It is arguably much harder to become a good referee than a good kendoka. Having watched people trying to get to grips with refereeing at last weekends seminar, it is obvious that the combination of correctly judging yuko datotsu, moving as a team and confidently coordinating flags and voice commands is a massive task. It is also obvious that for Kendo to flourish, we need a pipeline of capable young referees for the future.
Fortunately, in Kendo, there is a requirement for referees to be active kendoka. Unlike some sports where individuals who do not actually play, can qualify as a referee, there is not the level of contempt for referees that exists in say, soccer. Still, being the man with the flag is not the most glamorous job in the shiai-jo, which is why many kendoka prefer to continue their own shiai career rather than referee. This leads to increased pressure on the few people who do regularly referee. In an ideal world there should be nine referees per shiai-jo, to ensure everyone has sufficient rest time, whereas I regularly referee as one of a team of four.
Everyone has their own view of what constitutes Ippon. Most would buy into the concept that the correct part of the shinai must strike the correct part of the target. The attacker must show ki-ken-tai-ichi and correct posture and zanshin. The cut must have sufficient force and finish and the sword cutting angle must be accurate. Using the evidence of their eyes and ears, referees need to compute all this information in a split second.
To be able to do this, you need be in the right place at the right time. You need to move as a tight triangle with a constant view of both sides of both contestants. You also need to keep in sight of the other two referees, so that you can respond to their calls. Now clearly, if you spend your time in the shiai-jo worrying about the correct pronounciation of your next command, or thinking about where your flags should be if you need to make such and such a signal; you will be too busy to judge the next point correctly.
So, you need to ensure that your position in the court, the commands and flag handling become second nature. Then you can concenrate on judging correct yuko datotsu. How do you do this? To quote the old New York joke, the same way you get to Carnegie Hall- practise.