The Charlotte Kendo Club
The story of the Charlotte Kendo Club begins in San Jose, California in 1974. Charlotte native Ken Strawn, who knew nothing of Kendo, discovered the San Jose State University Kendo Club.
SJSU’s sensei was Professor of Asian History, Benjamin Hazard (now 7-Dan Hanshi). Hazard Sensei served in the Pacific during WWII and on McArthur’s staff during the occupation of Japan. In 1948, he was invited to watch a Kendo practice by U.S. Army Lt. Maki Miyahara (now 8-Dan Hanshi). Hazard began training under Masami Tanaya Sensei. Entering the University of California at Berkeley in 1952, he met Gordon Warner (author of “This is Kendo”) and together they started the first postwar Kendo club in Northern California. Hazard began the SJSU club in 1965.
Strawn practiced 9 years in Northern California, under Y. Takao (7-Dan), Y. Miyata (now 8-Dan Hanshi), and C. Tanaka (7-Dan). He accompanied SJSU Kendo Club on a tour of Japanese University Kendo Clubs in 1978 and in 1981, represented Northern California in the goodwill division of the 2nd U.S. National Championships in Chicago. Moving to Portland, Oregon in 1983, Strawn trained in nearby Seattle with R. Omoto (7-Dan), S. Koike (7-Dan), and J. Marsten (now 7-Dan Kyoshi). He returned to Charlotte in 1986 and contacted the Charlotte Parks and Recreation Department about starting a Kendo club. The first practice was in April of 1986.
In 1988, Charlotte Kendo Club was a founding member of the Southeastern U.S. Kendo Federation (the other founding members were Atlanta, Memphis and Miami). That same year, Charlotte hosted the first of six annual spring tournaments. Over the years, Strawn has been assisted by yudansha such as Hiroshi Kobayashi, Bill Scott, Yasuo Goto, Mika Matsushima, David Jones and Bethany Stewart.
Charlotte Kendo Club was especially fortunate to have Nobutoshi “Neal” Iwakoshi (4-Dan) with the club for two years. He made an impact on the club between 1998 and 2000 which will affect it for many years to come.
In 2001, due to medical reasons, Strawn had to undergo an operation to amputate his right leg below the knee. In his absence, Michael Quinn and Scott Brooks stepped up to run the class. In 2002, around the time that Strawn returned to active practice, the club welcomed the arrival of Tetsuro Tsushima (then 4-dan, now 6-dan) who practiced with the club for two years while studying for his master’s degree at UNC-Charlotte. Thanks to Tsushima’s efforts, the abilities of club members increased tremendously. 2003 saw the arrival of Masaru Shimada (then 3-dan, now 4-dan) and Satomi Kitabayashi (then 2-dan, now 5-dan). Both made lasting impressions on Charlotte kendoists. Satomi would marry fellow Charlotte Kendoist Jason Lane and become Satomi Lane. Today we are fortunate to have instructors like Chris Tsui (5-dan), Mitch Asano (4-dan), Craig Philbeck (4-dan), and Scott Brooks (4-dan).
The Charlotte Kendo Club has won the South Eastern Kendo Championships twice, in 2005 and in 2010. Over the years, many Charlotte kendoists have participated in the National Championships representing the South Eastern United States Kendo Federation, They have been Ken Strawn, Bill Scott, Chris Seals, Jac Grimes, Mike Quinn, Leon Shanklin, Scott Brooks, Satomi Kitabayashi Lane, Jay Lane, Nedeen Fandek, and Stephan Locklair.
Today, the Charlotte Kendo Club stands as a proud member of the Southeastern US Kendo Federation. It looks forward to a continued tradition begun over thirty years ago.