two weeks time we have 4 hachidan and a supporting cast of nanadan sensei visiting the UK for a seminar and I am really looking forward to a my “hachidan fix”. In the meantime I have been reviewing my videos of this years Kyoto Taikai and thinking about what makes some of the great sensei as good as they are.
Perhaps it is because of my own age and kendo aspirations, but I find the All Japan Hachidan Championships and the Kyoto Taikai far more inspiring than the All Japan Championships. The depth of Kendo shown by some of the sensei who are now in their 60’s appeals to me more than the speed and accuracy of the current younger champions. There is a long list of sensei whom I admire, but those that immediately come to mind are Yamanaka, Uegaki, Arima, Sumi and Chiba sensei.
If you are familiar with their kendo, you will realise that this is a very eclectic mix. I like the first two because of their phenomenal pressure and work rate. Sumi sensei’s kendo is big and bold with his signature big men attack whilst Arima sensei is renowned for small sharp tsuki and kote attacks. He is also one of the few senior sensei to use cheeky techniques like gyaku dou.
Chiba sensei’s jodan is of course legendary, but to be honest, I have never really had any interest in practicing jodan. It is just his ability to hit at will that makes his kendo so interesting to me. Of course he also teaches superb chudan kendo. This is by no means an exhaustive list of my current kendo role models, but these gentlemen all come quickly to mind when people ask “who’s kendo do you admire”
What makes it more interesting is that they are all thoroughly like-able people – humble, amusing and good to be with. It is almost as if the hachidan shinsa is in three parts – jitsugi, kata; and a formal nice guy examination, or maybe the last bit is just part of becoming hanshi. Here’s a picture of two of my heroes in London. + Ben Sheppard sent me this link of Chiba sensei in action .