The Dutch as a nation are well known for producing great footballers and Thai and Kickboxing champions. However, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Guusje van Mourik was a true superstar of European and World Karate. Described as a “phenomenon”. She was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for winning the most Karate medals.
Van Mourik was born in the central Netherlands town of Zeist on 5 October 1955. Her early exposure to the martial arts was through the sport of Judo. She would eventually receive the grade of 2nd Dan. She competed in the Dutch Championships and won medals on four occasions (1974, 1976, 1978, 1979).
However, it is for Karate that van Mourik is best known. In 1982 she became the Dutch National Champion. She would do on to be Dutch champion an unprecedented twenty-five times. That same year she won the first of her four world titles in Taipei. Competing in the heavyweight (+60 kg) division, she defeated Yamafuku of Japan in the final.
Women were first allowed to compete at European and World Championships in 1980. Even then it was only the kata event. It was not until 1982 that they also started competing in the kumite events. Van Mourik became the first women’s heavyweight world champion, winning at the 1982 championships. From 1982 to 1988 she was undefeated at European and World level. She won her first international title aged 27 and her last title aged 33. She was one of the most dominant champions of any era. Her major titles include:
- World Championships – Individual kumite +60 kg – 1st place (1982, 1984, 1986, 1988)
- European Championships – Individual kumite +60 kg – 1st place (1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988)
In 1986, the year that van Mourik won her third World title she took part in the Dutch version of the popular Superstars program of the 1970s and 80s. She was the 1986 women’s champion and until Ben Spijkers in 1994, the only martial artist to win the title.
After retiring from competitive Karate, van Mourik made her debut as a boxer in 1989.
In 1992 she became the head coach of the Dutch Women’s Karate team.
Apart from her dominant Karate career, Guusje van Mourik was a trailblazer at the dawn of women’s international kumite competition. Apart from her appearance in the Guinness Book of Records, she also appeared in a list as one of the greatest Karate fighters.