John Jarvis

I also took advice from my teacher on Jo fighting (stick approx. 120 cm long). He reminded me of the words of the great Miyamoto Musashi: “When you go on a long journey, think only about the next stop, not about the whole journey. When you fight many opponents, do the same.

John Jarvis

A pioneer of Karate in Australasia, John Jarvis is a pioneer of Kyokushin and Goju-ryu Karate in the region. He was one of the first men to complete the 100-Man Kumite Challenge.

John Jarvis was born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1940. Growing up he attended Rongatai College.

In 1959, Jarvis joined the New Zealand Armed Forces. He served in the Ordnance Corps, specialising as an ammunition technician. His work included the controlled demolition of old and faulty ammunition, such as unexploded bombs.

Once Jarvis’ stint in the New Zealand Army ended, he transferred to the Canadian Army Horse Artillery Regiment. He was stationed in the Middle East, South East Asia and Germany.

Jarvis was discharged from the army in 1965. He decided to travel to London. By this time he had become interested in martial arts. While in London he visited a number of dojos. This included a Judo club, which he did not find to his liking. He eventually found his way to the Kyokushin dojo of Steve Arneil.

Arneil’s dojo was the first Kyokushin dojo in the United Kingdom. He had trained in Japan under Mas Oyama and had been the first man after Oyama to complete the gruelling 100-Man Kumite Challenge.

Jarvis enjoyed training at Arneil’s dojo. By the time he returned to New Zealand in 1966 he has been promoted to the rank of 2nd kyu.

To further his Kyokushin training, Jarvis travelled to Japan in 1967. He had received a letter of introduction to Oyama, from Arneil. During his time at Oyama’s dojo, he trained six hours a day, six days a week, with some of the best ever Kyokushin practitioners. This included Tadashi Nakamura, Hideyuki Ashihara, Shigeru Oyama, and Hatsuo Royama.

Training at Oyama’s dojo was exceptionally hard, especially for foreigners. Standing over 6 foot, Jarvis was one of the few foreigners training at the dojo. Because of his size, he was very noticeable. He was frequently used as a partner during demonstrations and sparring sessions. He even appeared in Mas Oyama’s Japanese book, ‘Karate for the Millions‘.

While in Japan, Jarvis had the opportunity to learn other martial arts. Under Sensei Kuroda at the Tokyo Riot Police Headquarters, he trained in Iaido. From Sensei Shimizu at the Rembukan he studied Jodo. He also became friends with martial art historian, Donn Draeger.

On 5 August 1967, Loek Hollander, a Dutchman who also trained at Oyama’s dojo, attempted and passed the 100-Man Kumite Challenge. It was a brutal attempt, with Hollander having to be hospitalised.

Three months later, on 10 November 1967, Jarvis was asked to attempt the kumite challenge. He had learnt from Hollander’s attempt. He became the fifth man to successfully pass the challenge. He actually ended up facing 115 opponents.

In 1968 Jarvis returned to his native New Zealand. By this time he was a 1st Dan in Jodo; a 2nd Dan Iaido; and a 3rd Dan in Kyokushin Karate.

In New Zealand, Jarvis established the Rembukan Institute of Martial Arts and Ways. The name Rembukan comes from “Rem” – to train with heart and spirit; “Bu” – the martial ways; and “Den” – the place of practice. He was the Chief Instructor of the organisation.

At the Rembuden, Jarvis taught Kyokushin Karate, Iaido, and Jodo. He was a no-nonsense instructor. He required his black belts to regrade every two years. Over the years he cancelled around 10% of the black belts he awarded, for not keeping a high enough standard. The Rembuden would go on to have over 3000 students, in 25 clubs across New Zealand and the South Pacific.

In 1969 the New Zealand Kyokushin Association was established.

Jarvis was appointed the Chairman of the South Pacific Kyokushin Organisation in 1970. He took over from Ivan Zavechanos. He travelled around spreading Kyokushin Karate from Australia to the Cook Islands. He did this through demonstrations and competitions.

By 1974 Jarvis was married. His wife Maureen also practised Karate. That year she was graded to black belt by Tadashi Nakamura and Shigeru Oyama, who were touring New Zealand.

In 1975 Mas Oyama asked Jarvis to bring a New Zealand team to compete at the 1st World Tournament, held in Tokyo, Japan. Jarvis was not a fan of sport Karate. He did not take a team to another World Championships.

Tadashi Nakamura, a long time student of Mas Oyama, broke ties with him and Kyokushin Karate in 1976. He felt with the growth of Kyukoshin something had been lost in quality and instruction. In October of that year, Jarvis also resigned from the IKO. He shared many of Nakamura’s feelings. He also did not like the politics normally found in big organisations. Some of Jarvis’ students decided to remain with the IKO.

Knowing that Jarvis had left that IKO, his friend Donn Draeger, wrote him a letter encouraging him to visit the dojo of Goju-ryu master, Morio Higaonna, in Tokyo.

In May 1977 Draeger provided Jarvis with a letter of introduction to Higaonna. Jarvis travelled to Japan to train with him. Training was intensive. He returned to New Zealand ranked a 3rd Dan by Higaonna.

Jarvis aligned Rembuden with Higaonna’s organisation. The following year he arranged for Higaonna to visit New Zealand and Australia. Through the late 1970s and 1980s, he and his organisation helped build Goju-ryu Karate in New Zealand. In 1987 Jarvis retired as the Chief Instructor of the Rembuden. At the time he was the most qualified instructor in the Australasia region, holding black belts in five martial arts. He decided to stop teaching and focus on his own personal training.

Jarvis’ autobiography, ‘Kurosaki Killed the Cat‘ was published in 2000.

An early pioneer of Kyokushin and Goju-ryu Karate in New Zealand and the South Pacific, John Jarvis has helped promote both styles of Karate in the region. He is the author of several books are many articles. Away from Karate he and his wife Maureen have two sons. He was also a secondary school teacher for many years, teaching physical education and religious studies.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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