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CHAPTER 2

From Small Seeds

1970 - 1975



As the new decade began Kendo in Victoria remained largely non-existent save for the personal thoughts and dreams of John Butler and people yet to make a physical connection. I say physical connection for many would be Kendo Ka already had the seeds of interest sewn through movies and other Japanese martial arts then extant. It remains a phenomenon that many of the Victorians who eventually took up Kendo did so after studying or being introduced through another Japanese martial art such as Judo, Karate or Aikido. A closer look at why current Kendo ka took up Kendo suggests that this link is still as relevant today as it was then.


1973 – From left
Mr Maloney, Mr Takeuchi & Peter Heinrich


 

Not much happened in Melbourne in the early part of the new decade but in Sydney things were moving. In June 1971 a new replacement at Mitsubishi in Sydney arrived. He was a young 4th Dan, Jun Takeuchi. Takeuchi San began training at the Sydney Kendo Club in Willoughby and stayed until January 1975.

In January 1972 the Sydney Kendo Renmei changed its name to the Australian Kendo Renmei (AKR) and as such joined

the International Kendo Federation (IKF). Rex Lawley was elected s first President with Peter Heinrich as Vice President. In all some 21 members ere registered.

Down south John Butler had a surprise in the form of John Moore, a fellow Englishman who had trained at London’s Budokwai and who had attained Shodan in Kendo. Living on other sides of the city they would meet alternatively on Brighton Beach or Warrigal Park in Rosanna for Sunday trainings. This went on regularly through out the summer and autumn of that year.

The two gave some demonstrations of Kendo during this time, an important one being at Tino Ceberano’s North Balwyn Dojo. As a result of such exposure John Butler became the face of Kendo to many local martial arts groups and was elected onto the Steering Committee for the Martial Arts Council of Australia (MACA) in 1973. This Federal Government initiative was designed to represent martial arts in Australia, advise governments on funding and provide some controls on the proliferation of different groups. John was elected to represent Kendo and Bill Freeman was elected to represent Iaido.

Eventually the federal and state governments legitimized the MACA in 1974. NSW also formed its own MACA but this collapsed through lack of interest. The organisation in Victoria continued for some time.

In 1973 Paul Guerillot, the Shotokan Karate Instructor who had immigrated from France began teaching Kendo at his Auburn Road Dojo in Hawthorne, Melbourne. This was the first Kendo Club in Victoria. John Moore was regularly teaching Paul and his students until he suddenly disappeared, taking funds that Paul had given him to purchase bogu and shinai with him.

Paul invited John Butler to replace John Moore at his Kendo Club but their initial meetings proved a clash of both philosophies and personalities. Such clashes inevitably occur, but it should be remembered that both men came from different cultures and martial arts backgrounds and both were pioneers in a new land. Without labouring the point I think John summed up their early relationship suitably in his personal history;


 

“It was simple, I didn’t like Paul and Paul didn’t like me. He was French, I was English and that was the bottom line. But years later Paul and I buried our differences and became like brothers. We discovered a genuine love and respect for each other.”

(Butler 1994 page 23)

 

Needless to say, John did not continue to instruct at Paul’s Dojo.

In 1973 the second World Kendo Championships were held in Los Angeles, U.S.A. This time Ron Bennett attended for Australia.

In February 1975 the Mitsubishi Corporation transferred Takeuchi Sensei to its Melbourne office. He settled down in East Ivanhoe and began looking for a kendo Dojo. He checked with the Japanese Consul and was given John Butler’s name. Contact was made and John informed him that Paul Guerillot’s Kendo Club was the only Dojo in town. Arrangements were made for Takeuchi San to visit the Dojo the following Friday evening.


Paul Guerillot

 

 


Photo from Takeuchi Sensei’s collection taken in 1975 at Paul’s Dojo.
Paul is standing in the front third from the left and John Butler is second from the right.


According to John, Takeuchi was “horrified by what he saw. Rough, crude stick fighting. Men in Kendogi trying to beat each other into the ground”.

Conversely, Takeuchi San recalls, “it was very difficult to judge what was standard or not standard in Kendo style” so I asked John to come to Paul’s Dojo with me for a time being to watch his kendo and his Kendo activities.” (Takeuchi 2007). In any case Takeuchi San did keiko with Paul’s students for 2 or 3 months.Despite his efforts Takeuchi found it difficult to move these dedicated students away from their hard contact fighting ways.

Continued >



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