The road to perfection cannot be travelled in one lifetime.Dirk Heene
A long-time student of Shotokan’s, Taiji Kase, Dirk Heene has done a lot to promote the teachings of Kase.
Dirk Heene was born on 24 January 1948, in Aalst, East Flanders Province of Belgium. His father was a mining engineer.
When he was young, Heene’s father moved the family to the Zwartberg neighbourhood of Genk, in the coal mining province of Linburg. It was a tough neighbourhood where people needed to know how to look after themselves.
Around 1962 Heene decided to take up the practice of martial arts. At this time Kyokushin and Wado-Ryu were the main Karate styles being practised in Belgium.
In 1965, a touring party from the JKA, comprising Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enodea, and Hiroshi Shirai, arrived in Belgium as guests of Leo Aarts and the Belgische National Karate Federation. The touring party gave demonstrations and training courses in the cities of Brussels and Antwerp. Heene managed to see the touring party.
The National Judo Federation invited Kase to Belgium in 1966, to teach Shotokan Karate.
In 1967 Heene enrolled at the University of Ghent to study Physical Education Teaching and Coaching. Around this time he was practising a mixture of Karate and Judo.
On 1 December 1967, Satoshi Miyazaki arrived in Belgium to take over from Kase who had been sent to France. Belgium had asked the JKA for a permanent instructor. Miyazaki joined Taiji Kase, Keinosuke Enoeda, and Hiroshi Shirai as the JKA instructors teaching in Europe. Miyazaki eventually became the Technical Director of the Belgian Karate Federation (BAKF).
In 1968 Heene had the opportunity to watch a demonstration given by Miyazaki. He was impressed by what he saw. You soon started training with him.
It was around 1969 that Heene started teaching Karate. The following year he started teaching Karate at the University of Ghent.
In 1970 Heene met Kase for the first time, at the European Karate Championships, where he was competing. By the time Heene had become a member of the Belgian National Team. Kase was a referee at the championships.
Miyazaki recommended that Heene start training with Kase, who was now based in France. Heene started attending courses held by Kase in Paris. The first course he attended was a Christmas course held at the dojo of Henri Plee.
Heene was fascinated by Kase’s alternative approach to Shotokan Karate. This approach soon had a very big effect on his training. Much of Kase’s approach to training corresponded with what he was learning on his university course.
In 1972 Heene graduated from the University of Ghent. He became a Physical Education teacher in a secondary school in the Belgian city of Hasselt.
The 1st IAKF World Championships were held in Los Angeles in 1975. This was the JKA’s version of the World Championships. The Belgian Team was coached by Miyazaki, who was assisted by Kazuhiro Sawada, who coached the Kata Team.
The Belgian Kata Team consisted of Sergio Gneo, Dirk Heene, and Bruno Lorefice. In the Team Kata event, they finished in second place behind Japan.
Heene competed in a further two IAKF World Championships. In 1977 he competed in Tokyo, Japan at the 2nd IAKF World Championships. In 1980 he competed at the 3rd IAKF World Championships held in Bremen Germany.
In 1980 Heene retired from active competition. He had competed in many national and international competitions. He found retirement had a beneficial effect on his Karate. He started training with Kase on a regular basis.
By 1984 Heene had achieved the rank of 4th Dan. He had been graded in Japan by Hiroshi Shoji.
In 1989 Taiji Kase, alongside Hiroshi Shirai broke away from the JKA. They had previously founded the World Karate-Do Federation Academy (WKSA). They had wanted to establish an association free of politics.
Heene decided to follow Kase and Shirai. He established the Belgian Karate Academy (BKSA), which taught Kase’s version of Shotokan Karate.
In 1990 Steve Cattle invited Heene to teach several courses in the United Kingdom. Cattle, who was a member of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB), was thinking of joining the WKSA with his students. He had also previously trained with Kase.
In January 1991 Cattle left the KUGB and joined the WKSA. He founded the English Shotokan Academy (ESA).
On 21 February 1995 Steve Cattle died, following an epileptic fit. Shortly after the Cattle’s death, the ESA approached Heene to become their Chief Technical Advisor. Heene accepted the role.
In 2004 Kase establish the Kase-Ha Shotokan-Ryu Karate-do Academy (KSKA). He also established the Shihankai, which comprised Dirk Heen (Belgium) Pascal Lecourt (France), Pascal Petrella (Germany), Velibor Dimitrijevic (Greece), and Jim Martin (Scotland).
On 24 November 2004 Taiji Kase died in a Paris hospital. Heene and his fellow Shihankai kept the teachings of Kase alive by conducting training courses and seminars around the world. Heene also developed strong links with Hiroshi Shirai.
Between 10–12 May 2019 the Natsu Gasshuku KSKA took place in Espinto, Portugal. Heene was promoted to 9th Dan.
Dirk Heene continues to teach his students at his dojo. Along with the light of Pascal Lecourt and Velibor Dimitrijevic, Heene continues to follow and promote the teachings of Taiji Kase, through courses and seminars.
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I am a student of Dirk Heene. He is still teaching karate almost every day in his Dojo!!
i trained with him for 25 years before I left Belgium. Although I only started Karate when i was 38, it is thanks to him that I am still training now. I trained with Kase Sensei, Steve Cattle Sensei, Shirai Sensei and all the others mentioned in this article and others too at many international and national courses. His is in my opinion, the best Karate “mind” I ever trained with. Thanks to him, I still managed to make 4th. Dan and even though almost 76 years old, am still training today