My martial arts journey began in 1969 at the first classes of the Tomiki aikido style in Melbourne, Australia, under the guidance of (then) Leoni Heap. I was a drifter at the time, doing unskilled work in order to finance my travels in Australia and overseas. I was playing several contact sports at the time and Aikido was a fitness adjunct for me. Eventually, against my better judgement, I was persuaded to attempt my shodan grading. I had coached junior sports during my youth and suspected that I would be requested to teach when I made shodan, so I had resisted for nearly a decade.
Sure enough when I received my grading and whilst making preparations to travel to South America, I was asked to go to Sydney to fill in for a teacher who was relocating. Not being particularly stable at the time, I accepted and through that decision was able to meet and learn from the first person to teach Shindo Muso ryu jyodo (way of the stick) in Australia, Paul Maloney sensei.
I was ready to depart for South America after a couple of years in Sydney, when the Falklands war broke out and I was advised it was an inopportune time to visit South America. Step up Paul Maloney, who suggested a trip to Japan instead. As he had not long returned from Asia himself and was full of praise for the culture and fighting arts, I quickly agreed.
Through Paul and his contacts, I obtained various introductions to Jyodo and Aikido dojos,where I trained under such notables as Kaminoda Tsunemori (SMR jyo), Ohba Hideo (Tomiki aikido), Nitta Suzuo (Toda ha Buko ryu naginata jutsu) and long-time Japan resident Phil Relnick (SMR). Through the introduction of the principal of my Japanese language school, I commenced my third style of karate and Taijichuan, with Nakano Harumi sensei, a well-known teacher in Japan and China. I studied with her for the best part of 8 or 9 years and, through her, was introduced to various teachers, including Matsuda Ryuichi who taught me Xingyi chuan, Bagua zhang and Shaolin chuan. We were also regularly exposed to teachers from the Chen jia gou (Chen village) in their annual visits to Tokyo.
In 1989, I was introduced by friends to Nitta Suzuo shihan of the Toda ha Buko ryu naginata jutsu school, which I have also studied since that time.
When it was time (a regular occurrence for foreigners) to leave the country to renew my visa, Nakano sensei suggested the Chen village for further training. Most foreigners either went home to renew their visa or went to Korea for a few days, but I wanted something more.
I wanted to continue Xingyi and Bagua as well as Taiji, so we decided on Shanghai, instead of the village and Nakano sensei gave me introductions to her friend Mr. Chu Jin Ming, who was then the vice president of the Shanghai Chin Woo athletic society and 2IC of the Shanghai Olympic Hotel, which at the time was the safest place for foreigners to meet Chinese without the obligatory “spies” getting their knickers in a knot. Remember, this was 1987, shortly before Tiananmen
Mr. Chu introduced me to He Bing Quan who introduced me to Wang Zhong Dao. Master He had trained with Chen Zhao Kui when they lived together in Shanghai. He was a Shaolin master who had trained in several styles of Taijichuan under the old masters.
Master Wang had trained under Master Chu Gui Ting, a student of the famous Li Tsun Yi and taught me his version of Xingyi and Bagua – which differed slightly from Matsuda sensei’s version (which he learnt in Taiw
an). When Master Wang died, I continued under Master Chen Jian Yun who had studied Shansi style Xingyi as well as learning from Master Chu. When he died, I was left rudderless, to continue on my own.
Then, in 2018, I was lucky enough to find Mr. David Kelly at studymartialarts.org who provides a wonderful introduction service for practitioners seeking training in Chinese chuan fa. Whilst scrolling through his pages, I happened to come across a reference to Master Chu Yu Cheng. Further research showed that he was the grandson of Chu Gui Ting – fancy that, his other students (my teachers) never mentioned he had a grandson!
David quickly arranged for us to get together and I went to Shanghai for the first time in 15 years to resume my true lineage. I found Master Chu to be extremely knowledgeable and up to date. Lest I be considered to be a poor follower of my previous teachers, they were getting on in years and had possibly forgotten some of the deeper work. No such problem with Master Chu – in the space of a month, he was able to upskill me, even after 30 plus years of training in the art under various Masters.
Unfortunately, it was a test run for me and I had let my Chinese skills lapse, which made it hard for Master Chu, but he never failed to teach from his heart and luckily enough I had enough experience to bumble through. In order to honour him and his compassionate students, I am frantically trying to rejuvenate my language skills before my next visit.
If there is one theme you will notice through this narrative about Asian combatives it is INTRODUCTIONS – they are essential in Asia (for locals and foreigners) and you won’t find a more generous spirit with the necessary contacts than David Kelly.
If you wish to read more you can find my book “At the Feet of the Masters” on Kindle books.
Simplified Taijichuan (Licenced instructor All Japan Taichi Assn.)
Yang style Taijichuan (Fu Zhong Wen lineage)
Chen style Taijichuan (He Bin Quan lineage from Chen Zhao kui)
Xingyi chuan (Chu Guiting lineage)
Bagua zhang (Chu Guiting lineage)
Tomiki aikido (roku dan)
Shindo Muso ryu Jyojutsu (Yodan, Go moku roku)
Isshin ryu kusari gama jutsu
Kasumi shinto ryu kenjutsu
Uchida ryu tanjyo jutsu
Toda ha Buko ryu naginata jutsu (Chuden)
You can find details of Bill’s classes here. at budokaiaustralia.com