Hanshi – How it all Began

The Beginning.john lupton 1964

In the Summer of 1963, in the city of Waterford, Ireland, a teenager named Johnny Lupton developed an interest in the art and sport of Judo. He had read about it in a book on Judo produced by Eric Dominy 2nd Dan (at that time). He also realised that if a man could perfect himself in a fighting art, he could very much stand on his own two feet.

A young neighbour named Johnny Munroe (an American) got together with young Lupton and they commenced to teach themselves the techniques from the book. Difficult and enduring. Without an instructor to interpret their efforts, a lot of what went on was quite definitely incorrect.

Following a number of demonstrations in sketches for the “Tops of the Town” competition in Waterford City, local interest was sparked. There was no Judo Club in Waterford (or any other martial art) so Johnny Lupton decided to start one. He was 15 years old. How to start, that was the question?

He looked up the telephone directory and contacted the Judo Association of Ireland at Parkgate St. Dublin. He was told to write to them and explain what he had in mind. Initially, the response was not very favourable. The letter from the JAI was most discouraging. Waterford was too far from Dublin etc etc. He then wrote to the UCD Judo Team (at that time in Earlscourt Terrace, Dublin). This time he received a letter from Gerry Kelly, Captain of the UCD Judo Team. He offered to travel down to Waterford to give a public demonstration in return for having his expenses covered.

Johnny appraised his father in the matter and with his support, mats were made, canvass bought, venue organised and advertisements placed. The inaugural meeting took place in April 1964 following a demonstration by members of the UCD team. The club was launched with a full-blown committee in St. John’s Parish Hall, Catherine St., Waterford. Johnny was considered too young to be on the committee, even though he was recognised as founder member. Thus it all began.

There were a number of students in the club with some experience of other martial arts, including one or two who had come across the ancient art of Jiu-Jitsu. Johnny had befriended an ex-British Army Chindit, who had fought against the Japanese in Burma during the second World War. This man, who was half Irish/ half French had great knowledge of the martial arts and took Johnny under his wing to teach him some very interesting and highly dangerous techniques.

In September 1964, following a bad beating by a gang of thugs in Waterford, Johnny decided to support his increasing knowledge of Judo with Jiu-Jitsu. Under various instructors, including visitors from England and France, he progressed quickly in knowledge and capability. He was made the official “beginners” instructor in 1965 and awarded Charter and Founding member status the same year. By 1966, he had fought for his club in Dublin and elsewhere and took part in elimination contests for the All-Ireland Judo Championships in 1965. Judo was still in it’s infancy in Ireland and in 1964, there were only a few qualified black belts in the Country. Bernie Berrigan was the first female Black Belt in the Country and Noel Whelan was the youngest Black Belt (18 years old). Johnny befriended them both. He helped to open and launch the Kilkenny Judo Club and established relations with Cork and Limerick Dojos at this time also. He attended the International (Ireland V Wales) in the National Stadium in Dublin in September 1964. Here he met John Ryan (4th Dan) who represented Ireland in the Olympics. Judo was introduced as an Olympic sport in 1964 in Tokyo, Japan. He also met Watanabe, Asian Games Champion in Judo.

dundalk jjc 1974Johnny did a course under an English Jiu-Jitsu Master in 1965/66. Here he got the bit between his teeth and commenced serious training in Jiu-Jitsu. He continued his studies under Akuchi Akura (Japanese 5th Dan) in the Guinness, Iveagh Grounds Dojo, Crumlin, Dublin in 1967. Johnny then opened a club in Harolds Cross in 1968. He attained his First Dan in Jiu-Jitsu in October 1968. He continued his training in JAI Hombu, Parkgate St. Dublin in 1968/69 and often trained with the Irish Squad at this time. He gained the confidence and friendship of the late Charlie Hegarty (6th Dan), Shay Farrell and many more wonderful Judoka.

In 1972, he was transferred to Dundalk (he was a bank official with AIB). He opened a large successful Dojo in Dundalk in 1972/73. Here he set up his first Jiu-Jitsu training base. The Dundalk Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Center operated successfully for several years and at one time had the largest membership of any Judo club in the country with nearly two hundred students training every week. The Dundalk members gained a knowledge for toughness and decency. He got to know and befriended Matt Folan, President of the Irish Judo Association, and one of the most proficient Judo exponents in the World.

In 1977, Johnny opened a Jiu-Jitsu Club and Judo Club in Rush Co. Dublin. In 1978, the North Leinster Martial Arts Federation was launched to establish Judo and Jiu-Jitsu in their own identities and offer further facilities for other martial arts. In 1980, the Julianstown Judo and Jiu-Jitsu Center was founded. The organisation began to grow from strength to strength. In addition to keeping the links with the Judo association, he also maintained contact with his old Club in Dundalk and with other martial artists.

hanshi 1983-1He began to lay down the foundations of a new Jiu-Jitsu system in 1982 and laid out the first syllabus for the art. He re-structured the organisation at this time and building on his very creditable reputation began to lay the foundations for a strong and practical martial art which would stand on it’s own merits. Some of the students who joined him at this time are still members today (Marcia Weldon 3rd Dan and Kyoshi Joe Hughes 7th Dan… to name but two). Many, many more came later and are still involved in the ever increasing influence of Jiu-Jitsu today (Amongst the long-time serving members are Kyoshi Ken Byrne 7th Dan, Kyoshi Don Dike, 6th Dan, Shihan Justin Gough 5th Dan, Shihan Nigel Slattery 5th Dan, Shihan Geoff O’Toole 5th Dan, Shihan Breffni Gaffney 5th Dan to name but a few). Point of note! There have been over seventy five First Dan Black gradings in the NLMAF/JJI since 1986. (Taking all the Dan grade promotions since those years, it now exceeds 100).

In 1986, Johnny Lupton was awarded 4th Dan Black belt. He was also bestowed with the title Kancho (Head Director/Founder) by the National Commission of Ireland with the kind assistance of the Japanese Embassy. The documents registering “Akarui-no-Chishiki Kan” Jiu-Jitsu were sent to Japan. He was awarded his 5th Dan in 1987 and his 8th Dan in 1989. During these years, clubs opened in Swords, Balbriggan, Portrane, Donabate, Rolestown, Ashbourne, Drumcondra, Dundalk, Drogheda, Laytown, Castleblayney, Baldonnel, Naas, Limerick, Glasthule, Shannon, Ennis, Leopardstown, which when added to the clubs opened through the Irish Judo Association in the earlier years numbered more than twenty five dojos.hanshi justin

In 1994, Jiu-Jitsu Ireland was launched. This was born out of the NLMAF and the Irish Jiu-Jitsu Association. Since it’s launch, strong international links have been made. JJI members have represented their country overseas many times including, Northern Ireland, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and the United States of America. Johnny Lupton is the official Irish representative for the All Japan Ju-Jitsu Internation Federation (AJJIF) and The American Ju-Jitsu Federation (AJA). The JJI has associative links with a large number of international bodies, including the JJIF, CSR Italy, The Belgium Jiu-Jitsu Fed.German and French Federations and many more.

john lupton Hanshi Johnny Lupton was awarded his 10th Dan Hanshi (Family and Style Master) in September 2006, by the late Grand Master of Ju-Jitsu and Karate, Hanshi Ken Penland, Police Academy Dojo, Los Angeles, USA and Executive member of the American Ju-Jitsu Association and many renowned and august bodies throughout the United States and elsewhere.

With fifty years in Jiu-Jitsu, Johnny Lupton has proven his commitment and dedication to the art of Jiu-Jitsu and continues to extend his influence in the World of Martial Arts.