A life to remember

"Peter" Albert Chek
9th Dan

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.

Read People Magazine article about Hanshi Chek - A quiet man with a back belt.

Learn more about Hanshi Chek's 9th Dan promotion

Portrait of Hanshi Peter Chek

Hanshi Albert Peter Chek. (9th Dan Kawaishi Method Jiu-jitsu & Judo, 4th Dan Kodokan Judo, and Shodan Kempo Karate) was born on the 9th July 1925. The son of a Ukrainian Russian living in France, as a young boy Hanshi often found himself the victim of racial taunts. His father allowed him to take up boxing, but this did not appeal to Hanshi's stealth-like body and sharp mind. He was seeking something more mentally stimulating and challenging. A family friend recommended that he should try a new style of fighting that had just started in the Latin quarters. Hanshi spoke with his father, and an interview was arranged with the teacher Mikonosuke Kawaishi.

At the time, Professor Kawaishi, (a master of Jiu-Jitsu and graded student (4th Dan) by Professor Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo) was employed by the French Government to provide instruction in the oriental methods of control to the French police. Like Mayeda in America and Koizumi (his long time friend) in Great Britain, Kawaishi spread the message and style of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo wherever he travelled. It was to supplement his income that he opened his first club in the Latin quarters and it was there that Hanshi began his journey on the path of the martial arts.

During his interview, 12 year old Hanshi was required to explain in length why he wished to study martial arts and what it was he hoped to achieve. The sincerity of his answers was to determine whether Kawaishi would accept him as a new student or not. This selection process was very vigorous, and the duty bound oath drawn between Sensei and student was a contract not to be taken lightly. Having been selected as a suitable student, Hanshi was now permitted to study with Kawaishi, in the presence of great Judo legends such as Moshe Feldenkreis.

After five years of intensive instruction, Hanshi and his family became prisoners of the German army in 1941.

His father, a journalist, had written adverse articles about the German occupation, and for this he was arrested and sent to a work concentration camp in Berlin. Hanshi, with his uncle and a cousin, were sent to a work camp in Czechoslovakia.

After 18 months of incarceration, and one failed escape attempt, Hanshi made another attempt, knowing that if unsuccessful it would be his last. In the midst of an oppressive winter after dodging bullets and grenades, and being literally hunted by soldiers and dogs, he hid beneath the carriage of a goods train. When the train finally stopped, many hours later, a weak, cold and hungry Hanshi ventured from the temporary sanctity of the train to discover that he had arrived in the heart of Germany - Munich.

Though fluent in French and Russian, his German was not polished enough to pass as a local. This left Hanshi stranded and without identity papers, to wander the war torn streets posing as a lost and disorientated orphan that spoke a dialect of German. By chance or just through good fortune, a German soldier who had recently returned from the Russian front took him in.

Provided with this new identity, he was able to live among his former capturers, even becoming a volunteer fire brigade officer winning an award for his acts of bravery. He lived this way for several years, until he was recognised by a soldier stationed at the work camp from which he had escaped. Again on the run, he remained a fugitive until the end of the war. Following the war, Hanshi returned to Paris and again started training in Jiu-Jitsu and Judo directly under master Kawaishi who had- himself been incarcerated in Manchuria for a time.

In 1947, at only 22 years of age he won the prestigious Kawaishi medal (Champion of Paris). He defeated ten much higher graded players, each by full point wins and all this was achieved in less then twenty minutes. Hanshi Kawaishi awarded Peter with his Shodan on the spot. He also received from Hanshi a leather bound [limited] edition {#7661 copy of his own book entitled "Ju-Jitsu - My Method of Judo". Eight years later this book was translated into English by E.Harrison, a former journalist in Japan and a convert of martial arts.

Soon after the 'Champion de Paris tournament', Hanshi was sponsored by the French Army, for whom he was an unarmed combat instructor to the elite paratroopers, to travel to Japan and train at the prestigious home of Judo, the Kodokan. It was during this time that Hanshi was a live in guest at Master Kawaishi's home.

As Hanshi recalls on one special evening, he was awoken at approximately two in the morning.

The purpose, was to practice a move that the master had dreamt of, and whilst it was fresh in his mind he wanted to test its practicability on the mat. It was following an 18-month stay in Japan that Hanshi travelled to America, where he lived in New Orleans for almost a year. During this period he also visited Panama City and Colombia where he taught and trained.

In 1950, he arrived in Australia (Sydney) as a voluntary migrant, where he worked in a range of jobs including as a farmhand, chef and martial arts instructor until 1953. Then he left the mainland for an attractive job in Tasmania, where he settled and began his school of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu in 1956. It was known as the "Hanshi Check Academy", based at the Sandy Bay Rowing Club, where he taught three one hour training sessions each week.

By 1961, the school had grown from seven originating players to approximately 1,200 players and seven (71 schools throughout Tasmania). Hanshi also awarded three Shodan grades during this time, grades acknowledged by the Victorian Judo Association, a member of the International World Ju-jitsu, Judo and Judo-Do Federation which was the organisation headed by Kancho’s teacher, Professor Wally Strauss, (then a 5th Dan). Professor Strauss and Peter Chek struck up a friendship having travelled along similar paths, and exchanged knowledge and ideas including in the Kawaishi number system of techniques.

As we know, this concept that Kawaishi had created, was a unique number system. It intrigued both Professor Strauss and Peter for they knew the true reason for Kawaishi's choice to call the techniques by number and not by their Japanese names. Simply, Kawaishi had realised that many of his students found it difficult to remember and pronounce the Japanese names therefore he simply stuck to numbering them. This fact becomes even more obvious when reading Kawaishj's original private edition publication.

In this respect, Hanshi Chek is like an Uncle to our Federation which is why he was made a life-member of the Australian Shihan Kai when Kancho re-established ties once more in the 1990’s.

Between 1964/67 Hanshi travelled throughout NSW and Qld before finally settling down in Canberra where he worked as a Government employed Photographer. He also taught Jiu-Jitsu and Judo at the local Police Boys clubs as a master level instructor. It was also in Canberra that he met and married his lovely wife, Julie.

In 1968 they both travelled to Darwin where he managed a government hostel and then later a hotel/ night-club. Hanshi also taught Judo and self-defense to the Northern Territory Police recruits. In 1971 they both returned to the ACT where Hanshi managed public service accommodation hostels before becoming a government press photographer. During this time he also returned to teaching jujitsu and judo for the police boys clubs.

On the 12th of October 1981, he was awarded a Civic Award by the Governor of Australia, His Excellency Sir Zelman Cowen for his dedication and tireless work in the interests of the community as a martial arts instructor and member of community.

In 1994, Hanshi Chek and wife, Julie, decided to move to Western Australia. There he entrenched himself as a most valued member of the teaching team, becoming affectionately known as the "Walking Encyclopaedia" of martial arts by the students and his peers over there. "I am not a political martial artist who values the importance of superficial adornments to please others - I consider myself a martial artist.” said Hanshi. Accepting this fact, Hanshi unconditionally continued imparting his knowledge to anyone willing to learn.

It was in 1996 that Sir Andrew Flaming OAM, (who is also now deceased) acknowledged that it was an embarrassment to have someone with such a unique history, and depth of knowledge so grossly under graded. Therefore, Hanshi was awarded his 4th Degree Black belt in Kano Judo. An honour with Hanshi graciously accepted these grades acknowledging the sincerity of Hanshi Fleming's actions.

In June/July 1998, Peter’s Academy participated in a very successful tournament tour and Junior Judo Exchange program of Singapore and Malaysia. It was during this trip, that Hanshi represented the Academy as a coach and ambassador for the Kawaishi method, mixing with respected senior officials and Masters from several other countries. Hanshi's demonstration of technical knowledge and his physical agility simply reinforced his rightful position to be ranked amongst masters, such as Andrew Fleming, representing the Judo Australia contingent, and the Presidents of the Singapore Judo Federation and Malaysia Judo Federation.

It was upon returning to Australia that Hanshi Chek was elevated to the rank of 8th Dan – Hachidan, specialising in the Kawaishi method. This action was based on a recommendation made and supported by Hanshi Fleming. Three years later, Hanshi Chek was promoted to 9th Dan by Kancho and the Australian Shihan Kai.

Like Kancho, Hanshi Peter Chek has dedicated more than 62 continuous years of his life to help spread the teachings and philosophy of the Kawaishi method of Jiu-Jitsu and Judo throughout Australia. In 1999, the first ever Judo International to be staged in Western Australia was appropriately named the 1999 Australian "Hanshi Chek" Judo International in honour of Peter's achievements and life long dedicated commitment to the martial arts.

Hanshi Peter Albert Chek with Master Lawrence at AMAHOF

The tournament theme, was 'building on tradition' and it was open to junior and senior judoka from Australia and South East Asia. Further in 1999 the Peter’s Academy became an associate of the Australian Shihan Kai to which Hanshi was admitted as a life member by Kancho.

Hanshi Chek was one of the oldest participating full time instructor’s in Australia and a part of our history. As a sprightly and active man in his early eighties, Hanshi Chek was truly a master of the martial arts. Therefore it was an honour and a privilege tosee him promoted to the level of 9th Dan Jiu-Jitsu and to see him inducted into the Hall of Fame for his Lifetime Achievement in Jiu-Jitsu.

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