In East Westphalia (OWL) the two main styles of Shaolin Kempo meet: the rather hard and Karate-like style of Meijers and the softer Kuntao style of Carel Faulhaber.
Herbert Zielinski is an excellent and competent connoisseur of the Kuntao-Matjan line. In conversation, the Kempo veteran reveals surprising details from the early history of Kempo in OWL. And proves to be the hoped-for source for a better understanding of “round”.
Name: Herbert Zielinski
Style: Shaolin Kempo Hsinshih
grades: 6th DAN Kempo, 3rd DAN Kyusho Jitsu, 1st DAN Kyusho Aiki Jitsu, Reiki Master
lives in: Gütersloh
trained: TuS Friedrichsdorf 1900 e.V.
Herbert, when did you start martial arts?
Even as a teenager. When I was 16, I bought an English loose-leaf collection of karate. It was all that was available back then. From this I tried to practice. At the age of 17 I started with Judo under sportive guidance. This year I am 70, you have to calculate the rest. Back then we lived in Vlotho, I trained in Herford. I did that until I was in the army. After that I tried to start again. But the surroundings were no longer right, I found the people strange. So I started with the Kempo when I was 24, and then I drove to Rinteln.
You were active in Rinteln?
For a very long time. Only now hardly anyone knows. I was one of the students of Ted Verschuur. Ted was one of the direct disciples of Carel Faulhaber, the actual founder of Shaolin Kempo. Ted belonged to the “Ring of Five”, as his master disciples are still called today. He called his interpretation of the original Kuntao Matjan of Faulhaber Shaolin Kempo Hsinshih. Tjebbe Laeyendecker was at that time Sempai, meaning “older disciple”. The two of them were in a NATO unit in the Dutch Air Force, Ted as a sports teacher. I did my first DAN in 1976 together with Andreas Burre in Holland. Not an unknown name in Kalletal either …
Andreas started a few months earlier with Kempo and Judo. But he stopped with Judo very quickly (Judo was the second sport taught by Ted). Andreas was about 16 years old at the time, so a lot younger than me. Andreas was a daredevil and had already hurt his sport comrades during training. He was the impetuous, tough guy. When it became clear that the Dutch would leave us, a successor for the group was sought. Since most of the students had less fun with Andreas’ hard training, I was chosen and we worked hard to prepare for the Dan exam and were also tested together in Holland.
So Ted Verschuur was your first Kempo teacher?
Yes, he was. In the first few years I did double track and took part in his judo training for the first two hours and then in Kempo training. But as the demands in both sports became higher over time, I decided to do only Kempo. Ted was the first to be transferred to Stolzenau/Uchte in Lower Saxony. Once a week I went with my training partner and friend Jürgen Schierholz to Uchte to Ted for training and we supported him in building up a new Kempo group. After a few weeks I was assigned to train the group as a sempai. At the same time Ted prepared us for the Jiu Jitsu Dan exam. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take the exam in Holland, because they thought that you first have to acquire the student grades to be able to take the Dan afterwards. And we had not taken any formal Kyu grades. We could have taken the 1st Kyu, but dear Ted did not agree with this solution. So we went home empty-handed.
At that time Tjebbe was still in Rinteln. I remember that after about a year and a half he went back to Holland. A lot had happened in the meantime: Our sport comrade Roland Wieder had separated from us with his brother Jürgen and one of his brothers-in-law and started his own school in Hohenhausen. This was the predecessor of today’s Budo SV Kalletal! By the way, so successful that it soon became clear that a real “teacher” was needed there.
Trainer in Rinteln
I took over the training in Rinteln and Andreas Burre agreed with the people from Hohenhausen and took over the Kempo training there. But since he thought that Hsinshih needed a renewal and he wanted to be different from us, he changed the name Hsinshih to Hadaka. He made minor changes, but I would say it was still Hsinshih. However, since in the years after that a number of different trainers dealt with Hadaka and everyone thought they had to make changes to immortalize themselves, the style changed a lot – the original soft and round martial art has more and more become a jagged Karate-like style.
Ted had already had problems with the thigh muscle in Rinteln in the last few years, where a chicken-sized tumour had formed. This was removed in hospital and the prognosis at the time was “benign”, but unfortunately this turned out to be a fallacy and he died in June 1981 at the age of 44.
Ted was 3rd DAN in Kempo, 2nd DAN in Judo and Jiu Jitsu. After his death he was awarded the 6th DAN. This was also in order to enable his students, above all Tjebbe, to achieve a higher DAN level, because according to traditional opinion, you cannot go higher than your own master.
To my knowledge, the Flying Dragons are a union of two friends: Ted Verschurr and Ben Oltmans, a military karate master from Hamelin.
How long were you a trainer in Rinteln?
This was the case until 1979, when we moved from Vlotho/Uffeln to Lemgo/Lieme due to a change of job. Because of my new job and house building I ran out of time at the beginning of the 80s and I decided to give up training in Rinteln. Although brown belts were already training in Rinteln at that time, nobody had the courage to take the initiative to continue reasonably. So there was the threat of leaving the Rinteln group. Fortunately Andreas Burre from Hohenhausen took over again. Hence the connection Kalletal – Rinteln. And since he couldn’t do everything alone, he assigned Jochen Siekmann with the training. Which he still leads today.
After about one year I had my house and work in Lieme under control to such an extent that I could not refuse the offer of a private gym from Lemgo to become active as a trainer for Kempo. They wanted to extend their offer – apart from the usual fitness offers, judo and the Muckibude – with karate. But a trainer was missing. Nobody from the Karate Club Lemgo wanted to, and I was free. So they came to me. I was no Karateka, but at least it looked similar. At the same time I trained my own small group in the hall of the Liemer Dorfkrugs. However, things didn’t go well with Lutz Schweigert’s gym for long: Actually, the Kempoka had been promised that they could also use the fitness equipment, but this was cancelled. So there was trouble
Until one of my students said that we should split up and do something on our own, the youth centre across the street still had some space left. So we founded the Kempo Club Lemgo e.V. By the way, this club existed, even if only on paper, until last year, when I had it deleted.
In the Lemgo period you were without a teacher. How did you deal with that?
After the death of Ted Verschuur I had to look for new fixed points and visited different Kempo events. The name Ted Verschuur opened some doors for me at that time. Especially in Holland I was always welcome as soon as it became known that I was a student of Ted. There are two names that I remember especially fondly: Rene Scharff and Cor Brugmann. Both are luminaries of martial arts in Holland. With Cor I liked his understanding of Kempo, although he represented the Meijers style. So we often went to Holland, and his students spent their holidays with me, or the Dutch were our guests and trained with us, and so I was able to get to know their style. With Cor I then also took the 2nd DAN in 1981 and the 3rd DAN in 1983.
Kempo in Lemgo, nobody knows it anymore! What happened next?
Nothing. In the middle of the 80s I changed my job to Düsseldorf, where I sporadically tried Tai Chi at a friend’s place and attended his Kung-Fu lessons, which he gave in the Chinese Centrum Düsseldorf. In 1988 we moved to Gütersloh. And when I was 40, I had a heart attack – so Kempo was over for now. But a fighter does not give up. I switched to cycling, at times riding at least 20 kilometres a day. That led to cycling and to tours of 60 to 100 kilometres a day.
How long was your break?
For ten years I didn’t think about recording my own Kempo training. Although I taught two young men from the neighborhood in Kempo, the thought of becoming active again myself never occurred to me. Then I got a call from a certain Reinhold Weidemann … I had already heard that name during my time in Rinteln. After thinking about it for a while I remembered it as Orange-Belt. Reinhold probably had the task of helping to organize Jochen’s 25th anniversary in Rinteln. And he had invited Tjebbe to hold an anniversary seminar on Saturday. Tjebbe had expressed the wish whether Reinhold could not organize an alumni meeting in Rinteln. Which Reinhold actually managed to do. There the old Rinteln gang, among others with Andreas Burre, Roland and Jürgen Wieder, Jürgen Schierholz, Ralf Kammel and Tjebbe actually met. The following day was the seminar. To which I let myself be persuaded. I did not know where my suit was. My wife had found it in the basement. It looked like I’d been stonewalling. And there had been some changes in size, too. And so I started my second Kempo life.
Contact with the Dutch Kempoka
With which Kempo greats are you still in exchange today? How are your contacts to Holland?
Basically I am only in exchange with Tjebbe and his students. For that we have to go to Grave in Holland, where he has his school and where they train. At the moment Tjebbe is in poor health. And since he wants to be present when we are there, the visits are suspended. On the other hand we drive about 2 hours to Grave. And since there is only training on Thursday, we only drive if Friday is a holiday, so it is quite rare.
We are connected to the Dutch Kempo associations via the Kempo Associatie Nederland. In the beginning there had been training courses there, but not in the last few years. Basically we are only contributors at the moment. I hope that this will change. Otherwise we are in good hands with our Seibukan.
Do you know Harry de Spa, who always appears in the family trees of the Dutch Kempo?
Yes I know Faulhaber’s Pentjak Silat Kuntao site and also the pedigree, Harry de Spa is Dutch and trained with Ted while he was still teaching in Holland. In my time Harry did not consciously meet me personally. I know from stories that he lived with Verschuurs. But in this family tree there is also Tjebbe not appearing or any other one from our Hsinshih family. It’s the same, I can live with it. If I am already ignored by colleagues who basically run the school I once trained, I can also live with the fact that my name does not appear in any Dutch chronicle.
Our Kempo is round. And I do not need strength. I take the power of the attacker and use it. We can do it through various techniques, like getting very close to my opponent. I can turn two axes of movement into one. I can manipulate them more easily. Everybody who is intensively and long engaged with his martial art interprets his style in his own way. And because of my heart disease I was forced to refine techniques and make them fast and effective, so that a fight does not degenerate into a test of strength, which costs me my breath.
One day I got a nice compliment from Ria Verschuur and Rob Faulhaber who saw me during a demonstration. Ria, the wife of Ted Verschuur, said that I moved like her husband. And Rob, one of Carl Faulhaber’s sons and a member of the Ring of Five, said that this is how it would have looked like when his father made Kuntao. I was very pleased to hear that.
New passion Kyusho
You are not only known as an authority in Kempo, but also through your Kyusho.
Authority is exaggerated. I am surely the oldest Kempoka in Lippe who still practices Kempo. And already Kempo trained when one or the other was still in planning! That’s how I would see it. In the course of time, one has tried a wide variety of martial arts – you could call it experience.
12 to 13 years ago I had read about Kyusho in a karate magazine. That had aroused my interest and I wanted to learn more about it. At that time I trained with my friend Ralf Kammel Kempo. And we decided to go to Esbjerg in Denmark. There we met open-minded people who gave us such a warm welcome that we still like to go up there to train with them today.
Today I am one of the senior instructors in Kyusho Denmark of my friend Karsten Dam, who invites every year grandmasters from the Kyusho scene from the USA with whom we train to expand our knowledge. Karsten always says that we can only learn from the best. This includes in any case Grandmaster Toni Kauhanen, 8th Dan from Finland, who calls his style Kyusho Aiki Jitsu. Also with him I try to train and attend his seminars as often as possible, when he is in Germany to further educate myself. I see Kyusho and the Aiki Jitsu as an enrichment of my martial art.
What is the difference between Kyusho Jitsu and Kyusho Aiki Jitsu?
In pure Kyusho, one deals mainly with the nerve points and their possible applications. With Aiki, the energy transfer is added – to describe it roughly.
Well, first of all I would like to remain active for at least 20 years. And then of course I am going to make my students better and to enable them to continue the style. We are on a good way, because I have some really good black belts that discuss and develop the thoughts and ideas about Kempo Hsinshih together with me. It is very important to me, and I can only recommend this to all serious martial artists, to always be open for new thoughts and experiences.
For me, learning a new level in Kempo or a new martial art is similar to entering a big dark hall. In the beginning you have no orientation and you are confused. Afterwards one begins to recognize piece by piece the boundaries of the room and its particularities. And at some point you move safely. Until one stands at the next door to the next hall. There it is of course dark again …
It never ends. And you’re always doubting whether you’re right. This questioning remains with you as long as you continue to seriously practice your art. The search and the questions – it never stops!