By Shihan David Bennett
Both David Bennett and his brother Richard Bennett had an interest in the martial arts since they were about twelve years of age, as their father was a physical training instructor in the R.A.F. and used to teach them the odd judo throw and arm lock. In 1966 David arrived in New Zealand from England via Australia followed by his brother Richard about six months later. Richard had for the previous six months been learning karate in Brisbane. On Richards arrival in New Zealand both brothers set about finding a club in Auckland which at the time was quite difficult. They ended up buying a book written by Nishiyama Sensei from which they set about learning as much as they could whilst still looking for a club in Auckland. In the early 70’s they joined a dojo in Lorne st. which had advertised Karate classes. However this only lasted about two weeks as the head instructor, Sensei Jack Sims, was in Japan learning Karate and a Judo instructor, by the name of Sensei Gerry Von Cluyonberg, was taking the classes. So back to the book.
After seeing an advertisement in the local paper, both David and Richard went to a karate demonstration at Boystown in Nelson St. Two different styles of Karate were being demonstrated, Inyoru Kempo by Sensei Contaro and Jyoshinmon Shorin-Ryu by Sensei Toshiharu Shibata. Both Sensei had recently arrived from Japan. David and Richard joined the Jyoshinmon Dojo of Toshiharu Shibata. It was here that they met Francis Morrell who had joined the club a few weeks earlier. Little did these three realise that in about thirteen years they would be running the Jyoshinmon organisation in New Zealand.
Shibata Sensei (Sandan) was a very good teacher being proficient in both kumite and kata and, as with most Japanese, very hard on the basic. Shibata Sensei taught at Boystown for just over a year, and during this time the club grew to about twenty members. Shibata Sensei left some time in 1973 and went to live in Australia. On leaving Shibata Sensei told us another Sensei would come from Japan. We all carried on training. The numbers of students dwindled to single figures. Then about one year later the door opened and in walked Sensei Nozomu Uehara (Sandan).
Uehara Sensei was at the time Jyoshinmon Japan kumite champion and so we then proceeded to spend a larger proportion of our time defending ourselves from him and treating our injuries. Uehara Sensei was a good and hard instructor and he stayed and taught for about ten years. Although, at one point he returned to Japan for what we presumed was to be a couple of weeks, but which turned out to be about two years. When he returned the club again had dwindled to only David, Richard and Francis. We had not been in touch with Uehara Sensei while he was in Japan and so were not sure he was coming back at all. At this time we were not very high graded and did not have a very large syllabus to practice. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we spent literally endless hours practising basic techniques. When Uehara Sensei did walk in the Dojo door I am not sure who was more surprised, Uehara Sensei to see three students still practising, or us that he came back.
Shortly after Uehara Sensei returned to New Zealand we were visited by Motozawa Sensei from Tokyo who had been Uehara Sensei’s teacher. Motozawa Sensei stayed for about three weeks and as with all the Jyoshinmon Sensei we have met so far turned out to be knowledgeable, friendly and a very good instructor. Motozawa Sensei in particular seemed to have a very deep understanding of Karate.
In 1980 my wife Beaty started, followed by my son Christopher in 1983. About 1984 we were visited by Sensei Ryoma Kikiwada. He was from Iwate prefecture in northern Japan. Sensei Ryoma was quite a big and solid person, good at both Kata and Kumite and probably one of the nicest Sensei that we have ever met. Jyoshinmon began to grow a little about this time opening Dojo’s in Glen Innes, Mt. Roskill and Titirangi. Then about 1986-87 Uehara Sensei decided to leave Jyoshinmon and go his own way.
Pictured from left: Sensei Francis Morrell, Sensei Richard Bennett, Sensei Ryoma Kikiwada, Sensei Nozumu Uehara, Sensei David Bennett. This photo was taken in 1986 during Sensei Kikiwada's visit to New Zealand.
We parted amicably and are still friends today, often visiting the Sake Bar, he and his wife Joy run in Epsom. Uehara Sensei arranged a meeting for us with Soke Hoshu Ikeda in Japan. So in 1986 Francis and myself went to Japan and had a meeting. It was decided that myself, my brother Richard and Francis Morrell would run Jyoshinmon in New Zealand. In 1988 Soke Hoshu Ikeda made his second visit to New Zealand. Over the years I have trained and watched many Karate-Ka, both Japanese and non-Japanese, but I can honestly say I have never met any person with the knowledge, expertise and presence of Soke Ikeda. Probably one of the least known in the west, but one of the most well known and respected in Japan.
In 1989-90 we were fortunate to have Soo Shihan Ai Ikeda come to New Zealand to learn English. She stayed for about 6 months and her knowledge and expertise were invaluable. Soo Shihan Ai Ikeda’s friend and also a Sandan in Jyoshinmon, Sensei Toshio Fujisawa visited for two weeks during this period. Fujisawa Sensei was extremely skilful and knowledgeable at kata. 1991 was the year we opened our first fulltime Dojo. For this event several visitors came from Japan. Soo Shihan Hoshu Ikeda along with several other Jyoshinmon Japan members including his wife, Sensei Mikiko Ikeda, his daughter Sensei Ai Ikeda, Kakunaka Sensei, Tsukamoto Sensei along with his wife and son, and Yoshinao Sensei. Pictured above is Sensei Toshio Fujisawa, who is a past winner of several tournaments (Kata) including the Tokyo Championships.
The 1990’s was a period of consolidation for Jyoshinmon New Zealand. Although we did still have some visitors from Japan in particular Eiji Noguchi who was a real speedster. Eiji stayed in New Zealand for about 6 months training regularly at our New Lynn dojo. He entered the New Zealand National Championships, gaining 2nd place in both his weight division and the Open, which was very impressive for someone who fought in the Under 60kg division. Unfortunately he was withdrawn from both finals on the doctor’s recommendation due to serious concussion.
We continue to both travel to Japan for training and entertain Jyoshinmon Sensei within New Zealand. We and are active on a regional, national and international level, managing to maintain a high level of expertise in traditional and sport Karate due in no small part I believe to the influence of Jyoshinmon Japan on our organisation.