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Stylianos Polichroniadis

3rd Dan


It was 1980 when I took my first step into the Kendo world. I walked into the gym of the YWCA in Elizabeth Street, where about a dozen people dressed in ‘skirts’ were doing their warm-ups. I stood and watched.

A very tall, imposing man approached me. He asked, “Can I help you?” I told him I was after a Mister John Butler and was told that he was in the other room. The other room was a small one, with mirrors, and there was

John Butler, practising his Iai. I walked in and was totally ignored for the duration of his practice.

After he finished, we struck up a conversation and I began my first Kendo training after meeting the other members of the Melbourne Kendo Club – the very tall imposing man was Yakov Macak, then there was Sophie Macak, his daughter, Paul Macak, his brother, Mark Wild, Ron, Sue, Patricia, Nagae Sensei and a few others.

I had decided to investigate Kendo after seeing the making of “Star Wars” and learning that the actors playing Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader had studied Kendo for 12 months so they could do the last fight scene. I had previously done Karate and was looking to take up another martial art as I was missing the challenge of ‘huffing and puffing’, and working out till it hurt. I had sourced a contact name and telephone number from a fairly crudely put together martial arts directory at Jol’s, a martial arts supply store that had just opened in an arcade on Bourke St.

Training at the Melbourne Kendo Club was twice a week and, about three months after my first session, we headed to Sydney for the Easter Championships. We almost didn’t make it, as I had taken the wheel after a few hours’ travel and a hard day’s work, and the person sitting shotgun had fallen asleep. At one stage, we were all woken up by the sound of gravel hitting the side of the van we had hired. We were on the wrong side of the road, with a phalanx of headlights coming the other way. Paul took over the driving from then on and we did make it to Sydney in one piece. (My first major achievement: nearly wiping out almost the whole of the Melbourne Kendo Club single-handedly.)

There, we met Ron Bennett (one of the two founding members of Australian Kendo), the rest of the Sydney crew and the club from Queensland (a very serious lot). After a hard day’s training and preparation for the Australian Kendo Championships, which were to be on the following day, we decided to go out with some members of the Sydney club for a few beers, as is proper in all real Kendo circles. We went to a few bowling clubs, as there weren’t any pubs close by, and we returned at about one or two o’clock in the morning. The Queensland crew were all asleep, until we arrived, and Rex Lawley’s (the other founding member of Kendo in Australia) wife Betty told us off in no uncertain terms. We got up the next morning with sore heads that became progressively numb as the day wore on. I can’t remember who won that year, but for me it was the beginning of several years of hard training and hard drinking with the Kendo crew.

Through the years, I have moved interstate a few times and have formed many good friendships with the members of various Kendo clubs, not only within Australia, but also throughout the world, having had the opportunity to go to summer camps in Japan.

Although I am not training these days, I still vividly remember the people and characters I met throughout my eighteen years of practising Kendo, but those first few months with the Melbourne Kendo Club, a time of pushing yourself beyond your perceived physical boundaries and “debriefing” at the surrounding waterholes afterwards (the second Dojo), is what stands out the most.

Stylianos Polichroniadis

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