Dr. Dan Netherland, a certified 10th dan (10th degree black belt) calls the mountains of East Tennessee his home. For those unfamiliar with Netherland, he is a pastor that preaches at Jenkins Chapel in Cosby, Tenn. and holds multiple Guinness World Records for his feats of strength.
At the age of three, Netherland was diagnosed with polio and was not expected to walk again. His childhood was filled with medical problems, such as pneumonia and multiple lung problems. In 1954, as a young man, he began taking martial arts lessons in Jackson, Miss. at the Air Base gym by an instructor named Katani who was in town to teach strategic air command. At the time, the class was made for police officers and others in law enforcement and as such, wasn’t meant for kids. Netherland was by far the youngest student in this class filled with police officers.
He had a hard time moving around as a kid and his first attempts were not breaking boards, but popsicle sticks. As he began moving more in class, he saw the effects of his polio diminish.
Netherland became a dedicated martial arts student. In his early years, he studied judo and jujutsu under C.E. Morris, karate from Mas Oyama and aiki jujutsu from Pat O’Neil, who was a student of Tohei (the only person promoted to 10th dan by Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of modern aikido). Netherland achieved his first black belt in the early 1960s.
Since the middle of the 20th century, Netherland has been going strong, learning new techniques, teaching students of his own and in 2003 achieved the unbelievable: a Guinness world record.
In 2002, Netherland found a world record that seemed like a challenge. At Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, Tenn., Netherland broke 3014 lbs of concrete in 17 seconds, which obliterated the former record. Since then he has broken numerous other records, including breaking one ton of 1200 psi poured cement in a single strike, 21 red commercial house bricks in a single strike, as well as breaking 480 lbs free standing poured cement through a class 3A bulletproof vest in a single strike, thus making Netherland the Undisputed World Breaking Champion.
A few years ago, Netherland achieved the dream of acquiring the rank of 10th dan in aiki bujutsu, as well as earning the prestigious Living Legend Award by the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Since then, he has taken up the mantle as the chief director for promotion over the grandmaster council, which is made up of masters with the rank of 9th – 10th degree black belt.
Unfortunately for all of us, Netherland does not teach martial arts anymore. However, in August he will be starting a new class to train law enforcement on new styles of tactical defense with full certification to those who pass the course. For anyone that has known or met Netherland, there’s unanimous agreement that he is truly a living legend.
One can visit his website at DanNetherland.com or visit him any Sunday at Jenkins Chapel Church in Cosby, Tenn.