Henry Plee

Updated: Dec 21, 2021


Henry Plée is a French martial artist who is considered as the 'father of European and French karate'. He is one of the rare 10th dan karate masters living outside of Japan, and one of the few Westerners who hold this rank. Plée is also the oldest and highest karate ranking Westerner alive, with more than 60 years of fighting arts, including 50 in martial arts. He was a pioneer in introducing karate to France and Europe, and has taught most of today's highest ranking karate masters in Europe.

An an only son, Henry Plée started his sports career with gymnastics, weight lifting, French savate, Ju Jutsu, and Fencing with his father Alcide Plée, who was a sword master since 1912. He diversified into judo in 1945 at the 'Judo Club de France'. He was the 96th French black belt and is now ranked 5th dan at judo.

Physically, he demonstrated very powerful kicks and punches. So from 1946, he returned to French savate, also known as French kickboxing, at the club 'Banville' (the only remaining club at that time). He trained with famous fighters such as Rigal, Pierre Plasait, Cayron, and Pierre Baruzy. Despite the high training quality, he was still feeling the need to go stronger and deeper, and was still looking for something else.

He discovered aikido with Minoru Mochizuki, then karate from an article in Life magazine with Fukuda Rikutaro, his Judo Kodokan magazine's translator. Fukuda Rikutaro confided in him that he learnt karate in Tokyo with Gichin Funakoshi. This was the start of his karate career in 1953, with help from Donn Draeger in Japan.

In 1955 he founded his dojo: the Karate Club de France (KCF), which became Academie Française des Arts Martiaux (AFAM), which became 'Shobudo', also known as 'The Mountain' or as 'Dojo de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève' in Paris. It is the oldest karate dojo in Europe, which has won 32 French, Europe, and world championships since its creation.

Here he taught the four pillars of Japanese Martial Arts: karate, judo, aikido, and kendo. Plée instructed many black belts including Vernon Bell, who, at a later stage, became the foundation of the European karate institutions, and are today some of the highest ranking karate masters in Europe.

Henry Plee's martial arts achievements include;

10th dan, Karate

5th dan, Judo.

3rd dan, Aikido

1st dan, Kendo

1st dan, Bo-Jutsu