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Monash University Kendo Club

By Arpad Maksay
Club Leader 1999 - 2004

My time with Monash University Kendo Club began when I entered the university as a student in 1996. In 1999 I became the club leader and continued in this role until 2004. From this perspective I will outline the club’s roots, the time I was there and finally where the club is going now.

Monash University Kendo Club was founded by Stylianos Polichroniadis (Stilts) in 1991. Stilts brought together a motivated group of students and the club soon found recognition and gained momentum. I can recall as a young member of the Ballarat Kendo Club an impression of the Monash guys being new on the block, but playing beyond expectations.

At some point the leadership of the club was transferred to Julian Richardson. How exactly this took place, or when, is a part of the club history that I never found out about, or knew once but have forgotten. When I entered the club in 1996, Julian was our instructor. Matthew Osborne, who was in his second or third year, was the captain.

For University clubs the highlight of the year is the Intervarsity Games. That year they were held in Canberra and from memory we were defeated in the final by the guys from Adelaide. This rivalry with Adelaide was to continue for the next few years and formed the basis for creating friendships with people like Hayami Aboutaleb, Melanie Smith and Jonathon Cross.

In 1997 Lockie Jackson returned from a stint in Japan and re-joined the club. Lockie and I quickly developed a training partnership and started to invest time in extra training going quite regularly to Fudoshin to train with Brett and Damien. That year we generated some good momentum and Matthew, Lockie and I all attained our 2nd dan. We also won the Victorian Teams Championships beating Fudoshin in the final. However, the highlight of the year was Intervarsity. The competition was held in Melbourne and Matthew, Lockie and I were able to hold on in the team final to beat Adelaide.

In 1998 Monash suffered one of those exoduses that often stifle the development of university clubs. Lockie and Matthew both graduated and started work and I moved to Japan to take up a scholarship at Kyushu University. In our places, Scott Harding, who had entered the club as an 1kyu the previous year, became the leading student. However the gap left by the sudden exit of three 2nd dans proved to be a tough challenge and numbers dwindled. Furthermore, Julian’s other commitments began to take over and eventually he pulled out of the role of instructor.

However, Scott with the help of Patrick Tam managed to keep the club’s pulse beating. When I returned in 1999, Scott, Patrick and I had a discussion and we committed ourselves to revitalising the club. In the first semester we pulled together a small group of students and ran a beginners course. By the second semester we had some experience to draw on and the teaching model had been developed. Our second group of beginner’s was larger and they latched on to the energy we had started to generate. Some key people like Albert Hui and Nick Drohan joined in this beginner’s course and became highly committed members. This new energy had a positive effect on Kiat Wee Wei, who stepped up into a more leading role. He also introduced Nilantha Aluthjage-Perera (Nil) who was to become a key member over the following years. Satoru Takada who was in Australia on a working holiday made regular visits to assist us in our efforts to improve. The University Games were held in Perth that year and Scott, Patrick and I made the journey to represent the club.

In 2000 we had another large influx of new students. The ’99 group had moved forward and the club had a good ratio of beginners to senior members. With two clear groups it was possible to manage the training very effectively. Jordan Felix who had just returned from spending a year in Japan also joined the club. For some administrative reason, Kendo was excluded from the University Games that year, which were held in Ballarat. However, Gary Oliver made the effort to hold an ‘informal’ competition in the complex where the Ballarat Kendo Club Dojo is situated. For Monash we formed teams made up entirely of members who had joined in the 2nd half of ’99 and 2000. Even with their relative lack of experience, all competitors contributed to a solid representation.

In 2001 I left the club for 7 months to train at Nittaidai. During this period, Scott, Kiat, Jordan, Nil, Albert and Nick took on the leadership and management of the club. In 2002 I returned to the coaching role and we also enjoyed the presence of Kosuke Umetsu, a Nittaidai graduate, who spent the year in Australia on a working holiday. His commitment to instructing at Monash contributed greatly to the development of the club. The presence of Toshimichi Akita, another 4th dan at Melbourne University also helped to fuel the Melbourne/Monash rivalry that had developed. That year with a very well prepared group we attended AUG in Adelaide. Many Monash students placed well in the individual competitions, however in the teams final against Melbourne University we lost and placed second.

In 2003 the club continued to grow and we also developed a core group of female students. This was built on in 2004. In August 2004, I relocated to Japan and left the club. For the remainder of the year the students took charge of the instruction and management of the trainings. In 2005 Kate Sylvester took on the coaching role and her presence has bolstered the female membership. The club currently also enjoys weekly visits from Yano Sensei who lives nearby. The latest news from Kate is: “Monash is great. Solid committed members training towards the University Games in September.”

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