With so much going on in the European kendo calendar, it was difficult to decide where I should have been. Although fresh back from Japan, I had diarised an invitation from the French Kendo Federation to attend the Paris Takai and took the last flight to Paris on Friday night. Paris Taikai is held every three years and comprises a mix of kendo and kobudo enbu and a day’s three person team shiai.
French kendo organisation seems totally relaxed, but it always seems to work perfectly. Having asked what was expected of me, I got a request to bring my bogu and referee outfit. Having been sent an e-ticket and a hotel reservation, I sweated on the best way to get to my hotel at midnight on Friday, only to find that Geuntleur sensei was waiting for me at the airport.
Day one started with a seminar, kata in the morning and waza geiko and keiko in the afternoon. The good news was that we were in very capable hands with Sato Nariaki and Sumi Masatake sensei in charge. There were also a keen delegation of Japan’s leading university players and their teachers.
As a senior grade amongst many more illustrious teachers, I was expected to do little more than to stand around during the kihon session, but when we entered the keiko period, I had great fun as motodachi against some of the best French and Japanese players.
The tail end of the first day continued with a series of demonstrations including kendo tachiai from 7th dans. I was drawn against Miyajiri sensei from Tokyo and although it is difficult to assess your own performance, we both seemed to enjoy our few minutes in the spotlight. The final event was a friendly match between Japan and France which Japan won fairly convincingly.
On Sunday we moved into the 3 person competition, which was split into two groups, those aged under, and those aged above 36. As well as French club teams there a number of teams made up of National Team members fresh back from training in Korea. There were also a number of Japanese student and O.B. teams and a few Franco-Japanese mixed teams.
I found it particularly interesting to see that there was no real difference between the speed and rhythm of the younger French and Japanese players as in the past there was an obvious difference between European and Japanese kendo. In fact, teams made up of French members went on to win both finals. Only being able to be in one place at a time, I was not able to see the standard shown at the 6 Nations cup in Berlin, but the level of shiai in Paris shows that the French are taking the 15WKC seriously.