DJC @ The Budokwai 100th Anniversary Dinner
The Budokwai was opened in 1918 by the father of British Judo, Gunji Koizumi. Though there had been the odd martial arts club beforehand, the Budokwai was the first to allow the general public to join(which they did in great numbers) Therefore it is considered the first Judo club to operate in the UK and Europe.
During its 100 years in existence the Budokwai(which pre-dates the BJA, EJU and the IJF all of which were set up in part by Mr Koizumi) mostly was the centre of excellence for Judo meaning if you were any good then that's where you went to train, this started with players such as Trevor Leggett, Geof Gleeson, Charles Palmer, Percy Sekine and many others. The BJC also can trace its roots back to the Budokwai with Masutaro Otani being one of the founding members and one of the clubs earliest coaches.
It is also the club where our own DJC Vice President Chris Gallie and her husband Pete trained, Chris obviously would go on to be one of the most successful female players in the history of our sport.
The 100th Anniversary was marked with a dinner to celebrate and Myself, Ros, Charles and Dan were extremely lucky enough to attend.
However DJC junior training still needed to take place so we all met at the Lifecentre and at the conclusion of that mornings training we set off for London, 4 hours later we pulled up outside the Rembrandt hotel in Kensington. A quick change and we were all suited and booted and off to the reception area where Ros and I watched the main door trying to spot the various giants of British Judo as they came through.
At this point we spoke to Chris and Pete. who were very busy speaking to all their friends, some of which they had not seen for a number of years.
we had a few drinks and mingled a little and were then all presented with our official invitations and a book which had been printed just for the occasion which was a lovely touch
The reception area was now getting very busy so we all started to move through to the dining rooms and we discovered that we were in the main room(i was on Te Guruma table and the others were on Ashi Guruma)
I had let Ros know prior to our arrival that i had planned to get a number of books i owned signed by the respective authors who were present at the meal, so at this point we began to 'work the room' the first person i spoke to was Tony Macconnell, Tony Mac is considered to be one of the very best national coaches that GBR have ever had, both Brian Jacks and Neil Adams have both mentioned him in their autobiographies. Tony said some very lovely things to me about British Judo History and posed for a photo.
Moving on, one of the people i was determined to speak to was Hana Sekine whom before she married was called Hana Koizumi, Gunji Koizumi's daughter, i had two books which i asked her to sign, firstly Mr Koizumi's Judo book and then his book on Lacquerware. Hana mentioned that Lacquerware and Judo were the two main things in his life but that Judo was his first love.
25 years ago a youngish Rosemary Lucas had a picture of Ray Stevens on her bedroom wall, Ray was along with Neil Adams and Chris Bowels one of the 'pin-ups' of British Judo(or so I'm told!) Ros was very very nervous about meeting Ray. However after a couple of glasses of wine and an introduction from Nikki Adams and Ros got her 'Ultimate Photo' with Ray and Neil.
After i had ran around some more, i had photos with Olympic Gold medalist Angelo Parisi, 1964 Olympian and president of the Budokwai Tony Sweeney, Ray Stevens, Chris Bowles and had a long chat with Mick Leigh and his lovely daughter Stephanie who has been a big contributor to British Judo History.
Food was served and gobbled up fairly rapidly(Judo players love their food eh!) then speeches were given, Chairman of the Budokwai Peter Blewett gave a speech in Japanese thanking the Japanese delegates for attending and then proceeded to list all the Japanese Sensei who had taught at the Budokwai(including Inoue Sensei and Yamashita Sensei) BJA Chairman Ronnie Saez presented the Budokwai with a beautiful painting by Neil Eckersley.
There was then a video presentation of the history of the Budokwai which was wonderful and very moving. there was also a video tribute to Kisaburo Watanabe who is credited with influencing British Judo when he came to London to coach in the 1950's, Chris Gallie has told me many stories about him as he was one of her coaches at the Budokwai, now 84 years old he had flown over from Japan just for this evening, i spoke to him briefly(in japanese to start with!) i gave him a deep bow and he proceeded to get to his feet bow back and then wrote an inscription in my book in kanji - very much a 'pinch me' moment.
Just before dessert Neil Adams stood up and gave a fantastic speech about the past present and future, his own memories of being a 16 year old training at the Budokwai and how he was very much looking forward to seeing what the future brings, all of us Drake folk agreed that it was awe inspiring stuff!
My final meeting and photo of the evening was another milestone for me, Alan Petherbridge is 90 years old, a 9th Dan and former British team captain from the 1964 Olympics, he is without doubt a living legend, Alan Kimber once told me that 'Peth' once visited Plymouth judo Club in the 1960's but because of course back then there wasn't any internet or sports magazines, nobody knew what he looked like, therefore when this middle aged welsh gentleman turned up looking for some randori the PJC boys didn't think much of it until he started to bounce a few of them, it was then discovered who he was an no doubt the PJC boys felt a little better!
I have spoke to Peth's daughter Sharon on a few occasions and Peth has been very supportive of British judo History, he was a gentleman when i spoke to him too, you might not believe this but i became a little tongue tied and didn't say much!
By this point it was unfortunately time to leave as i was driving back directly afterwards! an unbelievable evening and one I'm proud to say DJC was represented at