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Ben Sheppard

5th Dan


The thing about the VKR that I believe is most important is that it is a collective of people working to develop themselves through Kendo, and who also work hard to give that opportunity to others. Although Kendo is firmly rooted in tradition, there is no founder. There are Kendo gods, but no single person who reigns over the art omnipotent. This is a wonderful thing, as it helps guard against the terrible cult-of-personality that exists in organisations with a venerated founder.

I walked into the YWCA Dojo in Elizabeth St in 1983, a 14 year old inspired by Frank Miller’s Ronin comic, and wanting to do something different to all my teenage peers. Back then, the only Kendo book you could buy in English was “This is Kendo” by Warner and Sasamori, a book that is still in print and still worth owning. Back then, to be a yuDansha was a

distant dream. From memory there was no-one above 3rd Dan in Melbourne, other than Nagae Sensei, who was I think 6th Dan. Hachi-Dan seems as distant now as 5th Dan seemed back then...

I remember everyone had sandaimatsu pattern domune with green and gold embroidery. This was the cool choice of the seniors at the time!

I remember the cramped busyness of the change rooms, seniors doing Iaido in the ballet studios, and the particular smell of the whole gym floor at YWCA which, alas, has since disappeared.

One of my personal regrets is that I stopped Kendo for many years. But I was fortunate in returning to Kendo in time to help a little in the transition between the Y and the new Kenshikan. From that point it has been a certainty for me that I would continue Kendo for the rest of my life.

I have been truly fortunate to meet many interesting, illustrious and inspiring people through Kendo, none more so than my friends in the VKR and the other states Kendo organisations throughout Australia.

Ben Shepard

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