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JOE GRANT GRIERSON - Grandmaster Joe Grierson

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Written by © Jonathan Kruger 2010


That same year Joe was teaching at the main kodokwan in Cape Town when an old Chinese gentleman walked into the dojo and watched the training that Joe was doing. According to Joe the Chinese man was so impressed  with the quality of jujitsu that he saw, that he asked to see Joe after the lesson in private. After the class was over the Chinese came into the dojo and asked Joe to lock the dojo doors. Joe did not know what to make of this! So he did this and then the Chinese man said that he wanted to pass on an ancient Kung fu technique to Joe before he passed away.

In the Japanese jujitsu term this called the Okuden secret teaching of the school taught to the next generation instructor from the Master and head of the school before he dies. And Joe was given this honor to learn the ancient teaching of this old Chinese masters school. This was told to me in 2005 by Grand master Joe. I asked him how it was done hoping that I could have the honor of knowing the secret. But Joe said he felt that no one he knew was ready for him to pass on this knowledge.

It is not known if Joe had ever passed on this ancient secret art to anyone before he passed away in 2007. He just explained to me only in words how it was done, that you hit someone and cracked the bone just above heart in a certain way not to completely break it but to just fracture  it that the person never even felt any pain, just feeling a little stiff the next day this would cause a blood infection. And the person would die after a few days if he was not taken to a doctor who knew how it happened. Joe told me that old Chinese man tried it on his top student his son and later rushed him to the hospital for an  operation to fix the fracture which was a some operation. But his blood had to be changed not to course any infection in the body.

Now about the kodokwan okuden, as far as I know Joe only taught two of his top students here in Zambia the kodokwan Gung fu and the wind mill movement Okuden, Hanshi Steve Arneil and Shihan John Kruger. This is truly an ancient art that should be closely guarded by only the highest guardians of the Kodokwan jujitsu school.

Grandmaster Joe was also very much into weapons training from Japan and the Philipines..According to him the first weapons he learnt from Dr Henry Johnston were the Han-bo and the Tan-bo jitsu which are traditional jujitsu weapon arts. When Joe introduced weapons training to me in 2005, I could see he was truly amazing with the Han-bo. He showed us that the Han-bo could  be used in of course  many  striking techniques, but also in Kyusho-waza, locking up the neck, arms, legs and even throwing someone with it straight down to the ground. And finally it could be used in arresting techniques for guards.

Joe was also very good at using a simple pencil that he kept in his top pocket. The pencil became a deadly weapon in Joe’s fingers. Now I believe that old saying that “The pen is mightier than the sword” In Joe’s fingers it could be! I remember one particular afternoon training Han-bo, he had all of us jumping around and snapping us up on to our toes with very painful Han-bo locks. He suddenly stopped the class and spoke to us. He called me out in to the middle of the dojo and said that we should   moved so fast flicking and hitting and blocking with the Han-bo that no one should be able to see any of the movements coming before you were knocked out! He told me to throw a punch at his face, before I knew what was going on he stepped sideways came on my blind side blocked my punch with the Han-bo struck me in the face and then locked me up in a wrist lock and then finally finished the kata by throwing me on the mat and then a very painful arm lock.


Sensei Kelly Sichone Goju-ryuI got up and did not know what had just happened to me! One of the students brought to my attention that I was bleeding in the face WOW! I don’t know if Joe hit me too hard in the face by accident to draw blood , but I never saw it coming.

The next victim of another Han-bo kata  by Joe was Sensei Kelly Sichone 3rd dan Goju-ryu. He was told by Joe to try and use front kick Mae geri. Joe redirected the front kick using the Han-bo then used a Hanbo leg lock which sent Kelly flying on to the mat break falling  as hard as he could! Then tapping out and screaming as Joe used another Han-bo leg lock technique I have never seen in any school. The next morning in the dojo Sensei Kelly ankle was so swollen he could hardly walk.

That was Joes Han-bo jitsu showed to us in a practical situation, we never forgot those classes ! Joe even had a special class to protect someone from dog attacks. 


In  April 2005 the Zambia kodokwan was celebrating 50 years of judo and jujitsu in Zambia which was held at the Lechwe international school. Joe came in for this very special event and stayed with us. The kodokwan was able to raise the money for his plane ticket We had many important guests from all over the country. Even the Japanese  government here in Zambia came to meet the famous Grandmaster Joe Grant Grierson, with them came the top Japanese judo coach who was teaching judo in Zambia , Mr Kentaro Suchiya 3rd dan judo from Hokaido. Who did the Nage no kata for shod an black belt with a local judoka Michael Kanyemba a Kodokwan 1st dan.

A interesting story happened the day before the event Sensei Kentaro was showing how the Japanese combined Morote Seoinage to follow into Ouchi gari. Joe commented that he could  see that this fellow was very good at the basics of judo especially Joe noted that he had  a very good grip fighting style in kumi kata. In the afternoon was randori against him with all the different judo clubs including the local Kitwe police judo club. Sensei Kentaro was more than a match for any of the judoka present.


The last fight was against our local Zambian Kodokwan fighter Michael Kanyemba verses Japanese Kodokan champion from Hokaido university.  Joe commented he was very interested to see which fighter was better. Kodokan verses Kodokwan! Even all the karateka on the copperbelt came to see this fight. Sensei Kentaro started off with a blur of  throwing combinations which Michael blocked quite well. At the time I was sitting next to Joe watching the fight. For the first minute Kentaro was doing all the attacking and Michael had his time cut out just trying to defend himself from been thrown. Suddenly the Japanese was swept of the mat by a powerful Sasae- tsurikomi-ashi ankle technique for ippon! Kentaro bowed very low to Michael and said in English ‘Bery good surow”

Joe mentioned during the match that after 50 years our judoka still fought the way he had been taught by Dr Henry Johnston. Michael Kanyemba at the 50 years celebration was awarded 3rd dan for throwing the Japanese university champion, the very first black Zambian to receive an original Kodokwan grading from the late Grand Master Joe Grant Grierson and unfortunately the Last!

I had the great honor of being Joe’s uke in some of the best jujitsu demonstration Zambia had ever seen, Joe wanted to do the oldest form of  Kodokwan koryo jujitsu with me and was called twice back out again on the mat by the crowds. After we finished the demonstration everyone in the hall, white, black or Japanese stood up cheering his name JOE! And MASTER! The Kitwe mayor could not believe his eyes that a 78 year old jujitsu master could throw a 100kg Jonathan Kruger with the greatest of ease. 

John Kruger 5th Dan Ju-Jitsu association of South AfricaAt this event John Kruger and Fr jude Mckenna were both graded up to 5thdan , Jonathan Kruger 4thdan and Michael 3rd dan in Kodokwan jujitsu by Grand Master Joe Grant Grierson. 

The Kodokwan here in Zambia by Shihan John Kruger recognized Joe’s 10thdan grading by giving him a Zambian Judo Association recognition of his grade. At this event Joe shared humbly his vision on Zambian TV about his dream of bring all the top Budoka around the world to be one in spirit under the Noble House of IMATSU. The Japanese also told him that day that IMATSU meant NOW in Japanese.

The following day John Kruger and my family said good bye and Joe handed my wife a life membership to the kodokwan for all GIRI and work in cooking all the food for everyone at the wonderful dinner party after the celebration. I drove Joe to Ndola international airport and the last thing he gave me was his new badge to wear on my judogi of IMATSU.


Today I wear this badge with my Kodokwan thrice armed badge knowing that we belong to very long proud heritage of martial arts. As I said good bye to him at the Ndola airport I did not know that would be the last time we would ever see him in Zambia again. I remember him once saying to me that the world of this generation no longer had a place for people like him and that is why he felt he should bring all the old Budoka to a family who respected them and would be there for them.

I would like to say thank you very much to all of those who knew the Grand Master Joe Grant Grierson  who shared with me all  their personal stories of this great man. This work has taken us 20 years to finally write down from Joe’s students who knew him  and trained with him here in Zambia. Some of them are no longer with us and have passed to higher place to be with God. Please forgives us with any mistakes on dates as a lot of this happened more than 80 years ago. Finally the Kodokwan members here Zambia and the Kruger family would like to dedicate this small work to the  living memory of  Grand Master Joe Grant Grierson the man who changed our life with his teachings.


Sensei Spike Hovlmeryer, 3rd Dan in Japanese Shotokan, was my dads training partner along side Steve Arneil. He later went to South Africa and studied Shotokan Karate under Kase Sensei and Shirai Sensei and Enoeda Sensei in the UK. He has his own small dojo in Kitwe where he trains personally and some times one or two students. He is one of the last Northern Rhodesia students for Joe from the early Zambian Kodokwan era. I see him on a regularly basis. A very humble God fearing old Northern Rhodesia Gentleman.



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