In kendo we have the motto ko-ken-chi-ai which loosely translates to loving your fellow man through the application of the sword. To me this sums up Terry Holt sensei’s approach to life. Terry will be remembered as one of the founding fathers of British kendo and one of the first few to gain 7th dan, but above all it is his generosity and kindness to others that will stay in my mind.
Mumeishi dojo has always attracted visitors and temporary members from around the World. Most of them have stayed in touch with Holt sensei and with each other as part of an informal international old boys (and girls) association. Terry has inspired sister dojo in other countries and with Mumeishi dojo in Australia, Israel and Iran this probably ranks him somewhere near Henry Kissinger as a peacemaker.
Terry always took the view that kendo teaching is also learning and he worked side by side with his students, the last time I saw him was just before his illness when he was happily taking points from people in jigeiko while helping them improve their kendo. Although a stickler for correct kendo and etiquette Terry was always much happier to encourage rather than criticise and had the ability to make you feel good about yourself even if you had just failed a grading or lost a shiai.
Terry’s kindness did not stop in the dojo. The home that he shared with Gill and their family has always been a kendo open house. Visiting kenshi or their friends and relatives in need of a bed for the night or longer have always been welcome.
One of Terry’s driving passions was the Mumeishi 3’s Championship which is probably the biggest and certainly the friendliest private kendo competition in Europe. The 42nd annual event was held last November and even though Terry was in hospital at the time he managed to join us by Skype. I have always been impressed by the way that Terry had no sooner closed one year’s event before he was planning the next.
Terry was equally passionate about travel, particularly after he retired. In addition to his regular World tours of Japan, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand he put massive effort into attending and organising seminars across Europe. I travelled regularly with him to Ireland, Brussels and Norway and have always been impressed by his promptness at airport check-ins, his liking for a pint of Guinness and his ability to make new friends.
Terry taught me a number of valuable lessons, not just about kendo but about life. He was testimony to the fact that life is for living, to the full, to the very end. He taught me about the value of friendship and that the principles of kendo go beyond the walls of the dojo.
I shall miss him.
*As a positive postscript I travelled from the funeral to the referee’s seminar in Brussels where two British kendo friends, John O’Sullivan and Yasuyuki Hiyama passed the seventh dan grading – a fitting tribute to Terry.