14 January 2024



The Budokwai is the oldest Japanese martial arts club in Europe, and in recent days, was honoured to welcome in the recently retired two-time Olympic champion, ONO Shohei. As part of his journey in the UK, he was embraced by the Budokwai members and chairman of the club, 7th Dan, Peter BLEWETT. Of course Ono isn’t the only judoka who has been enticed by the history of the club, only a stones throw from Fulham Road, London.

Over a shorter term we have had the following guest instructors, all unique and amazing. Darcel Yandzi from France. From Japan, TANIMOTO Ikumi, TOKUNO Kasuhiko, KASHIWAZAKI Katsuhiko and EBINUMA Masashi. From Europe, Aleksandar KUKOLJ (Serbia), Nils STUMP (Switzerland), Neil ADAMS, Neil ECKERSLEY, and most recently the amazing and phenomenal Ono Shohei from Japan. These sessions provide inspiration to youngsters and ongoing professional development for our established team of instructors. There appears to be great demand for such Master Classes and we are currently happy to host them.

Tokyo Olympic Games: ONO Shohei (JPN) © Gabi Juan

Blewett didn’t fail to mention that INOUE Kosei joined them in 2010, stating the great demand for his presence, sharing him with Scotland, who were his primary hosts, and in the following year, their first female Olympic champion, TSUKADA Maki, with Blewett stating that sh was a ‘wonderful character and coach who made a real impact’.

Now the Budokwai has its own history, founded in 1918, but what of chairman Blewett? What was his journey his current position? Starting in his hometown of Beaconsfield at the South Bucks Judo Society in April 1965, he eventually started travelling to Camberley Judo Club for his senior grading.

My coach in Beaconsfield, Richard Cullen encouraged me to attend the Renshuden where I was privileged to be coached by Dave Starbrook. I was graded 1 st Dan at the Budokwai in September 1973 by Tony Sweeney and Malcom Hopkinson. I have trained there ever since.

It is well known that the Budokwai family has strong connections in London and these networks allowed Blewett as well as most members to ‘survive and flourish’ in the capital city. After graduating in 1979 with a degree in Physical Education, Blewett claims he was fortunate to securing living arrangements with fellow Budokwai member, Miss Gross, stating the house was somewhat of a judo Mecca in West London. He was joined by Richard John, John Hindley, Paul Ajala and a name we all know, voice of judo, Neil Adams.

Brian Davies, the Chairman for over forty years appointed me as Chief Instructor in January 1985. When I was made Chief Instructor there was some concern as I had not experienced judo in Japan. Our host in Japan was the former Chief Instructor WATANABE Kisaburo, he organised visits to the Nippon Budokan, Kodokan, Keichjo, Tokei Junior High School, Matsumae Dojo, Diacolo Company Dojo in Kyoto and International Budo University.

These memorable and supportive influences have guided Blewett’s mission to secure the Budokwai, honouring its contribution to the past but more importantly, to provide a unique experience for current and future judoka.

As for Blewett’s greatest memories of the Budokwai, they include some enviable moments, truly priceless experiences which have shaped his journey, including Ray STEVENS winning the silver medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 whilst in the role of Chief Instructor.

Watanabe Kisaburo and Peter Blewett © Peter Blewett

My first intense and memorable experience of Japanese Judo was in 1982-3 when Kashiwazaki arrived at the Club for one year. Of all the Japanese guest instructors, it was he who made the most impact with his Yoko Sutemi Waza and formidable ne waza. He was followed by Yamashita Yashuhiro, the greatest Japanese heavyweight, Nakanishi Hidetoshi a fine technician, Okada Hirotaka one of the great World Champions of that era. In 1993 Nakamura Kenzo came to the Club, technically brilliant and inspirational.

Following the attendance of Ono, it appears the trend of attracting the greatest technicians of our time will continue and given the incredible judoka we have on the IJF World Tour from Europe, we can rival that of the traditional Japanese.


Author: Thea Cowen