John Gay (1918 – 1996)



John Charles Gay was the founder and head of the Australian Aikido Association, based in Melbourne, Australia.

Professor Tomiki training with John Gay in Melbourne Australia.
Professor Tomiki training with John Gay in Melbourne Australia.

John Gay shihan taught self-defence and arrest techniques to Police Cadets in Melbourne and spread Tomiki-style Aikido across the whole of Australia.

Mr Gay was born in Monmouth, Wales, on May 21, 1918. He learned to box as a boy and became a bricklayer, leaving Wales to find work in Birmingham and London.

When World War II began, John Gay joined the British Army Royal Engineers, where he became a Physical Training Instructor and was schooled in explosives and demolition.

Mr Gay accompanied the Canadian soldiers who invaded Normandy in the D-Day invasion of Europe on June 6, 1944.

He was one of the first Allied soldiers to enter the Nazi extermination camp at Belsen, and these experiences made his anti-war convictions even stronger.

After returning to the United Kingdom, John Gay married his first wife, Dorothy. He worked as a taxi driver and began learning Judo in London. He discovered Tomiki style Aikido, and had gained his Sandan (3rd dan black belt) in Aikido by 1970.

John Gay, the Aikido Sensei, in Melbourne Australia

John Gay emigrated to Melbourne in 1971 where he married his second wife, Leonie. He began teaching Aikido at the Ashwood Judo Centre and various YMCAs in Victoria.

In 1975 Mr Gay was appointed instructor to the Victoria Police Cadets, teaching defense and arrest techniques.
This was the first time the Victorian state police had training in anything more scientific than boxing and rugby tackles.

There was one episode John Gay told me about when three young men tried to mug him in a Melbourne alleyway. He walked into the local police station to report it, and when he flashed his Police ID, the duty sergeant stood to attention and snapped, “Right sir! We’ll go and look for the offenders right away!”

John Gay looked at the cop with a twinkle in his eye and said, “You can take your time, mate. They won’t be moving for quite some time.”

Mr Gay remained with the police for 13 years until he reached the mandatory retirement age and they made him retire. I remember he became quite cranky after that.

Mr Gay continued to teach and promote Aikido through the 1980`s and 1990`s, visiting Japan seven times in his career and receiving the rank of seventh dan, which made him a Shihan.

One of John’s major achievements was helping to found the Martial Arts Board of Victoria. The purpose here was to put a stop to organized martial arts tournament matches which were often held in the car parks at the back of Melbourne’s pubs and bars. The Martial Arts Board brought in proper licensing regulations for the task, requiring martial arts instructors to be registered and have first aid certification and coaching training.

John Gay, Shihan, was awarded membership of the Japan Aikido Association by the Tomiki Aikido International Network, and had the honour of being the only foreigner on the networks committee.

His philosophy was based on that of the sport of Aikido – “the man who is at peace with himself is unlikely to make war on others.”

John Gay died of a stroke on September 6th 1996, while demonstrating aigamaeate (Shodokan Aikido throw number two) on the mats at Melbourne University at Footscray. Two of his students, Michael Egan and David Woolcock  were there when he collapsed.

He is survived by his daughter.

4 thoughts on “John Gay (1918 – 1996)”

  1. I was taught Aikido by John Gay at the Stowe Club for boys in London in the late 60s.Whilst I was a member of the club a James Bond film was being shot and a groupe of Aikido teachers came over to play the part of Ninga in the film ,they used us boys for practice and taught us .Before they went back they graded us I was graded a green.The top teacher was a 7th dan,in a public demonstration 4 of us boys had to take a pole from his wife who was about 4ft6in and 6 stone.we never stood a chance.When training for the film they would use real knives and swords,they had many cuts.Rich (South Wales).

  2. I can remember John very well I would go with my grandfather every Saturday morning as he taught the class Arnold mintz my grandfather would always be there one and a half hours before class exactly to enjoy a cup of tea and honey with John and John would always save me a lady finger banana.
    I’ll never forget johns unique ways and simplicity he would live at the do Jo and always walk around in Japanese thongs

    1. Hi Franky. I remember Arnold Mintz was into Kendo as well as Aikido, and heard a tale of his waking up to a burglar in his house. It was a hot summer’s night, and Arnold (our nickname for him was “Butch”) leapt out of bed and grabbed a bokken (wooden sword). He chased the intruder right down the street screaming blood-curdling Ki-yai at the guy. And Butch was stark bollock naked all the time. That’s the warrior spirit! 😉

  3. I was taught Aikido by John and Leonie at the Ashwood Judo Center and they were both fantastic instructors and I learned so much from him, and Leonie. John was a gentle peaceful gentleman with an incredible spirit and earned so much respect from all the students

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