Search This Blog

Newport Judo Club History From Conception & Continuing

 NewportJudo Club History 

Whilst it is accurate to say that Newport Judo History began on 8/7/1997 Newport Judo became and is more than just one club. It is a composite club made up of the Moonee Valley and Willow Heart Judo clubs.

Image of Newport Judo Logo - This article is about  Newport Judo Club History From Conception & Continuing
Stand Tall: Respect and Affect
Click Here For More Information
Picture of Moonee Valley Judo Club Logo
Moonee Valley Judo

Picture of Willow Heart Judo Club Logo
Willow Heart Judo


I had always dreamed of opening my own Judo club since almost the very early days of my being involved in Judo. In fact, I remember as a junior, in the days of the Victorian Armature Judo Association when competitions were the only way to gain a grade, sitting in a group (pool) with other Judo players waiting to compete in a grading competition, when Malcolm Slade came and sat in front of us and introduced himself as our referee. After the completion, I became aware that he was a Ni Dan, the same grade as my instructor Bob Todd and that he also ran his own club. It was at that point I decided that I needed to be a Ni Dan so that I could open my own club.

From The Start

I started training in Judo when I was about 9 years old. I was bullied at school and I'd had enough. Even so, it was an uphill battle to convince my father to allow me to do Judo. This was interesting as he was a military man with experience in the second world war and continued in service for some years after the war was over. However, I have always suspected that the real reason he was opposed to me doing Judo was because of its association with Japan even though he never fought the Japanese.

Nevertheless, I did manage to convince him to let me study Judo when I asked him if I could not do Judo then perhaps I could do Ballet. Now my father loved the ballet and I genuinely would have loved to do it but as much as he loved the ballet and highly regarded the male ballet stars, the idea of his son becoming a part of that culture, though he would never have acknowledged let alone admit to it, was a step too far as he was quite quick to say he would allow me to do Judo after that conversation.

Wait... More Martial Arts Judo Information Loading

Kingsville YMCA & Bob Todd

The next week I started Judo at the Kingsville YMCA under Bob Todd's instruction. My father had managed to tee up for me to join the club with the children of a friend. The children after a few years dropped out but I was hooked and it was at that point that I decided I wanted to start my own club. To top it all off the bullying had disappeared. Not because I did anything, it just went away. I have a theory on its disappearance but that is another story.

Bob Todd Founder Sensai of Kingsville Judo Club and founder of Moonee Valley Judo Club
Bob Todd

Moonee Valley YMCA Judo Club

Kingsville YMCA eventually closed and I followed Bob Todd to Moonee Valley Judo Club. This was initially reasonably consistent training for a few years then, as with almost all young people, life and study got in the way, making training increasingly difficult, particularly as Moonee valley was a 30 min drive from where I lived. I didn't stop training during that time I just had to find clubs that were closer or more convenient.

I eventually returned to Moonee valley on a consistent basis when life settled down but Bob had handed control over to Gordon Sinclair by that time.

Ni Dan

My dream of opening my own club as a Ni Dan hit a roadblock by the time I was ready to apply for that grade. In those years it was very difficult to obtain a Dan grade due to administrative issues within, what had by then become the Judo Federation of Australia Victoria.

In those days Dan grading was done by Lineup, where the applicant had to compete and defeat 8 other competitors of an equal and lesser grade than yourself. However, by this time, I found that since competitions were so infrequent I was out of practice and failed my first attempt. There were no limits on attempts so I could have tried again but I found opportunities to be rare if ever and training always problematic. 

It didn't help that competitions had begun to lose their lustre for me. This is because whilst I enjoyed the challenge of competing I was never into medals or trophies and I rarely ever competed for anything other than a grade. On top of this, I was nearing 35 years old and the potential for injury was increasing. 

Fortunately, there were other paths to obtain a Dan grade, they just took more time. So I decided to take that path. Naturally, nothing is simple I still had to arrange Kata training and a demonstration before someone who was authorised to grade me.


Patrick, a fellow I kyu (brown belt) and I started to train in Nage No Kata together. This seemed as natural as could be however, Patrick who was always shy and never willing to admit to the strength of his own skill took some convincing.

Picture of Patrick Holding his award From the YMCA


I also did some extra training at a club in Brunswick that was within walking distance from my work at the time. This too proved to be problematic. There was not always a partner available for me at the club and work schedule clashes started to interfere, leading to that training petering out.


After a while, the Caulfield Judo club started to have regular Saturday training. This proved to be very beneficial as Patrick was not able to attend and I was able to take what I learn there back to Moonee Valley, where I could apply it with Patrick. Thus reinforcing what I had learned.

There was a grading help at Caulfield at this time. Unfortunately, there was a work schedule clash and I was not able to attend. So yet again I missed out.

Willow Heart

Around this time Gordon Sinclair arranged a training night with Willow Heart Judo Club. I went along with all the other Judoka from Moonee Valley and was introduced to John Watkins and his son Paul. This was not only a fun training night but it proved to be, though unknown to me at the time, providential to my future as a Shodan (1st Dan).

There is however a great sadness in this meeting because it was not long after our training session that John (sometimes referred to as Father Judo though I never found out why), died.

Paul Watkins

John's sudden death meant that in order for his club to continue, it was desirable to have a black belt in charge. Whilst Paul his son was the natural successor he was not yet a black belt. When asked I happily agreed to do Nage No Kata training with him.

One training afternoon, after about a month of training, there was a sudden flurry of activity. Bob Todd with some other senior grades, turned up at the club and declared that they were going to watch the Nage No Kata and if it was acceptable, they were grading Paul to Shodan.

Of course, he passed.

Nunawading Kata Demonstration & Grading

Not too long after Paul's grading Gordon arranged for me to do my Kata again before Bob Todd. This was to be held at the Nunawading Judo club where Bob was the head instructor at the time.

Patrick was not available for this demonstration but Paul Watkins graciously agreed to be my Uke (partner). Whilst this was sad that Patrick could not be graded at this time, I have to say that Paul was magnificent. He made me look so good. As with all students I, of course, was painfully aware of my own mistakes during the Kata but thanks to Paul nobody appeared to notice.

I was officially a Black belt... at last.

I have to say however that this was a humbling experience as, with the exception of my first line up I had never had to work so hard for a grade before. It did my character good.

Perhaps it was a little too humbling. I was unwilling to wear my Black belt until I received my certificate which was going to take a few weeks.

Sho Dan Awarded

In the interim of waiting for my certificate, Gordon arranged a training session at Greensborough. This was a memorable training session for two reasons:

First, this was my first experience of being placed in a leg lock. Leg Locks are not allowed in Judo competition anymore due to the risk of permanent damage to ligaments and other parts of the leg. This, however, does not and should not prevent them from being taught in class and this was the case at Greensborough. Although was not hurt I was impressed by how completely tied up I was being a Leg Lock.

Second, whilst I was willing to wait for my certificate apparently Gordon was not and he arranged a ceremony to present my black belt to me. I was extremely flatted. He then arranged a publicity shot, promoting Essendon YMCA where Moonee Valley Judo Club was housed. 

Picture From Local Newspaper with Goron Sinclar, Richard Roper, Jodie McFarlane. Where Richard was being awarded his Sho Dan for the second time
Goron Sinclar, Richard Roper, Jodie McFarlane

Willow Heart Closes

The months went by and during this time a few things happened.

My certificate finally arrived so I was finally officially a ShoDan as of 3/8/1994

We were able to arrange for Patrick to be graded to ShoDan and I was very proud to be his Kata Uke.

But more significantly Paul found that running a Judo Club without his Dad, having a young family, work and well basically life, was too much so reluctantly closed Willow Heart. The remaining students, who had already started to attend Moonee Valley (it seems they enjoyed our visit so much that they came for extra training), decided to make Moonee Valley their new Judo home.

More Significant Changes

In the next few years, there were to be more significant changes afoot.

I continued to train at Caulfeild on an irregular basis as I enjoyed the extra training and atmosphere. In the meantime, Graham Lewis and Graham Sinclair (no relation to Gordon) independently decided to leave. This was a blow to the club as even though I had had my disagreements with them over the years they were significant contributors and black belt leaders in the club. Their knowledge and experience were sorely missed. The upshot was that I had to start taking on more responsibility in club coaching. Naturally, this was not something that I in any way objected to but I must admit that I could have used the experience of both the Grahams on several occasions as the club developed.

Newport Judo Opening

Whilst I was not a Ni Dan I was a Sho Dan and my ambition to open my own Judo club and now in reasonable in my mind. I approached Newport Baptist Church, the church of which I am a member, about the use of the hall and after some serious negotiation, it was agreed that I could use their hall. I finally opened Newport Judo on 8/7/1997. But I was still a Sho Dan and so I continued training a Moonee Valley Judo.

Another Connection With Willow Heart

The process of opening Newport was magnificently assisted by the extremely generous offer of the Willow Heart Mats from John Watkins's Widow. When I say Extremely, This is no exaggeration. The price that they were offered to me was generously beyond what it would have cost to replace let alone buy them outright.

Picture of John Watkin Founder of Willow Heart Judo Club
John Watkin

Gordon Retires, I Become Coach Of Two Clubs

Gordon got very sick but he persisted with teaching Judo for months after his diagnosis and often shared with me his hope for a cure eventually though, it got too much for him. Still, it was a surprise to me when he asked me to take over the club. I had expected someone else from outside the club to be asked to take over as I had effectively only just opened Newport. I was greatly honoured but quite daunted. However, there was no doubt in my mind that had either Graham Sinclair or Graham Lewis still been with the club they would have been asked first.

The result was now I had 2 clubs to run.

Gordon was a San Dan when he retired. After he retired we kept in contact for a while. I was even invited to his wedding with his second wife. They had met whilst they were both in treatment for cancer. Several years after he had retired he joked to me that he was 2 years past his use-by date (his initial prognosis was that he only had 2 years to live). One day his phone fell silent and I guess there was no one to pass on what happened because I never heard anymore.

Caulfeild NiDan

One day at one of my irregular classes at Caulfield I was surprised by Arthur and Susie Moorshead telling me that if I were to put in my application for Ni Dan they would support it. The result was I was awarded my Ni Dan on 5/5/2002.

Both Clubs Thrived Until

Both Moonee Valley and Newport did very well for some years. For a number of years, we had combined Christmas breakups at Newport and it was a lot of fun to have so many children and adults attend and join in. At one event we had around 100 people (adults and children) present for the games and end-of-year presentations.

But the YMCA progressively fell on harder and harder times. The result was moves and changes that were detrimental to growth. Whilst there were a few bright moments like Graham Sinclair coming back for a short while. Over time the changes and moves took their toll and it became increasingly difficult to maintain the club. I even said to the director at the time, "If you can just stop making changes I can grow the club", but the changes kept coming.

Eventually, the Essendon YMCA folded and Moonee Valley council took over, with conditions that, after so much decline, were not possible to meet. Moonee Valley Judo Closed 2000 (?)

Moonee Valley Not Completely Dead

Moonee Valley was not completely dead, however. Of the remaining student, some of whom had come over from Willow Heart, almost all moved over to Newport. Many still remain as of the time of writing this. Thus Newport absorbed not only Moonee Valley Judo Club but Willow Heart Judo Club. This pleased me greatly as I felt as if I was honouring Bob Todd, Gordon Sinclair, and John Watkins and was a tribute to Malcolm Slade who inspired me to be a Ni Dan.

No comments:

Post a Comment