Soke James Joseph Blundell
22nd December 1921 - 13th November 1989
Founder Lowlands Ju-Jitsu Association
James Joseph Blundell was the name he signed when he joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 14. The minimum age to join the Merchant Navy at that time (1935) was 16. The call of the sea was so strong, he lied about his age, and so his journeys began. He was a small man in stature but strong of limb and mind and had an enormous appetite for learning.
In the early days before the Second World War, he traveled all over the world, mainly to Eastern ports, where he was first introduced to many fighting systems. He was so taken by the speed, agility and techniques of these people, there was a burning passion to learn. In the early days there were no container ships as there are now, in many ports cargo was unloaded and reloaded by hand for the return trip, and often this took anything from 2-8 weeks for the ship to be ready to sail. He wouldn't spend all his time in dockside bars with many of his shipmates, instead he traveled inland to small towns and villages, seeking out elders of families who taught fighting systems, many of which will never be seen again. Many systems are passed down from father to son and were taught within the clan, so to speak.
My father told me many stories of his full and eventful life, especially of his life at sea and his treks on foreign soil. The following paragraphs of this article are small, true extracts of his life, which he has described to me over the years.
On his many visits to Singapore, he stayed and trained with Master Kim, a Chinese gentleman with extraordinary gifts. He described to me in great details his first meeting with this gentleman. Master Kim owned a small shop which sold antiques and curious articles. He usually stood outside his shop, arms folded, studying the people who passed by. My father told me this was the only man he had ever met who actually possessed a sixth sense.
Master Kim unfolded his arms pointed to him and beckoned my father into the shop. My father felt no fear of this man only strange exaltation. After a few minutes of wandering around the shop Master Kim ushered my father through a curtain at the back of the shop. A small dojo awaited him, the walls adorned with weapons and masks of various sizes. He knew what my father was looking for. My father told me that Master Kim was his one and only true instructor although he had several in his quest for knowledge. Master Kim was an old Chinese man who had fled his own country because of the uprising there, and fearing for the safety of his own family he settled down in Singapore.
Another of his stories centred when he sailed into Rio De Janeiro, where he fought a local boxing champion. On the streets of Rio in the late '30s bare knuckle fist fights were big business, and many dollars were betted on the outcome of the fights. Prof. Blundell used his own Ju-Jitsu techniques to defeat him, and was carried aloft by his shipmates back to his ship.
In the Second World War my father ferried British troops back and forth to wherever they were needed in the world but the war did not alter Prof. Blundell from his quest for knowledge of the martial arts, even though he was torpedoed twice, once by a German U-Boat, in the North Atlantic. The second time he was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine he was adrift in an open boat for ten days and survived only on dog biscuits and water for that period of time. Out of the 15 men who entered the lifeboat with him, only two survived.
When he finally finished his travels, he settled down, and found employment with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company on a salvage vessel which patrolled the River Mersey and outer regions and was based in his home town of Liverpool at the Pier Head.
Throughout Prof. James Blundell's career as a martial artist, he has raised thousands of pounds for charity, giving exhibitions all over Great Britain. He has stamped his own identity on Ju-Jitsu in this and many other countries, being the founder member and chairman of the British Ju-Jitsu Association which he resurrected back in the 1950s.
Operating from the Lowlands Ju-Jitsu Club, West Derby, Liverpool, which Prof. Blundell also taught from, he has produced some of the most talented and respected Ju-Jitsuka in the western world.
His junior classes in the 1960s and 1970s were a tribute to his talent for handling children. Indeed the students came from all over England in coaches and mini buses to seek his expert tuition.Many instructors around the world have been taught by him and have adopted his syllabus, which has stood the test of time in a changing martial arts world.
Although he had been semi-retired from Ju-Jitsu for some years because of a stroke which left him partially paralysed, he could still tell you if you were going wrong in a particular technique and he would correct you, and he often sat on grading panels doing gradings from white to black belt. But in the end he had a second stroke which proved fatal and the messages of condolence at his funeral came from near and far, in respect of a man who was a pioneer of Ju-Jitsu in the country.