Albert Chek. The Quiet man with a black belt

Professor “Peter” Albert Chek - 9th Dan was Principal of Kawaishi Method Jiujitsu Australia and a first generation student of Kawaishi who won the 1947 Champion de Paris tournament and Kawaishi Medal.

Chek was part of Wally Strauss' organisation when he came to Australia, and helped Wally translate four volumes of books that were hand-signed and given to Strauss by Kawaishi.

Several Instructors of Strauss were also sent to Tasmania to gain extra instruction from Chek, including Kancho Bradshaw. This was the beginning of the friendship between Chek and Kancho, that was renewed several years later.

Chek then moved from Tasmania to Perth and Strauss and Chek had a falling-out. Years later, Chek reestablished ties with Kancho, joined Kancho’s organisation and became a life member of the Federation.

First publised in "People Magazine" May 15 1958 by Harry Frauca

Albert Chek knows when (and How) to give in to conquer

His physique is not impressive. It is neither the tough, ox-like build of the wrestler nor the steamroller power that boxers seem to have. He is just a handsome, blond man of middle height in his early 30s.

His type could be seen by the hundreds in the rush hours, going to snatch a quick lunch somewhere or heading home after a weary day’s work, an average man type, but with a big difference. He is a yudansha or holder of a judo black belt.

His name is Albert Chek. A Paris-born. 33-year-old Australian and one of the dozen men in Australia who are qualified to wear judo black belts. Chek has a judo dojo (gymnasium) in Hobart, Tasmania, where his pupils are taught that a man’s physical strength can be easily overwhelmed and crushed by speed and by the Japanese judoka’s ancient belief in fudoshin, or imperturbability of mind in emergency.

Chek explains two of the fundamentals of judo this way:

“Speed and fudoshin are amongst the fundamental principles of judo. Say a big man makes a sudden rush on a diminutive but experienced judoka. The latter will suddenly let out a cry which will distract the big man’s mental concentration for a split second, but long enough for the judoka to overpower him.

“The big man was not expecting the judoka’s cry. He was only intent on hurting the judoka and was perhaps expecting to get hurt himself. But the judoka’s cry distracted him completely. That cry in fact was as effective as though the judoka had hurt the big man physically.”

Judo, Chek says, is not an average man’s sport. To Chek, as to any true judoka, judo comprising the mental attitudes of mesmerism and yoga, hypnotism, insensibility to pain, uttermost mental concentration.

The judoka’s 10 commandments are displayed -on a board set in a prominent place in Chek’s dojo.

These are: Follow the advice of your professor and master and treat him with respect; avoid vainglorious and arrogant behaviour{ when you are successful; attend training regularly; treat your training partner as a friend; never give foul blows; in your private life behave so as to show yourself superior to the average level; always help the weak; show respect and courtesy to women; abstain from all excess and vice; apply to your private life the motto: “Give in so that you may conquer.”

He says the Japanese judokas have match more control of the mind than Western judokas have.

Unbeatable, even at 70

“The Japanese as a race are more meditative, emotionless and selfcontrolled. Their religion is in itself conducive to meditation and hence to the right attitude of the true judoka.”

The judoka’s ambition is to be promoted to a black belt—to yudansha. The black belt is divided into 10 dans or grades. (Chek has a second dan.) There are only several thousand living men who are yudanshas but all of them are dangerous. Seventy-year old Mifune Kyuzo of Tokyo, who has a 10th dan, is still unbeatable on the mat, despite his age.

Englishman E. J. Harrison was the first Britisher to become a yudansha when he was accorded the title during the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5. The headquarters of judo are the Kodokan at Tokyo. Australia’s foremost judoka is Austrian-born Wally Strauss, who has a fifth dan.

Strauss is the Australian representative of the International Judo Federation and the president of the Victorian Judo Association. J. A. C. Gordon of Victoria and Dr Ross of Brisbane have black-belt third dan.

No fear of knife-fighters

Chek can demonstrate that thugs armed with knuckledusters, coshes, chains, match-box razors or knives haven’t a chance against a yudansha. By exercising pressure with his fingers on a certain nerve, Chek can paralyse a man’s limb.

By pressing his thumb on a man’s carotid artery, Chek can send him unconscious . By a simple hand-shake he can paralyse a man’s arm or break his collar-bone.

With a simple stick he demonstrates how he (or as he says, even a grandmother) can overpower and injure an attacking knife-fighter.

“It’s not really necessary to have a stick to overpower a knife-fighter when you know a bit of judo. But if you have a little stick there is absolutely nothing to fear. Japanese judokas say that ‘a stick is sharper than a bolo-knife’.”

In a demonstration of this Chek had one of his pupils make a sudden lunge at him with a dummy knife. Holding a fragile stick by both ends, Chek clamped it down on the pupil’s knife-arm, stepped daintily behind the pupil twisting the stick around the knife-arm, and then he began heaving upwards.

“If I heave a little more, I break his arm. It is so very, very simple,” Chek said.

Two of Chek’s pupils rushed him with dummy knives and in a second he had them rolling in the dust.

“An experienced judoka can always beat a boxer. A boxer is only good standing. A kick on the knee, or a leg throw will bring a boxer down on the mat, and once he is down, he is quite powerless,” Chek says. He says wrestlers are much more dangerous than boxers because as a rule they are heavy and strong, are used to receiving hard blows, and are good at ground work.

The deadliest combination

Chek also teaches jiu-jitsu and the French fighting-method of “la savate” which is literally “the shoe” but generally is known as “boxing with the feet or shoes.”

“La savate is the Paris apaches’ fighting method. It doesn’t consist of kicking only, but an expert can use his legs and feet as quickly and as effectively as a boxer uses his fists,” Chek says.

One of the principles of la savate is that the leg has a further reach than the arm, and so a little man hampered by short arms, can use his legs, to an advantage.

A boxing-cum-savate game is very popular in Thailand. Chek is the only one who teaches la savate in Australia as a complement to judo and jiujitsu. He believes that the combination of jiu-jitsu, judo and la savate is so dangerous that it can only be used in case of one’s life depending on it. Chek is very careful whom he admits to his classes. Tough guys and budgie types are not wanted.

“The more you know about fighting, the more scared you are to fight. A good judoka can easily kill a man. Judo is the ‘gentle art of defence’ and good judokas only use it to defend themselves, not to attack people,” Chek says.

“I always avoid fights. I am afraid to hurt people.”

Chek learned judo under Japanese yudansha -6th dan Kawaishi Shi-Han at the French Society of Judo, Paris. Judo in France became legal in 1937. Before that only the police were taught and allowed to use judo.

Today, there are more than 1,000 judo clubs in France and several hundred French judokas have black belts. 

In 1948, Chek won the Paris judo championship when he beat 10 opponents in succession; he just threw them one after the other. The whole show lasted 20 minutes, one minute–or less—to throw each opponent on the mat, and one minute in between throws “to adjust my belt” as he puts it. After this the black belt was accorded to him by the International Judo Federation.

His “trade secret” throw

When he came to Sydney in 1950 he was the only black belt in the city (there are half a dozen black belts now). He wanted to start a judo dojo in Sydney but couldn’t find suitable quarters. But he had found a wife, and in search of quietness they moved to Hobart where they settled down and founded the first judo dojo to be established in Tasmania.

Like all black-belts, Chek has a pet throw which he has been practising for years but it is one of his trade secrets.

Judo is Chek’s life and he can talk expertly on shime (strangulation), kateme (Immobilisation), kubi-kansetsu (neck-locks). “You see, I press this nerve here, and I can hurt you. It’s so simple,” says Chek, the quiet man.

Hanshi Chek with Sensei Mark Dransfield

ABOVE: Sensei Mark Dransfield in conversation with Hanshi Peter Albert Chek at the Australasian Martial Arts Hall of Hame event in Tasmania, 2006.

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