I was lucky enough to be invited as shinpan-cho for the British Universities Kendo Championship in Edinburgh at the weekend. In the past, the British Kendo Association has shipped in senior kendoka to act as referees for major takai. Now in these more austere times, they are rationing the number of people that they will provide, leaving the hosting club and the coaches and OBs from attending clubs to fill the organising and refereeing void.
I expected that the organisation would be up to scratch, as the very competent members of Edinburgh University Kendo Club were being supported by the group from Tora dojo that ran the highly successful London cup. So it was evident that everything would be under control with the draw and the court management, but knowing that we were short of experienced referees was an initial concern.
We had 3 godan and 4 yondan to spread between two courts, supplemented by another 5 or 6 sandan. As it turned out it all went brilliantly. After a slightly nervous start, both refereeing teams found their confidence and took control. Their were a couple of minor procedural glitches, but everyone did a great job of seeing the yuko datotsu real time and making sound judgments.
The whole thing ran to time, letting us all get some keiko at the end of each day and most importantly, the referees let the shiai flow smoothly, giving the competitors the chance to do their best kendo. The high spot was the home team, Edinburgh “A” , winning the team match and I was quietly pleased when Safraz Aziz of Queen Mary College, who practices with me regularly, won the men’s dan individual competition.
The sayonara party was boisterous and fun and playing doubles with Young Park, I even got to win a couple of games of pool. The biggest lesson for me however, was that given the space and confidence to do it, our younger kendoka had no problem doing everything to the highest standard to make a very successful taikai. The good news being that I and my contempories are a lot less indispensible than we thought we were. Well done guys!
Thanks to Young Park of Eurokendo for the pic.