Created by Bob Jones and Richard Norton, Zen Do Kai is a free style martial art, which originated from Melbourne Australia. After receiving their credentials from the G?j? Kai karate dojoin 1970, the founders decided on an open concept martial art that would include principles of boxing, Karate, Judo, grappling, Brazilian Jiujitsu, Muay Thai and Eskrima. What distinguishes Zen Do Kai apart from the rest is it implements a number of forms and styles of traditional Thai kickboxing. Before opening his doors to the first martial arts club on 48 Elizabeth Street in Melbourne, Bob Jones was prepping, training security personnel in the industry since 1960, and was involved in a number of high profile assignments. These included offering his expertise to protecting world renowned bands such as the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks. His book “Let the Good Times Roll” is a compilation of his experiences, and was a bestseller for martial arts enthusiasts. Commemorated with the Blitz Martial Arts Lifetime Tribute Award in 1997, Bob Jones featured in his own segment on Channel 10, also known as “Fighting Fit” on the Good Morning Australia Program hosted by Bert Newton.
Zen Do Kai is far from being a closed system of combat, but is rather influenced by distinct elements from other acclaimed martial arts. Since it conception, this defense oriented sport has gone through constant changes, which simply keep it up to par with current strategies and trends. After the jet Black System was introduced in the 1970’s, the Freedom Forms Tournament System was put in place in 1983, which was not only one of the most competitive styles in the region, but also one with the most emphasis on competition. The training modules were amended in 1984, which focused on techniques that would work immediately and a number of practical postures. To add to this effectiveness, Zen Do Kai was combined with Muay Thai Boxing in 1984, and subsequently featured in the Australian kickboxing Event. During this period, a number of world champions were born and the international team’s event and three more world titles were pinned to the map. Bob Jones, who is one of the highest ranked martial artists in Australia or 8th degree, still plays an active role in creating and administering new Zen Do Kai techniques to over 20,000 students and 1000 schools in Australasia alone.
The training methods followed by Zen Do Kai have inspired those of older martial arts and is still open to new ideas and changes. The official Bob Jones website states that official Zen Do Kai clubs are located in Australia, Israel and New Zealand, which together place a large emphasis on holds and grabs and use Kata as a form of training and discipline. Zen Do Kai does not promote violence or fighting but rather focus on self defense techniques. Practitioners are awarded Zen Do Kai Crosses upon successful training, which is an evaluation of dedication, strength and loyalty to the sport. Crosses are awarded only by authorized instructors, who at times may need the approval of their instructors to bestow the honor. This hallmark of excellence is considered to be the stepping stone into the Zen Do Kai family, and is based on the understanding that the student will provide utmost loyalty and respect to colleagues in higher ranks.
There are number of levels of recognition given through crosses, which are divided into four categories. These categories are Bushido, Ishoa, Tomadachi and Kyunnin. The Bushido cross is the highest ranking of them all, and was awarded initially to those training six nights a week in the Soke Bob’s business, and is now a symbol of protection of the junior brothers and sisters in the Zen Do Kai heritage. Next is Ishoa, which is a round cross that is awarded for fierce determination in the ranks and is often celebrated at Zen Do Kai ceremonies. Tomachi is a rectangular shaped cross that is earned by lower rank Zen Do Kai practitioners, who demonstrate leadership and promise during their training. Lastly is the Kyunnin cross, which is triangular in shape and is a rare commemoration furnished to those who demonstrate exceptional business acumen and a diligent drive to succeed.
Since the system is constantly evolving, practitioners of Zen Do Kai look forward to learning new techniques periodically. This unique mode of learning has not only made Zen Do Kai a pronounced form of martial art, but one that is far more efficient than others. The styles taught are notably similar to modern principles of defense, making it more interesting and valuable to learn. The grappling techniques and similar to the ones practiced in Brazilian Jiujitsu, while the punches and kicks are inspired by Karate or Tae Kwon Do. Kicking, boxing and punching are all used intuitively, with the use of weapons such as Katana, Arnis, Kendo and Bo in extreme circumstances. The basic principles of Zen Do Kai teach students to overthrow the assailant, irrespective of their shape, size or strength. Zen Do Kai does not only focus on maneuvering kicks and punches, but also on respect, self discipline and inner strength. The most significant techniques that are taught during the learning period and ones that must be mastered include throwing, grappling, punching, holding, locking and kicking.
There are a number of Zen Do Kai competitions held every year and in different parts of the world. These competitions are geared towards children and adults of all walks of life, and are governed by the rules of most renowned martial arts.