Tamio Tsuji Sensei

Tamio Tsuji Sensei, the “father” of karate in Queensland came to Brisbane at the request of John Halpin Sensei and others.

John and other’s trained at the Brisbane Karate Club. It was on the waterfront in the city under the Story Bridge and when Japanese ships came to port, they would ask if anyone practiced karate and invite them to train. That is how John Halpin met Tamio Tsuji.

A Japanese Naval Training Ship arrived in port and Tamio Tsuji was a trainee on this ship. The relationship grew with John Halpin and two others from the club sponsoring Tsuji Sensei who settled in Brisbane with his wife Fumio and eventually took over the Brisbane Karate Club.

Tamio Tsuji Sensei’s dojo, which became Tsuji Dojo, was the starting point of many Karate Clubs in Queensland. His main students were John Halpin Sensei, Graham Kelliher Sensei and Dan Ellaby. These three students represented Australia in the first World Karate Championships in Japan in 1970. Tamio Tsuji was the team coach and Dan Ellaby, who was 18 then, progressed to the last 16.

Ryo Tsuji Sensei, then a 3rd Dan in Shotokan Karate-do, came out from Japan in 1973 to aid his brother Tamio in running Tsuji Dojo. Ryo also settled in Australia.

John Halpin Sensei & Graham Kelliher Sensei both started their own karate organisations and Dan Ellaby dominated Karate tournaments in the 70’s being a multiple Queensland and Australian Champion. Tsuji Dojo was the major force in tournament karate in Australia in the early 70’s with many tournament wins. Paul McCarthy from Tsuji Dojo was the 1st Australian Champion in 1972, Dan Ellaby was Australian Champion in 1974 & 1976. Many other members also placed in the state and national tournaments. It those days, there was only an open division and no kata competition, much different from today.

Tamio Tsuji with Don Cameron MP was also instrumental in helping found FAKO, the Federation of Australian Karate do Organisations in 1970 and was the first Australian Coach. FAKO has since evolved into the AKF, the Australian Karate Federation.

Sensei John Halpin (1941 – 2007)

Sensei Halpin, a much respected figure and leader in the Martial Arts Community, was the Head of Style of Seikukan Karate-do in Australia as well as being the long serving President of the Australian Karate Federation, President of the Oceania Karate Federation and Treasurer of the World Karate Federation. Sensei John Halpin enriched the world when he was alive and the world is truly a poorer place for his passing .

The WKF President, Mr. A.Espinos had this to say at Sensei Halpin’s Memorial.

“These days are days of intense and mixed feelings. Deep sadness and immense grief for the loss of John, but also serene pride for having had the privilege of knowing John in life and having learnt so much from his example.For me is also privilege to be here honouring his memory in the company of his family and his friends; I would have travelled the world as many times as it would have taken to be with John today.

I met John for the first time in 1994 and from the very beginning he became one of the keys to overcome the troubled times that the World Karate Federation was living by then. Four years later, I took probably one of the best decisions I have ever taken as President, as it was to ask John to become the Treasurer of the World Karate Federation. This unexpected proposal for John did not prevent him to show, once more, his tremendous generosity and he immediately accepted.Since then, more than eight years have passed and at every opportunity John has been able to prove to be a huge added value in the development of the World Karate Federation and for the sport of Karate.

Now John has left us and he leaves a big gap that is going to be very difficult to be filled. But he has also left us his legacy and his example, how we can live our short life in earth in harmony with ourselves, helping the people and making their lives better and easier.

The World Karate Federation, the world of Karate, will pay John the tribute he deserves. It will be in Tokyo before the next Congress of the WKF. I ask John’s family to be our guests there and I am sure that we will also share it with many of John’s friends.
Dear family of John, dear friends of John: John’s passing leaves us a model to follow, and much above everything else, his qualities as human being will always remain alive in the bottom of our hearts.

I would like to conclude my words with the last part of “A thousand wind”:

I will not stand at John’s grave and cry;

John is not there, John did not die.”

Sensei Matsumoto

Matsumoto Sensei was the Chief Instructor of Matsumoto Karate Academy in Cairns for over 40 years, but a student of karate his whole life.

Born in 1942 Japan, of small stature, he was a target of bullying at primary school. His father insisted he take up karate to develop his physical and mental strength.  He trained every day through primary, secondary and tertiary years. By the age of 20, he became an instructor and established ‘Shokukai’ (Matsumoto Karate) in Matsuyama, Japan.  Many of his original students have led successful lives, some still involved with karate in some capacity as instructors themselves, even competing and winning in their 70s.  Sensei achieved 7th Dan after 25 years of training.

His dream to travel abroad came true when after graduating as a marine biologist, was given the opportunity to work as a pearl technician in the Torres Strait Islands.  His wife, Fusashi joined him a year later and daughter, Satomi was born on Thursday Island.  Sensei started a karate club on T.I. teaching locals during his spare time.

After almost 10 years, the family moved to Cairns where for the first time there was an opportunity to teach karate and create an income from it.  In 1976, The Matsumoto Karate Academy commenced daily classes in an industrial warehouse. Karate proved popular and Sensei gained strong community support during a time when there were few Japanese in the area and war sentiments persisted.

Sensei was keen to teach Australians about his culture through martial arts and as his reputation grew, so too the student numbers. It was evident that bigger premises were needed and in 1982, The Matsumoto Karate Dojo on Anderson Street was officially opened by the Cairns Mayor, Mr Ron Davis. This was the first and largest purpose-built dojo in Australia.  This put Cairns on the world martial arts map. At its most popular, Sensei had 8 branches throughout Queensland.

For over 3 decades, The Matsumoto Karate Academy consistently showed strong presence in State and National Titles where Sensei and students were held in high regard by its peers. Some students competed internationally.
Sensei arranged several karate tours to Japan where students were given a taste of Japan and its culture whilst building new relations through organized training sessions and tournaments with other dojos. Japanese karate dojos would arrange similar tours to Cairns.

Career Highlights (Awards, Accolades and Achievements)1982 – Official opening of Matsumoto Karate Dojo on Anderson Street, Cairns.

  • 1989 – Presented with the keys to the city of Osaka, Japan.
  • 1998 – Received Commonwealth of Australia Ministerial Sports Encouragement Award presented to Sensei by The Federal Minister for Sports, Andrew Thomson MP and Member for Leichhardt, Warren Entsch MP.
  • 2000 – Received The Australian Sports Medal and official letter signed by Prime Minister John Howard and Governor-General William Deane.
  • 2006 – Presented with an award from Cairns Mayor, Kevin Byrne for 30 years of Community Service.
  • 2008 – Nominated and became a Certified Member of DNBK, Japan. DNBK was originally established in 1895 as a national body to solidify, promote and standardize martial disciplines throughout Japan. It was a symbol of esteemed honor and highest integrity that prominent Japanese martial practitioners aspired to. Now an internationally recognized with branches in 35 countries.
  • 2008 – (In my opinion) Sensei’s single most proud achievement. Officially recognized by his country of birth for strengthening ties between Australia and Japan through martial arts. Sensei was presented with a Certificate of Commendation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan at a special ceremony with Consul General of Japan.
  • 2011 – Achieved 8th Dan at DNBK International, Kyoto, Japan. Also awarded Best Individual Demonstration at DNBK International Annual Event.
  • 2016 – Celebrated 40 years of Matsumoto Karate Dojo.

Sensei achieved his dream of going abroad very early in life, but he fulfilled an even bigger dream by doing what he loved most.  The following was copied from an old newspaper article :-

“The philosophy of karate becomes a lifetime dedication to a fit body and healthy mind. It is a form of technical training which improves natural coordination, keeps you fit and is enjoyable. It is great for building confidence and self-control. When you know you can take care of yourself, you don’t need to show off about it.”