Our People

OUR COACHES

Kouta Nagamura 4th Dan – Head Senior and Junior Coach

I started my judo journey when I was 6 years old in Japan. My first dojo was called “Nagasawa-Budoukan“. At the time, I was already doing soccer, swimming, baseball and gymnastics. I really enjoyed these sports but when I started judo it had changed my life completely. I had never seen such an aggressive and powerful sport before. I loved it!

I had been working hard for selection in the state athlete program for primary aged students. Unfortunately, I wasn’t selected but the efforts paid me back later as I went on to win a judo scholarship in high school and university.

At university, I studied a physical education and martial arts degree because I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to learn more than just competition judo, and to have the skills to teach the judo principles to others. Judo has been given me so many things, such as technical skills mental and physical strength, friends, memories and family. It is an irreplaceable part of my life.

In my last year of university, I was looking to do judo outside of Japan. Through my high school judo contact, I found UWA Judo Club. I came here first as randori partner, and I am now the head coach of the club. I was not able to speak English when I arrived but everyone helped and supported me to develop my conversational skills. I feel this is a part of judo, it is called “Jita Kyouei” it means mutual benefits.

From my perspective, Judo is not just sport. You learn about your sprit and mind, and the judo moral code. I like to teach this to children - it is hard to understand at first, but hopefully when they grow up they will realise what I have taught them.

Lastly, I hope UWA Judo Club and I can support your judo journey whatever this looks like for you.

John Commerford 1st Dan – Senior and Junior Coach

I started judo at the ripe old age of 4 nearly 5 after a local judo club did a demonstration at my school in England.

Judo has taught me to have pride and respect not only for others but also in myself. I have had highs and lows in my judo life, but these have shaped me into the person I am today. The friends I have met along the way, I have formed an everlasting bond with. That is what I love about judo. It is a journey and you never know where it will take you and who you will meet along the way.

I have been three-time British National champion and have won multiple National and International medals. I also had the pleasure of representing Great Britain at a Junior Worlds and Europeans.

I am not one for gyms so practising judo is a great way to keep fit. It's also a great stress reliever after a hard day at work.

I have been coaching since I was 15 years old as it was a way of funding my fulltime training programme at Camberley Judo Club in the UK. I like that I can help kids have an interest of a positive nature. Judo gave me so many opportunities and I now like passing on the knowledge I have gained to all members.

UWA Judo Club has something for everybody from the beginner to the Olympic athlete. Since joining the club in 2006 after a 5-year break, I have made so many friends, reacquainted with old friends and reconnected to the sport I love.

Peter Swan 5th Dan – Junior, Kata & Technical Grading Coach

I started judo at UWA Judo Club in 1989 whilst a student at the university. I had studied jujitsu and karate before but found I really enjoyed and connected with the hands-on physicality of judo training. After graduating from UWA I lived and trained in Japan for one and a half years where I attained my black belt.

Upon my return from Japan, I competed extensively in the Australian tournament circuit and was ranked second in Oceania. I was a member of the Australian National Judo team in the nineties and was privileged to represent Australia at the Kano Cup in Japan and in the US Open in America.

After retiring from competition, I continue to train to increase my technical knowledge of judo, maintain my strength and fitness and to interact with other members of the club.

Teaching others has always been a passion of mine, so it was only natural for this to extend into judo. From my early days as a coloured belt, I was always involved in teaching beginners and this has developed into teaching more technical aspects of judo. I now specialise in the teaching of kids and gain great satisfaction from seeing them develop physically and emotionally from the challenges of judo practice.

UWA Judo Club has always been my home. The club caters for students of all ages, abilities and interests and I am proud to have been a part of it for so long.

Peter Woollons 5th Dan – Kata & Technical Grading Coach

Judo has been a part of my life since I first walked into a bush dojo in 1973. The tatami was saw dust with a train tarpaulin stretched across it. It wasn’t the best but it was all we knew. 40 plus years later, I’m now a 5th Dan – not sure how that happened! Like many of my judo friends, we didn’t chase grades they just sort of came along as we studied judo.

I have been involved with the UWA Judo Club basically since its inception. There’s still a lot of us around from that time, that’s the sort of club it is. People who leave stay in contact and when they visit, it’s like they never left.

The focus of the club is developing judo in Western Australia and helping anyone who is interested in learning. To do this we exchange with clubs and people from around the world which ensures that as judo evolves we keep learning as well.

The club is inclusive – I like that. Our youngest members are barely out of nappies and our oldest are probably heading back into them. I keep going for the friendly banter, to be a part of helping others achieve their goals, because I’m still learning, because I have just enough judo knowledge to realise how little judo knowledge I have and because the club respects, that whilst judo evolves the fundamental philosophy remains rooted in the ideals of its founder, Jigoro Kano. Particularly – mutual prosperity and maximum efficient use of energy.

Melissa Dennehy 3rd Dan – Junior and Ladies Judo, Kata, Technical Grading and BJJ Coach

I started the sport later than most at age 23. Shortly after, I moved to the UK and Ireland for 4 years where judo served as my community and social hub. I trained at several competition focused clubs, which in turn had me competing regularly at local and international tournaments.

Due to health reasons, I took a lengthy break from the sport and recommenced after seeing the joy on the face of my young daughter at her first judo class. I started helping in the kids’ class, then gradually began training with the adults. A few months later I competed at state titles, and have gone on to compete at national and Oceania level in both shiai and kata, culminating in the IJF Kata World Championships in 2023.

I’m an accredited IJF coach instructor. I am the Chair of Judo Western Australia in addition serving on the Judo WA grading committee and National Veterans Committee. I currently act as the secretary of UWA Judo, and I coach variety of classes at the dojo in addition to training as a black belt in BJJ under the Will-Machado Australasia lineage .

My passion is grassroots judo and I love coaching kids, tapping into their interests and energy to get them to be the superhero that is inside us all. Watching people learn and progress, from young to old, is especially rewarding.

Judo is for everyone. It’s not just about players on the mat and winning medals. It challenges every aspect of your day to day life, and its teachings only better you as a person. UWA Judo Club is a fantastic place to start or continue your judo journey. It’s a family of people passionate and dedicated to the sport, there to support you on your judo path, wherever it takes you.

Clive Smith 5th Dan – Saturday Senior Judo Coach

I started my judo journey in 1956 as an 18-year-old in Wales.

In 1961 I achieved my first dan, and my second dan followed in 1962. Shortly after, I trained at the Renshudan and Budokwai Judo Clubs in London.

I think that judo is the best sport in the world. It's in my blood! I love it, and even at the age of 83, I continue to love it as much as I did 67 years ago. I still train regularly as judo keeps me active both in the mind and body.

I have been at UWA Judo Club since it first started in 1988. I was coaching a Saturday class at the Claremont Police Boys Club and once it closed, I was asked by UWA Judo Club to coach their Saturday class. I have been coaching that class for the last 31 years and will continue to coach the Saturday afternoon adult’s session for as long as I can. UWA Judo is a great club. It welcomes everyone, from tiny children to people my age with warmth and an eagerness to pass on judo knowledge.

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