The Zen Do Kai

Zen Do Kai is a freestyle martial art system which was developed in Australia in 1970 by Bob Jones. The style was founded by Jones and Richard Norton when they left the Japanese Goju Kai karate dojo of Tino Ceberano.

 Jones opened his first Zen Do Kai martial arts club at 48 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne. It was originally intended to cater for those who worked in the security industry with Jones. It is a martial arts system which has evolved over the past three decades.
Zen Do Kai is a simplified street fighting art with clubs located across the whole of Australia and New Zealand; and affiliates based in most major cities; as well as schools in Israel, Japan, Indonesia and the USA. It became the largest Martial Arts organisation in Australasia, with nearly 1000 classes per week.

Jones describes Zen Do Kai is an “open system”, and as such is “open to influences and ideas from all around the world”. Zen Do Kai means – “the best of everything in progression”. Its elements include self defence moves, katas, and strike work.

Although Zen Do Kai is considered a form of karate, it also contains elements of Thai kickboxing in that each student is taught to fight in a Thai kickboxing stance and to use all of its techniques. It is set apart from many forms of karate because it allows kicks to the legs to take place during sparring and pad drills as well as many other techniques and practices used by Thai kickboxing. 

The Zen Do Kai philosophy encompasses the principle of “if it works, use it” and as such contains eleements of a variety of other martial arts including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo, Aikido, the Phillipino martial arts and many more.

Zen Do Kai uses katas as a form of discipline during training and these katas have been selected for the aid in rudimentary development of stances and techniques. Zen Do Kai also places a large emphasis on grabs and holds and other general close combat and ground fighting techniques which leads many people to consider Zen Do Kai a martial art very well suited to practical defence situations.

However, some others (particularly those belonging to the traditional schools of karate) claim that this promotes street fighting and violent behavior. However, research indicates that this fear is groundless as Zen Do Kai follows the classical martial arts model with a distinct hierarchy, a philosophy and the promotion of the ethical code of bushido. Zen Do Kai schools place an emphasis on self defence but do not promote fighting or violence.

The Founder, Bob Jones: Bob Jones has been training and teaching martial arts since the 1960s. Many black belts in Zen Do Kai were once employed the security industry as this was the original inspiration for Zen Do Kai. The organisation is now much larger and more diverse.

Zen Do Kai black belts have done security for rock concerts, and in the eighties Bob Jones personally toured as bodyguard to many major rock and roll celebrities including the Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Fleetwood Mac, ABBA, David Bowie, Boy George, and Linda Ronstadt. He wrote of his experiences in his book ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ (Jones, B. (2001) Let the Good Times Roll.

Bob Jones travelled to the USA in the 1970’s and brought the kickboxing concept back to Australia. He is consiered the ‘father of Australian kickboxing’ and is generally and affectionately referred to as “the Chief”.

Bob Jones’s advises and guides his organisation of 1,000 schools of self defence throughout Australasia and has developed over 20,000 Black Belt students.

He has made numerous television appearances providing self defense tips for women.

He ran a regular self defence segment called ‘Fighting Fit’ on Bert Newton’s Good Morning Australia program (Channel 10) in 1992-1993.

He writes regular magazine columns and provides expert commentary for kickboxing bouts. He holds the rank of eighth dan, is one of the highest ranked martial artists in Australia and in 1997 was awarded the prestigious Blitz Martial Arts Magazine Lifetime Achievement Award.