally Julie Bleakman), Professor C. Withey, Sensei Anthony Golding. For other Judo and tradition up held by Sensei Jonathan Kruger Zambia (Central African), please click on this link.