Betty MacClafferty

Betty MacClafferty

In a semi regular series of articles on Judo Victoria Life Members, Richard Roper, Head Coach of Newport Judo Club interviews his friend and mentor, 91-year-old, San Dan, Betty MacClafferty.
Richard visited Betty, a loyal member of Newport for many years, as soon as lockdown allowed, to find out about her 60+ year involvement in Judo.
When Richard visited, Betty was recovering from a break in her leg that refuses to completely repair.


Born in Manchester, UK, Betty first went to Judo classes with a friend, to learn self-defence. Many a time Betty would be the only female in the class. Betty felt that although this bought its own set of challenges, it meant that she developed strong Judo. It also worked in her favour when she had to be carried by 5 men downstairs to an ambulance after breaking her ankle. She was back on the mat as soon as her ankle healed.


Betty came to Australia in 1959 for a change of climate.
While living in Brooklyn, Betty joined the YMCA as an Orange belt. She continued with the YWCA and earned her Sho Dan.


Through meeting Ivan and Cylia Zavetchanos, Betty attended a class with Miss Keiko Fukuda, Kano’s last student. She says this is her favourite Judo memory.
Miss Fukuda complimented Betty’s commitment to training and gave Betty a signed copy of her book – Born for the Mat.
Betty explains that Miss Fukuda was the main influence on her Kata from then on.

Betty also had the opportunity to do Ju No Kata, her favourite Kata, with Donn Draeger, an American Martial Artist who worked as Martial arts coordinator for James Bond movies.


Betty recalls that although it wasn’t universal in the Judo community, she felt that there was a glass ceiling for female judoka. She was even told at one point that she would never get her 2nd Dan which of course made her more determined.


Betty gained her 2nd Dan grading, in 1968, through a line up. She clearly remembers being so nervous that she couldn’t watch the other fights and there were a lot of country girls there who were very strong. The first player Betty faced was a very strong country girl! To Betty’s amazement, this girl had not been taught to break balance and although Betty felt this girls’ very strong grip, she was able to take advantage and win with an O Soto Gari.


Betty was a regular at competitions, assisting with scoring and other administrative duties. She taught Kata at Newport, Moonee Valley, Mordialloc and Frankston and ran a regular Kata class at Caulfield every Saturday for many years.


This was one of her great pleasures and she misses it very much but still tries to get to JV competitions when she can.


Betty received Judo Victoria Life Membership in 2012.


Richard notes that Betty is a woman with a strong personality and a strong faith. She has travelled the world visiting religious places and staying at convents. She sang in the choir at Melbourne’s St Francis church for 20 years.


Advice from Betty to young Judo players? “Keep practicing and take an interest in Kata”