As most kendoka are aware, the 15th World Kendo Championships will be held in Italy in three months time. I imagine that the organising committee in Italy is working flat out to ensure that such a major event runs smoothly. The FIK team in Tokyo are working equally hard to supply the support and technical resources to guarantee success. Part of their role is the selection and training of the referee team for Novara. Having just returned from Narita where the first of two referee training seminars for this event was held, I am using this opportunity to give my readers an insight into what goes on “behind the scenes”.
The 15WKC will have 36 referees. If you include the shinpan cho and the four shinpan shunin, this takes the referee team to 41 people. We were gathered together in Narita together with 20 of Kanto’s top university players, to work on our refereeing skills. The whole event took place under the watchful eye of senior members of FIK and Tatsuo Hayashi and Alex Bennett were on hand to provide translation for the non-Japanese speakers. It all ran like clockwork, with hotels, busses and gym schedules fitting together without a hitch.
The format of the training was to apportion referees to two courts and to change our groups over two days to give us experience of working with different partners. These were drawn from Japan, Korea, USA, Canada, Brazil, Taipei and eight European countries. There was very little lecturing. The shiai continued relentlessly with discussion over any split point decisions, or less than optimum referee positioning introduced by the shinpan-shunin. Most of the fighters took chudan with one jodan player present and a nito session was introduced, with Toda sensei and another nito player showing their skills against some of the students.
Normally at events of this kind, criticism is heaviest at the beginning and diminishes as we adjust to working together. I had the pleasure of being the first shushin in my court after the opening ceremony and received a well deserved mauling for some court positioning issues. Being dissected in front of 40 seventh and eight dans focuses the mind brilliantly and our performance steadily improved, so that the afternoon and following days sessions generated hardly any discussion.
Very few new technical issues were evident. Tsuki was seen frequently but did not make ippon, (usually because of accuracy), and dou was seen frequently and in most cases succeeded. The only controversial question was on the point to which fighters should withdraw at the instruction “wakare”. Apparently International rules say “past the Nakayui” and All Japan rules say “to the kisaki”.
This was followed by sayonara party to let off steam and cement friendships and the instruction to reconvene for another two days of training in Novara.