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The Mumeishi Club

London & Melbourne
1968 to 2007

by Brent Gazzaniga

The history of Mumeishi Kendo Club here in Australia actually has its beginnings on the other side of the world in London England

During the sixties, Kendo in the UK was being practised in a small way at a couple of Judo clubs in London. The very first official Kendo club in the UK was the Zanshin Kendo Club which started in Bristol under the guidance of Mr John Clarke. The Nenriki Dojo was the only Kendo dojo in London, and it is here that many Mumeishi Kendo Ka started their Kendo training, One of those early Kendo Ka was Mr John Butler who later emigrated to Australia and helped start Kendo in Melbourne.

As interest in Kendo began to grow some of the early practitioners branched out and started up a third dojo in West London. Mumeishi’s first home was in Hayes Sports Centre, Hayes, Middlesex in the outer suburbs of London. Mumeishi’s first sensei was Mr O Fujii. It was here that Brent Gazzaniga senior instructor at Mumeishi in Melbourne began his formal training in the Art of Kendo. Some 15 years prior to that Brent had begun his lifelong interest in the Japanese Sword Arts whilst at school with exposure to Katori Shinto Ryu Iaido and kenjutsu during his childhood stays at the Japanese Embassy during the school holidays.

As things improved and British Kendo started to move forward, Mumeishi membership grew. At that time, our club had not been named. One night we stopped for a drink to discuss the different things we wanted for our club. We agreed we wanted the club to be open to all, and to have open minds, and ideas, for learning about Kendo. Had we earned the right to have a name yet? We weren’t sure and nobody could agree. One member, David Chambers had a good idea, he spoke some Japanese and came up with the name Mumeishi (which in fact means “no name” in Japanese). This more than suited everyone present and the Mumeishi Kendo Club was born. Our mon was drawn by another member, the red Bokuto Tsuba, which is proudly still in use today.

The club moved to Heston School, Hounslow, and became a night school club. Mr Terry Holt was offered the position of Kendo instructor at the club in 1971. At the time he was training at Nenriki and was a member of the fledgling British Kendo Team. Holt sensei took on the job enthusiastically with help from another Kendo pioneer, Mr Tony Crawford, who later went to New Zealand and started Mumeishi NZ and the NZ Kendo Federation. In the early years Mr. Watanabe, a student from Japan, was also a great help and friend to the Mumeishi Kendo Club.

The club developed, and we started training on a second night, but many of our members worked late, so we changed this to a Sunday morning practise. (Another tradition that has been adopted here in Australia). We heard there was to be a new community school opening nearby with a sports centre attached. We were asked if we wanted to bring the club over from Heston to the new Cranford Community School situated very close to Heathrow Airport. The new venue provided everything we needed, a good dojo with a suitable floor, changing rooms, and importantly a bar which many Australian Kendo Ka have since had the pleasure of attending. Mumeishi moved in the week it opened, and has been there for over 30 years.

On the third week of every November in the UK, Mumeishi takes over the sports centre, to hold the Mumeishi 3’s International Kendo Championship This was started by Mumeishi members nearly 40 years ago, and gives all Kendo Ka the chance to take part in a major Kendo event. The traditon of Mumeishi 3’s states that each team must include at leased 1 kyu grade. The Mumeishi 3’s is now one of the oldest and biggest tai Kai's on the world Kendo calendar with well over 350 Kendo Ka taking part each year.

In 1976 Great Britain hosted the World Kendo Championships and Brent Gazzaniga was a member of the British Team where he was awarded a gold medal for fighting spirit.

In 1981 Brent Gazzaniga, by now a second dan, immigrated to Australia. Prior to leaving the UK Brent had made contact with Sensei Ron Bennett who was already well known to British Kendo from his early travels to World Championships on behalf of the infant Australian Kendo Renmei. Brent joined the Melbourne Kendo Club which at that time trained at the YWCA in Elizabeth Street Melbourne. After 3 years Brent now 3rd dan, became an Australian citizen and was eligible to represent Australia in the Paris World Kendo Championships. Brent went on to manage the National Team at three of the following world Kendo championships and has been Victorian State coach on 2 occasions.

It was at this time that Brent also renewed his long association with one of Kendo’s most famous exponents and teachers, Kioshi NaKakura Sensei 9th Dan. Brent had first met NaKakura sensei during one of sensei’s early visits to Europe. Brent received his initial training in Seitei iaido from him during those meetings. With Japan so close Brent began regular visits to Kendo’s birthplace and at every opportunity sought out NaKakura Sensei for more instruction. Luckily for Brent, Sensei Nagai, senior instructor at Melbourne Kendo Club had also met and had formed a relationship with NaKakura sensei and had invited him to visit Australia where Brent was able to gain further knowledge in Kendo and Iaido from him on home ground. On a trip to Japan whilst attending The Summer School at Kitamoto Brent under the watchful and critical eye of Sensei NaKakura successfully passed his 4th Dan and during an evening meal at Sensei’s favourite Chinese restaurant in Tokyo was encouraged to return to Australia and start teaching. During this visit Sensei NaKakura took Brent to the factory to show him the embroidered flag that he was later to present to the Australian Kendo Renmei. This was the first year Australian Kendo Ka competed for the coveted NaKakura Trophy and Brent as a member of the Victorian Team helped ensure that the first state to win it was Victoria.

Although reluctant at first to teach, Brent, with the continued support of NaKakura sensei approached the Victorian Kendo Association for permission to open a new club in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the town of Berwick.

The Masonic Hall in Berwick High Street was chosen as the venue for the dojo and permission from Holt Sensei in the UK was sought to use the name Mumeishi and the now well known Bokuto Tsuba mon.

The Mumeishi 3’s tai Kai is fundamental to Mumeishi Kendo training and after 10 years the first Mumeishi’3 Kendo Clubs tai Kai was organised by the Melbourne Mumeishi membership. Holt sensei was invited to attend and has now made 4 trips to Australia for which the club hold fund raising activities to the raise money for sensei’s airfares and expenses whilst here.

With its philosophy firmly rooted in the early traditions of Japanese Kendo practice, Mumeishi holds the winning of “the fighting spirit award” as its highest goal. Fighting spirit awards are given at every tai Kai and to date Australian Mumeishi members have won six of these coveted prises both here and overseas. At last years Victorian Kendo Championships, of the four fighting spirit awards 2 were won by Mumeishi members.

Some 16 years ago another famous Kendo teacher, Professor Masatake Sumi Sensei 8th Dan began his long association with Mumeishi. This followed a meeting between Sumi Sensei and Holt Sensei in France where Holt Sensei invited him to the UK to take part in a Seminar. Sumi sensei has visited Mumeishi in the UK every year since and has formed a special bond with the club over the years. For many years it has been Brent’s dream to invite Sumi Sensei to Australia and last year that wish was fulfilled when the club brought both Sumi Sensei and Holt Sensei to Australia.

In 1998 Brent was awarded 5th Dan in Japan and with Mumeishi now in its 20th year here in Australia its safe to say that we are in for the long haul. The club now has Kendo Ka ranked from beginner to 3rd dan. Mumeishi’s sempai Ron Walker 3rd dan is a member of the New Zealand National team and has established a vigorous competitive element in the club which will see Mumeishi Kendo Ka vying for places in both State and National squads well into the future.

From the swinging sixties to the present day, the Mumeishi name has grown to become one of the most recognised Kendo club names in the world. Sadly some of those early pioneers have passed away and they have been honoured in the UK by having three fighting spirit trophies in their names, The Peter Cronin, Connie Angell and Brian Kay, awards.

On 1st July 1998 our founder SenseiTerry Holt received The Japan Festival Award for outstanding achievements in furthering good understanding of Japanese culture in the UK. The Spirit of Mumeishi has continued to grow over the years. Unfortunately Mumeishi New Zealand closed its doors on the retirement from Kendo of Mr Tony Crawford however with a new satellite dojo now open in Tel Aviv Israel the Mumeishi name goes on.

Even after 20 years Mumeishi Melbourne remains small yet our spirit and enthusiasm ensures that our training regime will always be concentrated on those aspects of our art that make it unique. The values of loyalty, honour and the strict observance of Kendo ethics at all levels will help us continue well into the future.

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