Having just returned from refereeing at the European Kendo Championships in Hungary, I have had a frantic day and a half to catch up with work before squeezing in some time for my blog. Whilst I am not new to the European Championships, (I have attended on numerous occasions as a competitor, kantoku and referee), I am always astounded how the event grows every year. This year there were over 700 participants from 37 countries, necessitating 3 full days of shiai in 4 courts. With only 6 referees per court this made for a tough assignment, particularly as I was on a grading panel at the end of the final day.
The hard work however, paled into insignificance against the pure energy and fighting spirit that the event generated and the pleasure of seeing kendo not only grow, but improve to the extent that it has. Although the favourites were high in the medals table with Italy, France, Germany, Finland and Hungary getting their predicted share, there were some great performances from the newcomers, with Russia taking the junior title, an amazing win against a seasoned French athlete by Robin Deegan of Ireland and Poland and Slovakia making an impressive appearance. There were probably lots of great fights that I missed, because as a referee, you only see what is happening on your own court.
Of course the group ethos broke down at the sayonara party, when national and functional boundaries collapsed and everyone went flat-out to chat, drink and dance with everyone else. This resulted in lots of new friendships and I imagine quite a few hangovers.
I came away from the event tired but revitalised by the overall spirit of European Kendo and pleased that the two GB fighting spirit medals went to members of my dojo.