The headteacher of Bushinkai’s Japanese and Okinawan martial arts division is Simon Keegan (5th Dan Karate, 5th Dan Jujutsu). This series of articles looks at his family’s Jujutsu history. In part 1 we looked at his great uncle Bill Nelson who studied Jujutsu with Professor Gerald Skyner, student of Mikonosuke Kawaishi at 67 Mount Pleasant, Liverpool and 5 Catharine Street, Liverpool, from 1944-1948 where he attained his black belt. In part 2 we looked at Bill’s second Jujutsu/Judo club where he trained from 1948-1950s at Arnot Street Evening Institute, Walton, Liverpool where the chief instructor was Gunji Koizumi. This later became the northern base of the British Judo Association. Now in Part 3 we just forward in time to 1959 and Simon’s father David Keegan, now head of Bushinkai’s Chinese martial arts division, who began his studies with Jujutsu. This club was a branch of the Lowlands Jujutsu. The teacher was Bernie Blundell.
To revisit Liverpool Jujutsu history we will first start in London. There EW Barton Wright organised the country’s first Jujutsu in the 1890s. He later brought Yukio Tani over. In 1906 Gunji Koizumi (see part 2) arrived in Liverpool and started teaching at the Kara Ashikaga. In the 1920s, a student of Tani’s named Jack Britten opened Liverpool’s second Dojo, the Alpha Jujutsu school on Smithdown Road (later moved to Sheil Road). Then in 1928 Mikonosuke Kawaishi (see part 1) came to Liverpool and the club later became Skyner’s Jujutsu. The second world war drives a large intermission into the history of British Jujutsu 1939-1944, and it was after the war that another Jujutsu school opened, the Lowlands, run by Jim Blundell and his brother Bernie.
There are two theories as to where the Blundells learnt their Jujutsu and we will deal with them in turn.
- Master Kim. According to Jim Blundell, he learnt Jujutsu while stationed in Singapore from an old man named Kim. It is not impossible for a Jujutsu master to have been in Singapore. Gunji Koizumi was after all. Jim’s son Kenny Blundell states: “On his many visits to Singapore, he stayed and trained with Master Kim, a Chinese gentleman with extraordinary gifts. He described to me in great details his first meeting with this gentleman. Master Kim owned a small shop which sold antiques and curious articles… My father told me that Master Kim was his one and only true instructor although he had several in his quest for knowledge. Master Kim was an old Chinese man who had fled his own country because of the uprising there, and fearing for the safety of his own family he settled down in Singapore.”
- William Green. According to J Shortt, the Jujutsu teacher of Jim Blundell was William Green who was in turn a student of Harry H Hunter. This version of events seems more likely since Green did indeed teach in Liverpool.
Who was Harry H Hunter?
Lancashire born Harry H Hunter was stationed in Yokohama in 1904 and studied Jujutsu there. At some point he styled himself Jujutsu Champion of Europe and called his system Super Jujutsu. Hunter was hired by the police to train them to battle criminal gangs like the Peaky Blinders. His claim to have won 300 contests and reigned as Jujutsu champion from 1924-1927 cannot be proven at this time.
Jim and Bernie Blundell
Jim Blundell (22nd December 1921 -13th November 1989) started teaching Jujutsu some time between 1945 and 1950 and in 1952 he became a trustee of a mansion called The Lowlands in West Derby.
The basement of the Lowlands was used as a youth club and gig venue as well as for Jujutsu and the Beatles even played there.
Evidently their Jujutsu proved popular as they opened another school in Kirkby. It was established in around 1959-1960 and held at Southdene Community Centre in Kirkby. The Dojo was later officially opened by the local MP (he was MP for Huyton 1950-1983) Harold Wilson who later became the Prime Minister. He also opened Kirkby Stadium in 1964,
David Keegan and his twin brother Paul began their martial arts journey at the Blundells school. It came full circle when David and Simon became students of Hanshi Allan Tattersall, UK head of the Dai Nippon Butokukai. In fact Hanshi Tattersall endorsed our association’s shogo (Renshi and Kyoshi titles) as recognised with Dai Nippon Butokukai certificates.
Liverpool’s Jujutsu clubs also acted as the basis for Liverpool’s first Karate clubs. Jujutsu practitioner Fred Gille became Liverpool’s first Karate teacher, having trained under Vernon Bell. He was followed by Andy Sherry (a Jujutsu student of Jack Britten) who became a legendary Karateka, James Pape and many more. This club later became the famous Red Triangle Karate club.
One of Jim Blundell’s most notable students was Hanshi Allan Tattersall who trained with him up to 4th Dan. Hanshi Tattersall subsequently went to Japan and trained with the headmasters of Koryu styles like Takenouchi Ryu and Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu.
Manchester: Karate & Jujutsu
Circle Martial Arts
52 Newton Street, Manchester M1 1ED
Monday evenings: 8:30pm
Sunday mornings: 10:00am
Shihan: Simon Keegan (5th Dan Renshi Karate & Jujutsu)
Sempai: Philip Jennings