Starting out: Melbourne, Australia

What is your budo background?

I’ve been studying atarashii naginata for over a decade now and acting as instructor for the Victorian Naginata Renmei for about 8 years; I wasn’t yet shodan when I began instructing, it was a case of there was no-one senior to me left to run classes and it was figure out how to teach or potentially no more naginata in Melbourne.

The last two years I’ve been studying Toda Ha Buko Ryu with Keeley-sensei which is a koryu form of naginata. I feel it’s helped me to improve my zanshin and intensity in atarashii as well as allow me to learn to use and appreciate other weapons – I’m very fond of the kusarigama (sickle and chain)!

In March last year I visited Simon and Ewa in Nagoya and was fortunate enough to train in Jukendo with them with Terada-sensei. It was only three weeks but I thoroughly enjoyed the form and wanted to continue to practice when I returned.


Why did you start a jukendo training group?

Because it’s very hard to practice on your own! In all seriousness, it’s a form I find very appealing and quite a change to my other arts and I’d like to share it with others.. Naginata very me has always been very kata focused and less on bogu/shiai; I know I’m very weak in that area. Up until I trained with Terada-sensei where it was bogu on immediately, I always felt uncomfortable in bogu. Now, in jukendo, I feel a better energy and less anxiety in bogu work.


How long has your jukendo group been training?

We started at the end of June 2018. It’s technically just two of us so far but we’ve had interest from a number of others.


What do you look for in a training venue, what would you suggest others look for in their local area?

I look for a good open space, wooden flooring, change rooms and access by car/public transport. Around Melbourne there’s a lot of sports stadiums that fit that bill, school sports courts, Scouts/Guides halls etc. I do suggest checking out local community halls and centres as they tend to have reasonable hire rates. Dance studios are one of my favourite options as they tend to have very well maintained floors for the dancers.

If looking at other dojos make sure to check out their floor situation – if the form uses matting it may not be suitable when the mats are removed.


How do you deal with the issue of equipment or lack of?

It’s difficult especially as people starting out really do need to have bogu (naginata or kendo is okay) with which to add the jukendo gear too. I’m not widely advertising the group at the moment simply due to lack of equipment and am hoping to grow it slowly over time as we get more gear. At this stage, I’m buying jukendo specific equipment out of my own pocket to outfit those training in the hopes that at some point they can buy their own/buy it off me but made it clear they need to look at providing their own basic bogu. Not the most economical and a bit hard on the wallet…also not practical if you don’t have some savings you’re willing to dip into.

If people want to train but don’t have bogu then it’ll be a case of teaching them the basic forms and techniques and kata. If there’s a lack of mokuju or tanshinai then I’m planning to rotate people in exercises and have them swap the weapons out each time.


Do you plan your training sessions? What can you suggest for those who are trying to start to instruct?

I think I do best with an overall session goal rather than the specifics. I try to tailor training depending on who’s at a session which means I generally can’t make solid plans until training starts. I do go in with a general intention of what I want to achieve (get through basics, tanken or juken focus) and adjust it as I go. I always begin with warmups and basic drills to get everyone in the right mindset and then work from there.

I do think it’s a good idea to have a standard set of drills to work through so that everyone comes to know what to expect. It gives you a chance to see how everyone is working and time to plan the next exercise.

Also, start practicing the commands as soon as possible – the more you get used to them the more those training with you do as well.


What issues did you come across trying to start your group?

Getting a venue was the big one – while there are a lot of options out there, finding one that was available on the preferred date/time was difficult. Cost for studio hires was also a concern as with only two of planning to train, the cost per person to hire for two hours can be pretty steep. Fortunately, I found that if you discuss directly with the hirer many times they might offer a discount rate while you’re starting out with a plan to review as more people join. Never forget to try and negotiate – many places would rather have someone who can hire regularly at a lower rate than not hire out at all!

Transport for equipment is also something to think about. Since I own almost all the jukendo gear, I couldn’t do this without a car. As more people join and own/borrow gear it’ll be easier but if you own the equipment be prepared to plan how to lug it back and forth.


General advice for others starting out.

Be prepared to take a hit on initial costs – it’s very hard to have a ready made training group and so venue hire can be costly. We don’t currently have an official sports group so don’t yet have to worry about insurance although it’s worth talking to other budo federations in your local area to see if they’ll consider allowing you to consolidate with them.

Don’t be too hard on yourself – trying to start a new group from scratch takes time and patience and there’ll be mistakes made that you can learn from. Talk to others in similar situations to get their perspective or advice.

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