Sensei Olaf Bock — Kempo with a beard

A new mar­ti­al arts tea­cher has ent­e­red my tran­quil life as Kem­po­ka. One who is very clo­se to the ori­gin of Shao­lin Kem­po. I am very hap­py to have met Sen­s­ei Olaf Bock. What this is all about, who this gen­tle­man is and why I am so exci­ted about my new discip­le sta­tus, I will try to cla­ri­fy with the fol­lowing interview.

By the way, if things are a bit quie­ter on the­se pages at the moment, it is becau­se of the time I am NOT sit­ting at the com­pu­ter, but rather try­ing to make pro­gress in the art of figh­t­ing with more or less suc­cess. The­re­fo­re, I would like to express my reg­ret to all regu­lar rea­ders of the­se lines about the long wai­t­ing time. Most of them will under­stand, sin­ce we share the ten­den­cy to hang around in swea­ty clothes on spiky mats or in drau­gh­ty halls.

Tho­mas Kuclo, a friend of Kempoka’s from Bad Bent­heim, drew my atten­ti­on to Olaf Bock and his “Kader­trai­nig”. He is one of the rare birds who also likes to think out­side the box of his own trai­ning plan and who is inten­si­ve­ly enga­ged in the basics and histo­ry of Kem­po ( Some time ago Tho­mas had alrea­dy sent me an invi­ta­ti­on to the men­tio­ned trai­ning. Sound­ed very inte­res­ting, even if I don’t see mys­elf in a “squad”. Sounds so eli­tist and per­for­mance-ori­en­ted … But the refe­ren­ces to a very ori­gi­nal Kem­po sound­ed so exci­ting that I abso­lute­ly wan­ted to dare the way to the Wes­ter­wald. And in the win­ter­ly Febru­a­ry of this year it final­ly sui­ted, I met with Tho­mas and Mas­ter Olaf in his Dojo to prac­ti­ce “clas­si­cal Shao­lin Kem­po” at a 9th DAN.


Name: Olaf Bock
Style: Shao­lin Kempo
Gra­de: 7th DAN Shao­lin Kem­po, 9th DAN Sho­rin Kem­po Ryu, 6th DAN Kick Boxing
lives in: Westerwald
trai­ned: among others Betz­dorf-Scheu­er­feld (Wes­ter­wald)


Olaf, you’­re sur­pri­sin­gly young for someo­ne so high­ly gra­dua­ted. When did you start Kem­po and mar­ti­al arts?

I star­ted at the ten­der age of 9, 1972, with boxing and kara­te in my old home in the Sauer­land, in Atten­dorn. I first came in con­ta­ct with Kem­po when I wat­ched a docu­men­ta­ry about a Dut­ch­man on tele­vi­si­on, on the regio­nal pro­gram of the WDR, which fasci­na­ted me com­ple­te­ly. I real­ly wan­ted to get to know him. That was Gerald Mei­jers, who at the time was coa­ching the group around Klaus Poens­ges. I sim­ply found that cool. That was about 1975.

Did you get to know the grand­mas­ter himself?

Cor Brugman
Cor Brug­man

Yeah, later. But I did­n’t train under him. I trai­ned under one of his direct mas­ter stu­dents. Through a for­mer acquain­tance from Kamp Lint­ford I met Lud­ger Ingel­hardt. He was trai­ning Kem­po with a cer­tain Cor Brug­man in Doe­tin­chem in Hol­land. That was in the ear­ly 80s. At that time I had just beco­me “mobi­le” with my first car and just dro­ve there.

Just went the­re? How far is that from whe­re you live?

About 200 kilo­me­ters. So it was­n’t any fur­ther than when you dro­ve! The atmo­s­phe­re, the spi­rit, the trai­ning and the per­son of Cor Brug­man immedia­te­ly cap­ti­va­ted me so much that I beca­me a stu­dent there.

As a Sauer­lan­der in Hol­land? Were many Ger­mans there?

(laughs) Nope, I was alrea­dy the only one back then. The “Ger­man”. So I left almost every wee­kend on Fri­day after work and retur­ned on Sunday after the last trai­ning. For many years …

What fasci­na­ted you so much that you took on this distance?

Originalabzeichen The CraneCor Brug­man was clear­ly num­ber 1 in Kem­po, Hol­land at the time, and when it came to Kem­po, the­re was not­hing bet­ter. And I just lik­ed the way he taught. Cor was only 30 years old at the time, so he was in his prime. He was 6 then. DAN. And he was one of Mei­jers’ mas­ter stu­dents. Once a mon­th the gre­ats of Kem­po met in the Doe­tin­chem Dojo to exchan­ge ide­as and to train tog­e­ther. Becau­se the efforts to har­mo­ni­ze the dif­fe­rent Kem­po styles alrea­dy exis­ted back then. Such cali­bres as Jan Bru­ger, Cami­ne Tun­do, Rene Kraft van Ermel and many others ent­e­red the hall. Fur­ther­mo­re the­re were good con­ta­cts to stu­dents of Jim­my Bax like Rene Scharff, or Har­ry de Spa and Theo The­loe­sen and later also to Tjeb­be Lae­y­en­de­cker. From all cor­ners of Hol­land came the acti­ve peop­le, some of them even peop­le who had trai­ned Kem­po in the mili­ta­ry in the fif­ties. Des­pi­te his youth, Cor Brug­mann was an insti­tu­ti­on even then. And I was allo­wed to train with and at him! That was of cour­se gre­at for me. And then I was also on the road a lot with Cor himself.

Kem­po only hap­pen­ed on weekends?

No, of cour­se I trai­ned during the week too. Back then the­re was a small group in Sie­gen. And in 1984, I just had my first DAN, the idea came up to start my own group. Of cour­se this had to be appro­ved by Cor. The rela­ti­ons­hip bet­ween stu­dent and tea­cher was always seen very strict­ly by Cor. Without his per­mis­si­on this would not have been pos­si­ble. And with Cor, and also with me, the DAN gra­des from 1 to 4 are still stu­dent gra­des. Only with the 4th DAN may one teach oneself, open one’s own dojo. Cor was always pre­sent at the exams of my stu­dents in the first years, I could not do that on my own. But this form of disci­pli­ne and hier­ar­chy fasci­na­ted me back then. For examp­le, I never cal­led Cor by his first name in the dojo, I would not do it today.

So you have been tea­ching sin­ce 1984?

Right, back then with a group in Hach­en­burg. I ope­ned the dojo in Betz­dorf in 1991/92 and led it until 2008. With qui­te some suc­cess, becau­se the­re were always about 25 to 30 peop­le in trai­ning. And that here in the coun­try. And with my under­stan­ding of trai­ning. This was clo­se­ly based on the Dut­ch way of tea­ching. Blood, sweat and fear were just part of it. That’s how the Dut­ch trai­ned back then. Hard and phy­si­cal, lots of full con­ta­ct, lots of figh­t­ing. But Cor always kept an eye on what his stu­dents could achieve.

How did your trai­ning in Doe­tin­chem continue?

Cor Brugmans Demo Team Ende der 80. Olaf in der Mitte, Cor Brugmann rechts.
Cor Brug­mans Demo Team Ende der 80er

I beca­me one of Cor Brugmann’s mas­ter stu­dents qui­te quick­ly. At that time I was pre­sent at all demons­tra­ti­ons, was prac­ti­cal­ly his figu­rehead. And I was and am 100 per­cent loy­al to Cor. Becau­se he was by no means a com­for­ta­ble per­son, he always lik­ed to speak his mind strai­ght. That made him, and that made me, not only friends. At some point I took over the trai­ning in Doe­tin­chem and S’ Hee­ren­berg, becau­se Cor had qui­te some health pro­blems. And until 2006 I was in char­ge of the cad­re trai­ning the­re, part­ly with Cor, part­ly alo­ne. In 2007 Cor offi­cial­ly appoin­ted me as his suc­ces­sor. So I have seen many deve­lo­p­ments of Kem­po in Hol­land, a litt­le bit the deve­lo­p­ment from Kara­te Bond Neder­land (KBN), then through Shao­lin Kem­po Bond (SKB) to Kem­po Asso­cia­tie Neder­land (KAN). And the video of my exam for the 3rd DAN was wat­ched a lot in Hol­land for a long time.

When I search the inter­net in Hol­land for the roots of Shao­lin Kem­po, the names Brug­man rare­ly appe­ar and Bock rare­ly or not at all. How does that happen?

Cor was always an excel­lent mar­ti­al artist, but a mise­ra­ble diplo­mat. He always said what he thought. And even though I did­n’t always agree with ever­ything, I was always 100% loy­al to my sen­s­ei. So Cor caught a lot of head­winds, and I was equa­ted with Cor. At that time in Hol­land it was said “The­re is no Cor without Olaf, and Olaf not without Cor”. And bes­i­des, I am still “the Ger­man”, not all Dut­ch peop­le like that. But I still have very good con­ta­cts also in Hol­land and Belgium.

And in Germany?

Olaf01The­re I accom­pa­nied the Shao­lin Kem­po from 1992 to 1998 qui­te actively. I quick­ly got in con­ta­ct with the Ger­man Wus­hu Fede­ra­ti­on, also on the advice of Cor, and then I was also the natio­nal coach in Rhi­ne­land-Pala­ti­na­te. Who else, at that time the­re was only Olaf Bock in Rhi­ne­land-Pala­ti­na­te. Again and again, mar­ti­al artists from Ger­ma­ny were guests in Doe­tin­chem for some time, for examp­le from Kle­ve, Emme­rich, Duis­burg or Müns­ter. In 1998, howe­ver, I stop­ped doing so, becau­se I did­n’t feel like the ever-incre­a­sing num­ber of club-meis­ters and know-it-alls any­mo­re. Then peop­le approa­ched me and wan­ted to exp­lain to me how I should teach Shao­lin Kem­po, or that the­re are no chan­ging heights in the forms, or or or or …

That was qui­te dif­fe­rent, much more respect­ful in dealing with the tea­chers as well. Examp­le exams: At Cor no one would have thought to ask about their next exam. The can­di­da­tes were selec­ted by the tea­cher. The­re were also no fixed time slots for this, the tea­cher deci­ded that hims­elf. For some of them fas­ter, for others later. And that was not ques­tio­ned. The­re were also no fixed exami­na­ti­on regu­la­ti­ons. This only came up in the mid 80s. And the date of an exam came spon­ta­ne­ous­ly for you as a stu­dent. If you were lucky, you knew it a week or two befo­re. The mot­to was “The exam is part of a nor­mal trai­ning. You must always be ready.”

If you visit the web­site of the Kem­po in Betz­dorf, you will find the hint that you have been very acti­ve abroad, espe­cial­ly in Eas­tern Euro­pe. What is that all about?

At an Ame­ri­can Kem­po tour­na­ment in Ire­land in 2000 I met two Hun­ga­ri­ans. At that time they were loo­king for well-known stars of the sce­ne to lead semi­nars in Hun­ga­ry. At that time the­re was no real sce­ne. So I actual­ly went to Buda­pest on invi­ta­ti­on in 2001. And stood in front of more than 150 par­ti­ci­pants from all cor­ners of the coun­try. Among them was a Ger­man-spea­king Roma­ni­an from Tran­syl­va­nia, who also wan­ted to invi­te me. Qui­te offi­cial­ly, as he said. And inde­ed, short­ly after­wards I recei­ved a high­ly offi­cial let­ter from the local Minis­try of Sport invi­t­ing me to a five-day semi­nar. So I went the­re belie­ving that I would be a part of a big semi­nar. Until I rea­li­zed that I was going to run the semi­nar all by mys­elf. On the first evening we were 40 par­ti­ci­pants. That’s not too bad. On the second day the­re were 80, on the third day 160, then final­ly over 200. It was ama­zing. And sud­den­ly I was one of the most famous mar­ti­al arts trai­ners in Romania.

Rumänien 2002
Roma­nia 2002

In 2002 we foun­ded the Inter­na­tio­nal Kem­po Fede­ra­ti­on (IKF) in Buda­pest. The aim was actual­ly only to hold an inter­na­tio­nal com­pe­ti­ti­on in Bucha­rest in 2003. This too has beco­me a kind of snow­ball, big­ger and big­ger, more and more important. Jeff Speak­man then beca­me my suc­ces­sor as chair­man, I am still hono­ra­ry chair­man. And still in con­ta­ct with the Kem­po­ka in USA, Roma­nia and Hungary.

Olaf in Rumänien
Olaf in Ungarn
Olaf in USA

But at some point you disap­peared and were hard­ly pre­sent. Why?

As I said befo­re, I am not inte­res­ted in club-melee and asso­cia­ti­on dis­pu­tes. And that beca­me more and more stran­ge, also envy. A num­ber of, let’s say, dis­cus­sion-worthy new “styles” deve­lo­ped, who­se lea­ders then lik­ed to adorn them­sel­ves with high gra­dua­tions and cele­bra­ted them­sel­ves. I remem­ber qui­te a few inci­dents until the recent past. Many are like­ab­le repre­sen­ta­ti­ves of their art, but I am con­ser­va­ti­ve. How can you be gra­dua­ted hig­her than your tea­cher? And how can the­re be more than a 10th Dan in Shao­lin Kem­po? Mei­jers is still ali­ve. I’m still 7th Dan in Shao­lin Kem­po, and have been for over 14 years. My tea­cher Cor Brug­man is an 8th Dan. In 2008 I left the sce­ne, also from the IKF, trai­ned only for mys­elf, no lon­ger taught any stu­dents. I just did­n’t feel like it any­mo­re. In 2010 I star­ted a new job in the jus­ti­ce depart­ment, whe­re a lot of ener­gy went into it.

And what about your 9th DAN in “Sho­rin Kem­po”? Isn’t that just a new name of the well-known Shao­lin Kempo?

No. I have long won­de­red why Faul­ha­ber cho­se the name Shao­lin Kem­po. And unli­ke most Kem­po­ka, I fol­lo­wed that name. I have stu­di­ed the Japa­ne­se, Oki­na­wan roots inten­si­ve­ly. And stu­di­ed the Bubi­shi, among other things. The­re I came across the name Shao­lin Kem­po. It expres­sed that the art of Kem­po or the White Cra­ne style was nati­ve to Chi­na and came to Oki­na­wa. And final­ly expres­sed its­elf in the ori­gi­nal Goju Ryu. That’s whe­re Grand­mas­ter Mei­jers excel­led. With the­se insights I foun­ded Sho­rin Kem­po Kara­te as a mar­ti­al art in its own right, which has its roots more in the Chi­ne­se cra­ne style. This is expres­sed in many of our move­ments, inclu­ding the clas­si­cal Shao­lin Kem­po — in hand posi­ti­ons, stan­ding heights and the like. How, on the other hand, peop­le nowa­days come up with the dra­gon as a sym­bol or name is a mys­te­ry to me, becau­se the roots are defi­ni­te­ly in the cra­ne style and not in the dra­gon style. Sin­ce 2013 Sho­rin Kem­po is reco­gni­zed in Japan as an inde­pen­dent mar­ti­al art. And mean­while I am the foun­der of the style and hold the 9th DAN in Japan. But as I alrea­dy said: If it is about the ori­gi­nal Shao­lin Kem­po, as I show it to you, then I have the 7th DAN.

You’­re tea­ching again today, you accep­ted me as a stu­dent. What’s that all about?

That’s right, I stop­ped my ost­rich atti­tu­de in 2016. At some point Cor said that I was the only one who could still teach the ori­gi­nal Shao­lin Kem­po in its com­ple­te form. And I should plea­se be very care­ful about what hap­pens to “our” Shao­lin Kem­po and pay atten­ti­on to it, other­wi­se it would disap­pe­ar. I have taken that to heart. After some hesi­ta­ti­on I have the­re­fo­re acti­va­ted my small group in Betz­dorf again and I also teach once a mon­th in a cad­re trai­ning, as I used to in Doe­tin­chem. But no more dozens or hund­reds of stu­dents, just a small and selec­ted cir­cle of peop­le who are real­ly inte­res­ted and who are also behind it. And get­ting to know Tho­mas and you shows me that know­ledge is still wel­co­me. The­re are peop­le who want to know more, who ask them­sel­ves: What is behind the mar­ti­al art Kem­po? I want the stu­dents to ques­ti­on what they are doing, so that they under­stand and don’t copy.

I am inte­res­ted in the indi­vi­du­al peop­le. That’s why I also choo­se who real­ly beco­mes a stu­dent. But of cour­se all tho­se who are inte­res­ted in the ori­gi­nal Shao­lin Kem­po are welcome.


Mehr Infos:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.