My last Saturday was spent as a referee at the increasingly popular Mumeishi 3’s tournament. This friendly competition attracted 84 teams from numerous countries and kept the referees occupied for a long hard day. However as a good-will event made up of mixed kyu / dan teams and with separate children’s and ladies events, the standard of competitor behaviour is pretty high and the number of hansoku fouls handed out is limited.
However the conversation in the referees room did get round to how to manage overly long tsubazeriai. This was especially topical in view of the piece in George McCall’s excellent blog about the changes being brought in for high-school kendo in Japan. As suggested in George’s blog, it is a good indication that this will bubble upwards to adult kendo and will therefore be eventually adopted internationally.
Putting aside the other tsubazeriai infringements such as touching the opponent’s jinbu with your fist or attempting to trap the shinai by hooking it with your own, the referee’s biggest concern is whether extended tsubazeriai is a deliberate ploy to waste time. This is particularly true when it can be used to tactical advantage, i.e. one point ahead in a shiai, or if a draw will get you by in a team match.
My own formula is fairly simple – wakare in the first instance, maybe a second wakare if there is an element of doubt and then come the hansoku, one each if the time wasting is mutual but if the shinpan team can detect that the hold-up is caused by either individual player: then the culprit alone is penalised. Hopefully the offenders get the message whilst there is only one hansoku on the board, but a repeat can lead to ippon-ari and potentially the loss of the match.
As I understand the new rule, it gives a defined 10 second period after which the competitors must separate to correct distance. The only real change is that everyone knows when the axe will fall and the poor old referee will not get blamed for making an arbitrary decision. Still I am sure we can find something else to blame him for.