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Early Kenshikan Years

1990 - 1994


At the commencement of the decade there were just two Kendo clubs in Victoria; Melbourne and Ballarat. This meant in reality approximately 40 students. Nevertheless it was a time of much achievement.

On 10th March Sensei Y Inoue 8th Dan Hanshi and Sensei M Kon 7th Dan Kyoshi from the AJKF conducted three days of Kendo instruction at the YWCA.

Work on the new Dojo, The Kenshikan, dominated much of this year. Understandably this was a pivotal project that we could all feel proud of. Despite the best intentions of all there would be some detractors, some toes stepped on and a few frustrations vented. Nevertheless the new Dojo took shape quickly and the opening date of July 1990 approached quickly.

A steering committee to oversee the Kenshikan had been made the previous year and included Peter Szwarcbord, Sensei Nagae, Yakov Macak and Ivan Robotham together with Mr Futagawa who was an advisor for Mr Otsuka.

Work on the project included working bees following training. Sanding the floor, hand painting walls etc, all the things that bond club members together were there.



An interesting anecdote concerns Kyu grade member, Richard Ward who on one occasion was carefully stepping across beams on the open roof with Sensei Nagae.

Nagae Sensei suddenly slipped and managed to grab hold of a cross beam, hanging precariously above an unforgiving floor. Richard managed to get over to him and haul him up to safety. Naturally the cynics in our membership gave Richard heaps over the following months with quips about saving the Sensei in order to achieve his next grading. I think Richard took the ribbing well but in the end we were all grateful.

As 15th July approached a most impressive Dojo emerged from the toil of the many; a Sensei’s office and change room, meeting and lecture room, a huge Dojo floor, store room, kitchen, male and female changing rooms, showers and an eight person spa! Kendo heaven!

In addition a ceremonial drum was donated by the Otsuka family together with a large stone Japanese lantern for the front garden. Engraved calligraphy for the front door and the Kamiza were donated by Sensei Nakakura. Office furniture came from Murray Goulburn and the National Australia bank courtesy Sensei Nagae.


Earlier at the Nationals in Queensland Mark Wild again showed his strength by taking out the Dan Individuals, with Brent Gazzaniga coming third. The Dan team for Victoria included Mark Wild, Brent Gazzaniga and Laurie Scott while the Kyu team featured Kevin Mita (who took the Kyu Individual), Merv Wright, Jason Widdy, and Eiji Fujihara.

The National Tournament was becoming much more sophisticated in both its planning and implementation. Published programs with quality sponsorship began and did much to lift both the profile and the spirit of the competitions.

Kenshikan Opens

What an event. As a Ballarat member I was invited like many other AKR members to attend the opening of the Kenshikan on 15th July 1990. I doubt if any of us had been to such a Kendo happening as this. Everything was catered for thanks to the organizing committee. This included commemorative tenegue.

To begin with, a special delegation from Japan arrived on 14th July. The following list indicates the caliber of the guests;


Kiyoshi Nakakura
Mrs Nakakura
Mr Tadatoshi Haga
Mr Makoto Miyaji
Mrs Miyaji
Mr Koichiro Ikenaga
Mr Shosuke Tsujimura
Mr Kazuma Hashimoto
Mrs Mitsuko Tsujimura
Mr Tokuichi Kozuka
Mr Kunio Shizawa
Mr Tadahiro Ajiro

Kendo & Iaido Hanshi 9th Dan
Kendo & Iaido Hanshi 8th Dan
Kendo Hanshi 8th Dan
Kendo Hanshi 8th Dan
Kendo Kyoshi 8th Dan
Kendo Kyoshi 8th Dan
Naginata Kyoshi 8th Dan
Kendo Kyoshi 7th Dan
Kendo Kyoshi 7th Dan
Kendo Kyoshi 7th Dan

Plus a few 4th and 5th Dans!

A grading was held for Kendo and Iaido in the early morning for prospective candidates followed by demonstrations beginning at 11.00 a.m. I recall Damian Carmody Stephens and a few of us getting changed when an impromptu tour of the change rooms was made by Nakakura Sensei and some Japanese ladies.

One poor Aussie was caught in nothing but his Kendogi but to his credit he kept his composure and held the door open for the guests despite the redness on his face.

John Butler recalled that our visitors asked which part of their one million dollar donation was used in the construction of the Dojo. They were stunned when he replied, “all of it”. Tokyo prices suggested a tiny part of the Dojo could be afforded but our construction and refurbishment came in under $700,000.

Highlights included a large marquee in the car park where meals were served. A barrel of sake specially brought over was broken with Japanese hammers and everyone drank a toast in traditional square wooden cups. Demonstrations included Iaido with Nakakura Sensei and Haga Sensei, Naginata versus Kendo with Tsujimura Sensei and Shizawa Sensei plus high ranking shiai with the Kendo Hanshi. It was a memorable and highly successful day.

The breaking of the sake barrel.

Haga Sensei performing Iaido

The unveiling of the bust of Kenshiro Otsuka brought much emotion to his descendants.

There were a number special dinners and outings held during the weekend of the opening. The delegation traveled to the Gold Coast and made the most of this landmark occasion.

Haga Sensei stayed on for the week and visited Ballarat the following Thursday. He visited the wild Life Park, Sovereign Hill and took training at the local Club. John Butler, ever a friend of VKR clubs and individuals, organized the visit


Haga Sensei at Sovereign Hill

In late November Mark Wild, Peter Riordan, Julian Richardson and Laurie Scott began the Goshin Kendo Club. Venue for the group was Melbourne University High School with training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

At the VKR Championships in December Tony Pickering took first place in the Kyu Individual championship, historically the first time the competition had been won by a non Melbourne Kendo Club member.


Japan again looked kindly on us by supporting another visit by one of its top Sensei. Tsurumaru Ashizawa Sensei conducted a seminar from March 20th to March 23rd. The seminar as usual was well attended with students coming from interstate. By coincidence Yagisawa Sensei also visited Melbourne from 17th – 19th March, the occasion being his honeymoon trip.

This year saw the nationals in Perth W.A. for the first time courtesy the planning of Raymon Lawrence. It also featured the first National Kata championship. Distance proved a factor for Eastern members attending and remains a consideration to this day. Victoria won the Open Teamson, Ty Pickering came second in the Kyu Individuals and Yakov Macak won the Veterans.

In a letter dated 31st May 1991 Ivan Robotham wrote to Eiji Fujihara informing the VKR that the Okura “Spirit of Kendo” award would cease. This award for contributions to Kendo was to be made at a State level by individual Renmei and not as part of the National Taikai.

Peter Szwarcbord became President of the VKR. At this time member clubs were Melbourne Kendo Club, Melbourne University Club, Mumeishi Kendo Club, Goshin Kendo Club, Ballarat Kendo Club, Bendigo Kendo Club (tenuously formed by Peter Day) and a newly formed Monash University Kendo Club. This was a rise from four to seven clubs in two years.

Continued >

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