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Judo Blog: The True Spirit of Judo, Down Under!

Caulfield Judo

My friend and colleague David Black from Australia recently submitted this for my weekly Black Belt Blog.

Melbourne is experiencing unseasonably cold thunder storms in this late spring of 2022, but nothing was going to stop me from visiting the legendary Caulfield Judo Centre this night.

Aurthur Moorshead

The school is one of the oldest and most respected Judo clubs in Australia. Founded by Arthur Moorshead OAM, 8thDan, and Olympic Judo Coach, in 1961, it moved to its current location in 1963. For 59 years it has stood like a monument to Australian bushido and will be there for many more years to come.

Arthur passed away on 29 January 2010 but his legacy still lives on with the school and the many students he has taught. Some have gone on to founding their own quality dojos in Australia, thus keeping this valued tradition alive.

The club is nestled away behind the suburban shopping strip on Glen Huntly Rd, just opposite Carnegie railway station. You can just see the roof poking out when you pass by it on the tram. Arthur built this club himself. He was a builder by trade and often joked that he had to work so that he could pour all of his money into Judo.

Judo Training

I trained there, 3-4 times a week enthusiastically from 1979 – 1981. During this time, it was my home away from home. I was living in an unstable family environment so attending Judo classes got me out of the house and into a place where I was treated with respect, made friends and was able to find a sense of achievement.

Arthur was more than just my teacher and coach. He was also a life mentor.

On one occasion, after I lost a match and was leaving the mat without shaking my opponents hand, Arthur sent me straight back. He later explained that the only reason I was able to do Judo was due to my competitor and that I should be grateful. If he had not shown up, then I wouldn’t have had a match. If he had not brought everything he had to the game, then the fight would not have been worth it.

These words changed my way of thinking as well as my attitude. They’ve served me well throughout life.

I often yearned to return there over the decades but until now, was too afraid. So much time had gone past. There would be new people there now. My fond memories were sacred to me and I just didn’t know if I would find myself overcome with emotion in front of strangers.

I bit the bullet, visited the club and caught up with Fred Funnell, who is an active judoka and helps with the administrative duties. I was welcomed in like an old friend. Fred let me know that Arthur’s wife, Susie Moorshead still had my grading card from way back then. This place is more than just a school. It’s a family and my fears of returning were unfounded.

Fred is a solid man of 61 years who started training with Arthur back in his days at Monash University in 1980. He and Susie are the backbone of the club and keep the spirit and tradition alive.

While Fred and I were chatting away, Igor Arzhintar, 1st Dan/Shodan, was teaching an enthusiastic group of kids, which brought back memories of when I trained. These are the next generation of Judoka and some will go onto big competitions and maybe even run their own clubs one day.

Before I knew it, Matthijs Klinkert, 2nd Dan/Nidan, had arrived to teach the seniors. Matthijs insisted that the only way to write this story was to experience it. Before I knew it, Fred had a spare Gi ready and I was on the mat. Being 58 years old was no excuse for me to get out of it because Fred has 3 years on me. Fred insists that Judo is for all ages.

Training started with exercises and stretching. That might sound the same as every other club, but I could feel the camaraderie. This felt like old friends catching up and I was glad to be included.

Next thing I knew, Sensei Matthijs was showing us an amazing move of how to get someone from hugging the ground into a figure 4 armlock. This was one that I had never seen in the Australian Judo Federation handbook, unless it was hidden away in the black belt section. It looked a bit too complicated for me at first, but I had always secretly wanted to learn something this spectacular.

This was something that would be an amazing competition move and the Sensei did jokingly ask, “why am I teaching things that you could all use against me?” As funny as that sounds, there is a serious side to that because many of the schools pupils have gone on to win in competitions, including the Olympics themselves.

As I was writing this, I found an article online from a major metropolitan newspaper called “The Age” from 18 years ago. It mentioned Maria Pekli winning Australia's first judo medal in 36 years at the Sydney Olympics in the year 2000. And yes, Arthur Moorshead was her coach, at Caulfield Judo Centre.

Pekli had a stellar career in Judo, which you can read about in her Wikipedia entry. She won medals at the Commonwealth Games, Olympics and European Judo Championships. She was also the first female judoka to compete at five Olympics.

Before the night was over, Sensei Matthijs let me take some pics for this article. Judoka Karl Bowdi was gracious in allowing himself to be thrown. He didn’t complain even when I needed to do a second shot of the same throw.

It was great to return to the club of my childhood. Despite so many years having passed and me being one of hundreds to have trained there, it was amazing to see that I had not been forgotten. Caulfield Judo Centre will always be my family. I know that every current and future student will cherish their time there.

Arthur’s legacy will live on through every student, whether he met them or not. Here are some of my medals and a trophy, plus a 2000 Olympic Story along with Maria Pekli’s Story.

Judo Memoribilia

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