WTKO Instructor of the Month


Jan Knobel

A No Nonsense Martial Artist

Sensei Jan Knobel - 6th dan

I had the great pleasure of getting to know Jan Knobel recently at a world Championship and found him to be a kindred spirit.  Our backgrounds are quite similar; we both go back aways (an Americanism) and have been around the block a few times.  That said I found him to be a true delight and professional and a gentleman of karate.  There is no pretense with Jan what you see is what you get.  Special thanks must go to his wife Hanny for supplying most of the information in this article.

Born May 30th 1950, married and father of 3 sons. Went to work on a cruise ship when he was 18 and visited the USA many times, he still finds it his favorite country. This resulted in a 3-week motorcycle trip to the West Coast during his 25th wedding anniversary.

After his early sailing career ended and he married his wife Hanny, he went searching for something to fill his free time. After seeing him play soccer, his father, former soccer coach of Ajax Amsterdam and the Dutch National Soccer team, advised him to hang his shoes on a  tree because in his opinion: "He could not crush an egg with his feet". So he quit soccer and began to practice karate.

His first foreign teacher was sensei Miyazaki and his assistant Sawada. They made such a big impression on him that Jan committed himself fully to Karate. It started out as a hobby and became a life style and his living. After a period of teaching karate at a local sports school, Jan started his dojo in 1983. The dojo was and still is called UMO, meaning feather. This crest was a description of Jan's character and lifestyle, done by his former Japanese teacher sensei Miyazaki, who has passed away. He thought the feather in the air is swift and uncontrolled, attached to an arrow the feather directs and controls the arrow. This he thought Jan's character was, happy and fun but straight to the point and honest. Jan thought this is a great honor that sensei Miyazaki described him this way.

  Jan practiced karate in the early days with senseiís as Nakayama, Kase, Enoeda, Shirai, Ochi, Asai, Yahara, Abe.  Sensei Abe he met in 1985 during his first visit to Japan. He practiced with sensei Abe during the Gaijin class for several weeks. At that time entering the JKA instructors class or training with the JKA instructorís class was impossible.

  In the early days Jan had a lot of success during competitions. Several times he was the Dutch champion in individual and team events, especially in his specialty Kata. In 1993 he transferred from the national organization to his old love the JKA. He was sick and tired of politics and only wanted to practice and enjoy karate his way. Also the national organization was an all style organization and therefore left little room for traditional Karate. Jan went to the JKA Asai fraction and stayed there until the last split. During his stay with sensei Asai he met sensei Richard Amos and since then always stayed in contact with him. Jan developed his Karate under Asai sensei and became more inspired. He still wanted to compete and he became European Champion, 2nd in the World Championships 1993 Johannesburg and World Champion in Greece in 1996. This, he felt completed his competition career and he devoted himself to coaching his sons and the rest of his team. Until now the successes are hard to count, several European champions, high scores during World Championships, several 1st - 2nd and 3rd places. Being independent, after the Asai split, Jan and his team competed with all kinds of organizations. He thought of himself as a Ronin, a master less samurai. He kept contact with all the various organizations and finally decided to become a member of the WTKO, a traditional organization that was and still is in Jan's blood.

Now-a-days Jan shares his time between his dojo and courses he is giving throughout Europe. He is a well-known instructor in the Balkan countries and due to his efforts these karateka are now able to travel throughout Europe to compete.

Although he is a very busy man Jan still finds some time for his hobbies: speed cycling with his 80 year old father who is still has a perfect condition. During these daily trips they share their knowledge about their sport and Jan uses this knowledge to develop his Karate. Jan likes to workout alone in his dojo and likes driving through the country on his motorbike with his wife Hanny.  At present Jan is training for his 7thdan.                                                                                                                                          J. Mullin

 He is president of JKA/WTKO Netherlands, president of the ISKDA sensei Sumiís Organization, vice president of the SKDUN, technical director of the Balkan countries and a member of the WTKO World Advisory Council.   

Link to Previous article, Soon Pretorius