Bakkies Laubscher

You can’t have good Karate without good character. No matter what it looks like on the inside, the flaws will show.

Bakkies Laubscher

With over six decades in martial arts, Bakkies Laubscher is one of Morio Higaonna’s most senior students. A firm believer in the constant drilling of basic techniques, he has become a renowned teacher in his own right.

Bakkies Laubscher was born on 13 November 1948, in the South African town of Bethlehem. Being a handful as a child, his mother decided to send him to school two years early. Unfortunately, being the youngest in his class, he was frequently bullied

In the late 1950s, Laubscher and his family moved to the town of Stellenbosch, where his father was originally from. He continued his education at Stellenbosch High School.

Laubscher’s mother opened a boarding house for students attending Stellenbosch University. After school, Laubscher would help with chores around the house. He soon became friendly with the students.

Some of the students practised boxing and being big for his age, he was allowed to practice with them. Initially, as the youngest, he was frequently beaten. However, as time progressed, he was able to hold his own.

Kyokushin Karate has been introduced to Stellenbosch University in the 1960s. Some of the students Laubscher trained with decided to join the University’s Karate club, in 1964. Being tall for his age and not wanting to miss out on the training, Laubscher lied, saying he was a student at the University.

At the Karate club, most of the technical input came from Japanese sailors arriving at the Port of Cape Town. Also, some input came from reading Mas Oyama’s books.

In 1965, the teacher running the club decided to switch styles from Kyokushin to Shotokan. That year the JKA (Japanese Karate Association), had sent four instructors around the world to introduce their version of Shotokan Karate. The last leg of their tour was in South Africa.

The JKA instructors were Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda, and Hiroshi Shirai. The four instructors spent six months teaching in South Africa. Kase was based in Durban. Kanazawa was based in Pretoria. Enoeda taught at the dojo of Stan Schmidt in Johannesburg. Shirai taught in Cape Town.

During Shirai’s 6-month stay, Laubscher would travel from Stellenbosch to Cape Town at least four times a week, to train with the Japanese master.

At the end of the JKA visit, Laubscher was graded to 1st Dan by a panel consisting of Kase and Shirai. At the age of 16, he became one of the youngest JKA black belts outside of Japan.

When Laubscher turned 17 he began his compulsory one-year military service.

In 1966 Laubscher’s teacher switched styles from Shotokan to Goju-Ryu. His teacher had travelled to Japan with James Rousseau, where they had trained at the Yoyogi Dojo of Morio Higaonna in Tokyo.

South Africa became one of the first western countries, where Higaonna’s Goju-Ryu Karate was introduced, outside of Japan.

After his compulsory military service, Laubscher enrolled at university to study for a degree in Physical Education. He later gained a Higher Teacher’s Diploma.

Laubscher worked as a school teacher for six years. He later joined the South African National Defence Force as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was the Sport and Physical Training Officer.

In 1972 Laubscher was elected to represent the South African National Team at the 2nd WUKO World Championships held in Paris, France. He made it to the Individual Kumite quarter-finals.

Morio Higaonna travelled to South Africa for the first time in 1972. He spent three months teaching in Cape Town. Laubscher trained with him on a daily basis. He was invited by Higaonna to train in Japan to further his knowledge.

In 1973 Laubscher travelled to Japan for a six-month stay. He travelled by ship and was at sea for 25 days. During the journey, the ship encountered a typhoon in the South China Sea.

Laubscher arrived in Tokyo at a time when there were very few foreigners in the city.

In his 30s, Higaonna was in his physical prime. Training at the Yoyogi Dojo was tough. There were three main classes each day lasting around two hours and consisted of practising plenty of basic techniques. After the last class, some students would remain for extra training.

In 1975 Laubscher represented South Africa at the 3rd WUKO World Championships held in Long Beach, California. He was a member of the Kumite team that lost to Great Britain in the semifinals. Great Britain became the eventual World Champions by defeating Japan in the final. South Africa lost in the 3rd place match against the Netherlands.

During the championships, Higaonna and Teruo Chinen gave a Goju-Ryu demonstration. Laubscher found the demonstration awe-inspiring.

In July 1979, the IOGKF (International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate Federation) was established by Higaonna. Laubscher was appointed joint Chief Instructor of IOGKF South Africa. In 1983, he was appointed Chief Instructor.

For the next few years, Laubscher travelled around the world assisting Higaonna. He also conducted gasshukus and seminars helping to establish IOGKF as one of the biggest Goju-Ryu organisations in the world.

In 2004, the World BudosaiI was held in Okinawa. Laubscher was promoted to 8th Dan by Higaonna. His next promotion came in 2015. He was promoted to 9th Dan by Higaonna at the IOGKF Country Chief Instructor Gasshuku held in Okinawa.

Between 29 July to 3 August 2019, the 8th Okinawa Traditional Karate Gishiki was held. During the event, Higaonna gave a demonstration. Laubscher also participated in a Master’s Demonstration.

During the Gishiki Higaonna presented certificates to Laubscher of South Africa, Kazuo Terauchi of Japan, Ernie Molyneux of England, Henrik Larsen of Denmark, and Tetsuo Yamagawa. This was for the promotion and development of Traditional Karate.

The global Covid-19 pandemic occurred in 2020. Laubscher’s teaching commitments were cancelled. His dojo in South Africa was also closed due to a lockdown enforced by the government.

Like many instructors around the world, Laubscher began teaching classes on Zoom to his South African students. He embraced this new way of teaching. He was soon receiving requests from other students from around the world to teach online classes. Many of these students were under lockdown in their respective countries. He was able to accommodate these requests. He conducted online sessions across five continents and nine time zones.

Between 19-20 July 2020 Laubscher conducted an online gasshuku. Around 200 students from 20 countries participated in the training session.

In September 2022 Morio Higaonna announced that he would be leaving the IOGKF to form a new organisation.

Bakkies Laubscher is currently a Technical Advisor that IOGKF. He also sits on the IOGKF grading panel. He spends most of his time teaching Karate locally and internationally. Asa long-time student of Morio Higaonna he stresses the importance of practising basic techniques.

Away from Karate Laubscher lives in Stellenbosch with his wife, Denise. Together they have three adult children. He has also retired from the military, where he served for many years.

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