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Easter 1977 saw the 2nd Australian Kendo Championships held in Canberra, ACT. The States that sent teams were New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. The results were:

1ST Place - Michael Payne
2nd Place - John Anderson

1st Place - Victoria
2nd Place - New South Wales
3rd Place - Queensland

At this time there was a second club in Sydney, which had been started by Mr. John Anderson. Some of his pupils were Danny Strenger, Phillip Ingram and Greg Unwin.

Michael Payne phoned John with news of a second Summer School (1977), this time at the Gedatsu Kai in Kitamoto, Saitama. John, Eric Jeffrey and newcomer, Valmai Rodgers joined the Sydney group together with Rod Prince from Brisbane at this new venue. On the journey the group trained in Kagoshima under the guidance of Nakakura Sensei before a stay in Tokyo with Takeuchi Sensei and Akira Tajima, a former Rotary Exchange student who had lived in Shepparton, Victoria.

The Summer School was vastly different from the previous one at Katsura. The program concentrated on future Instructors. During this visit the group was introduced to Haga Sensei. All returned wiser and much more skillful.

About this time a young returning exchange student appeared at the Bourke Street Dojo in the person of Jamie Fennessy. Jamie had just completed a 12 month Rotary Exchange to Waseda University and held the rank of Shodan. Importantly he was also fluent in the Japanese language.


Mr. TAKEUCHI’s departure required his place on the AKR Executive to be filled. The new office bearers consequently became:

President - Mr Rexlawley
Vice President - Mr. O. Hirano
Secretary - Mr. Steven Lawley

The 3rd Australian Kendo Championships were held in 1978 at Brisbane under the control of Mr. NAGAE, Mr. HIRANO, Mr. IKEDA (Brisbane) and Mr. Rex LAWLEY.

1st Place - Stevenm Lawley
2nd Place - Michael Payne
Minor Placings - John Butler & Rod Prince

1st Place - New South Wales
2nd Place - Queensland
3rd Place - Victoria


Steve Lawley - 1978 Snowbrand Cup

Left to Right: Ikeda, Nagae, Okamoto and Hirano.

During 1978 the AKR heard that there was a Japanese teacher in Canberra (ACT) who was willing and able to teach Kendo. This person was Mr. Masayuki MIYASAKA and he formed a Kendo Club at the Australian National University, where he was teaching.

In Melbourne the Little Bourke Street Dojo remained small but from the beginning there was a special camaraderie. Marg (Meg) Irwin joined

Melbourne Kendo Club in January 1978. What it was like to be a member in those early days can be felt in the following extract from her testimonial;


“ I loved many  things about the club. The people were committed and we had great fun together, - John Butler, Eric Jeffries, Valmai Rogers, Ron Jones, Jamie Fennessy and Paul Macak warmly welcomed me and became great friends. Later Yakov, Sofie and Phoebe Macak, Mark Wild and Bob Collins also became dear friends. I enjoyed long conversations in cars when various members dropped me home after training. At any one time there were never more than one or two women training in the club and the relationships between the women were special and supportive. Val Rogers, Vicki Pittard, Sofie (10) and Phoebe (8), Kerrie Hollaway, Trish De Brinker and Barb Jeffries were my training comrades at different times. Warm friendships also formed nationally through the trips to Sydney and Canberra and visits from those clubs and Queensland for the various Australian gatherings. I particularly remember Ron Bennett and Di & Warren Hughes from Sydney. There was always warmth & laughter at the Club and it was very welcoming to newcomers. Friendships were fostered by the numerous social events, and the nights at Kuni’s having miso soup or at the pub with jugs of beer after training. “ (3)


At the end of 1978 Meg had the “life changing” opportunity to travel with Valmai to South Korea to train in Kendo. Valmai was taking up the invitation of a Korean Kendo player she had met in Japan the previous year at the Kendo Summer School. On that trip, Meg also trained in Japan, traveling alone with her bogu and being invited to stay at someone’s house every night with the promise, “Tomorrow we train”. She was one of our first female Kendo Ka to travel to Japan thanks to her association with Kendo.

This group photo was taken from a National Championship circa 1978 /79.
Notables from Victoria are Ron Jones, standing 4th from left, Nagae Sensei 6th from left,
Eric Jeffrey second from the right and Marg Irwin seated second from left.

A youngish Yakov Macak began Kendo training that year and his first impressions at Little Bourke Street are worth recording here;


In March 1978 I went to the Melbourne Kendo Club Dojo in Little Bourke St on a Sunday morning. There were about 10 people training, and Mr Hirano (4th Dan at the time) was in charge.

He showed me how to do single men suburi to the count of three – my first Japanese lesson was  “Ichi, ni!; san”.  He then went to look after the rest of the class.

I continued the “Ichi, ni!; san”, wondering how long this would go on.  Eventually I stopped to watch what the rest of the class was doing.  Mr Hirano noticed and gently motioned me to keep going.  Looking back I’m not sure I remember this correctly, but it seemed that this is all I did in my first class, and each time I stopped Mr Hirano encouraged me to continue.

The Melbourne Kendo Club had a floating membership of 12 –15 at that time with about 8-10 at each training session.

John Butler was the founder of the Club, Eric Jeffrey was quite experienced, and most of the others had only been training for a year or so.  Paul Macak, Marg Irwin, Bob Collins and Mark Wild were some of the regulars, and I think Gary Oliver started around this time as well.  Of course there were many other who came and went.

The Little Bourke St Dojo was on the first floor and our training times of Sunday mornings and Monday evenings were sub-let from Tino Ceberano, who conducted Karate classes there.  He and John were good friends.  The room was also used for ballet classes, and judging by the pattern of cigarette burns on the floor it had once been used as a bar of some sort.

There were no change rooms, showers or storage space, and we trained all the year around as long as people were available.

Mr Takeuchi had previously instructed in Melbourne but he had left
Australia by the time I started, and Mr Hirano was the senior instructor.  He also enjoyed a game of golf on Sunday mornings, so most of the instruction was done by John and Eric.  Mr Nagae (5 Dan at that time) was living in northern Victoria and he would come down to Melbourne every month or so.  Later a young James Fennessy returned to Melbourne to study at Monash University providing some exciting new blood to the Club, and was a strong early influence on my Kendo.

Kendo equipment was hard to come by and there was no regular local supply.  I think we relied on donations and ‘loans’ for all the armour we used, and only the few who had been to Japan had been able to purchase their own.  John was tireless in maintaining contact with various Japanese visitors to Melbourne, and we relied on many of these people to bring shinais, hakama & kekogi, and even 2nd hand bogu with them when they visited Melbourne.

(Yakov Macak 2007)


Continued >

(3) See Testimonials section for a full copy of Meg’s recollections of those early years.

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