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The Move to the YWCA

1980 - 1985


The decade began quite positively for Victoria despite the membership of the Melbourne Kendo Club being fairly small. Victorians had competed the previous year at the 4th World Kendo Championships and all felt committed to train harder and prepare financially for the next titles in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1982.

Early in 1980 Mr. I. SATO arrived in Australia for a short business trip. Whilst here he took over teaching in Sydney and was present during the 5th Australian Kendo Championship held there. Also present were Sensei NAGAE, Mr. R.LAWLEY and Mr. MIYASAKA. It was the first time the ACT had fielded a team. The results were:

1st Place - J. Fennessy
2nd Place - S. Lawley
3rd Place - W. Hughes

1st Place - New South Wales
2nd Place - Victoria
3rd Place - Queensland
4th Place - ACT

1st Place - M Miyasaka
2nd Place - K. Shinozuka

This was the first time the Australian Individual Championship was won by a Victorian student, Jamie Fennessy.

In May Gary Oliver (author) joined the group at Little Bourke St. Not wishing to make my contribution any the more substantial than anyone else’s, I detail here my initial beginnings with the VKR as part of an historical fact as much as establishing my credentials as an authentic historian of the VKR’s history.

It was a small but dedicated group that were practicing diligently each Sunday morning in a Dojo that left much to be desired. Margaret Irwin often laughed at the necessity to check mid morning for rats mating in our bogu bags in the changing room. Nevertheless there was a special feeling of belonging and commitment, all to our betterment even in those early years. Regular students included Jamie Fenessy, John Butler, Paul Macak, Eric Jeffrey, Yakov Macak, Mark Wild, Bob Collins, Margaret Irwin, Sophie Macak, Michael Lind, Ron Jones, Joe Donelli and Gary Oliver.

Back : Gary Oliver, Mark Wild, Joe Donelli, Bob Collins, Yakov Macak, John Butler.
Front: Marg Irwin, Sophie Macak, Sensei Nagae, Phoebe Macak and Trish de Brinker

Training was taken either by John Butler or Jamie Fennessy and shinai were purchased from Jols Martial Arts store in Little Bourke St or we simply used the electrical tape repaired models donated by more experienced members. I recall in my first months there Eric Jeffrey appearing after returning from training in Japan and presenting me with my first tenegue which he had bought at the Budokan in Tokyo. It may have been a small (but kind) gesture from him to a new kohai but one, which I valued, and still keep to this day.

On 28th July NAGAE Sensei and his wife, Reiko San moved from Shepparton to Pascoe Vale South, Melbourne to take up permanent residence. This move was to have profound benefits for the Melbourne Kendo Club and to Kendo in Australia in general. On 17th August he presented at the Little Bourke St Dojo to instruct the club and at the time of writing this history has hardly missed a day of training since.

On that day he handed this author an old hakama to wear. I had trained up to that point in time in a Karate gi and this gesture was greatly appreciated as hakama were relatively difficult to purchase in Melbourne at that time. The handing over of old hakama to new students is still a practice that beginners appreciate and one which still makes our Renmei stronger.


Nagae Sensei

Nagae Sensei immediately provided charismatic leadership and lifted the standard and abilities of all who trained there. As John Butler put it, “Sensei Nagae was not a young man in the literal sense, he’d been 5th Dan for some 35 years, but he was young in mind, young in heart and with a young body and youthful spirit he beat us all quite without effort” (Butler page 27).

The Little Bourke St Dojo in 1980

His technical skill was to be tested on 24th August when a young Japanese businessman named Tadashi Harada arrived at the Dojo. Tadashi worked in the opal retail industry and held the rank of 2nd Dan, quite a lofty rank in those days. (1)

Tadashi immediately became a loyal student of Nagae and any doubts about the effectiveness of Kendo were eliminated forever in the minds of those fortunate enough to have been present on that day.

During this time a Japanese student studying at Melbourne University would sometimes appear and train alone in Iaido. His name was Hideo Nakayahara and he had connections with the Mitsubishi Dojo in Tokyo.

News came down that our rent in the Little Bourke St Dojo was to be doubled. This would mean a probable weekly fee increase to $5.00 per person. Consequently a search for a new facility took place. The Excalibur Fencing Club found a time slot at the YWCA in Elizabeth Street which also had an opening for us on Sunday mornings. To use John Butler’s words again;


“By joining the “Y” at $7.00 per annum one automatically had the free use of their superb gymnasium. We ran down to inspect and ensured their facilities were available for Kendo on Sunday mornings…..We were overwhelmed at the immensity of the gymnasium. It was huge. Plus changing rooms, separate for men and women, and showers. Oh the joy. Then to cap it off there was a wonderful café on the ground floor where on Sundays after training we would drink coffee and exchange the week’s gossip.”

(Butler page 30)


On 30th September the Melbourne Kendo Club relocated to the YWCA with classes on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings.

The Octoberfest that year was held at the Footscray Institute of Technology, the move to the YWCA too late to hold the gathering there. In those days beginning students usually achieved 4th Kyu at there first grading, and on this particular occasion Yakov Macak was 1st kyu and Mark Wild and Bob Collins 3rd Kyu. Masayuki MIYASAKA, instructor at the ANU Kendo Club had driven a bus of Canberra students down for the event in his vehicle affectionately named, “The Miyasaka Express”.

As the year ended two new students began their Kendo careers in Victoria, they being Peter Day and Stylianos Polichroniadis (Stilts). Both were to contribute substantially to Kendo in the future.


Late in January we received the news that a “Kendo Goodwill Mission” would be arriving in Australia with the intention of holding demonstrations in both Sydney and Melbourne. The Mission featured mainly young children but was led by Saburo OGASAWARI Sensei, 8th Dan along with ASAKAWA Sensei, 8th Dan. Other prominent Sensei included HAGA, 8th Dan and Akira KUBO, 6th Dan, an English speaker who did much of the management of the group although he did not attend the Melbourne part of the tour.



The group arrived on the Thursday night and drove to Werribee the next day to perform a demonstration at the Woodville Primary School in front of nearly 1000 spectators. Gary Oliver was the host as he was a teacher at the school. All went well except that the demonstration took place on the football oval as no indoor venue could be found.

The next morning the group performed on the cult television show, “Hey Hey Its Saturday Morning”, hosted by Darryl Somers. John Butler did the commentary while Peter Day joined the Japanese visitors in the demonstration. Despite the publicity there were very few new members who responded by joining the YWCA group.


Goodwill Mission students at Woodville Primary School

Hasakawa Sensei demonstrates tsuki waza.

Wives and friends of Melbourne Kendo Club with members of the
Goodwill Mission at the Friday night celebration.

Continued >

(1)After the usual warm ups and basic training we settled into jigeiko and for some reason when it came time for Nagae Sensei to fight Tadashi San we were all watching. Tadashi seemed to have “an attitude”, (without being disrespectful) and this was demonstrated when he assumed the jodan no kamae early in their jigeiko. As a beginning student I at least knew that the jodan no kamae was restricted to senior students and the incredibly loud kiai that emanated from both men will long remained etched in my memory.

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