This year’s Sir Frank Bowden Taikai took place on Saturday. As shinpan-shunin one of my duties was to work with the refereeing team to select candidates for the fighting spirit prizes.
Of course different referees have different opinions on who to choose, but this is not surprising as we all probably have different views as to what “fighting spirit” actually means. This is a subject that is seldom discussed and I can’t remember ever seeing objective guidelines as to what constitutes fighting spirit. Having asked colleagues the reasons for their choices over many years’ competitions, I get the feeling that definitions include the following.
- Being one of the most aggressive fighters.
- Overcoming the odds – small person beats much bigger person or low grade beats higher graded opponent or opponents.
- Turning things around – being in situations where you come from being a point behind to evening the score and taking one more point to win, or pulling out the stops in the captain’s match to take an evenly drawn team score to victory.
- Having the best technical kendo.
- Keeping calm under pressure.
- Not giving up.
- Someone who in spite giving it their all in every fight still shows courtesy and fairness to their opponents.
I believe that all of these are valid in their way, but I feel, and this is as subjective as it sounds, that true fighting spirit is a combination of all of these.
Of course aggression is important, but it must be controlled and shown within a spirit of fair-play. The smaller or less experience player or the individual who overcomes the odds and snatches victory from the jaws of defeat will most likely, only be a contender if he or she uses correct technique.
On the other hand correct technique will probably be admired, but not if you do not have the strength of mind and will to win to overcome your opponent.
If you can do all this and at the same time show correct reiho and generosity of spirit to your opponents, it should do even more to enhance your chances of getting a fighting spirit prize.
On a practical level, it is unlikely that you will get the first place medal and a fighting spirit award. It is generally thought that being the winner or being in the winning team is reward enough in itself.
Despite the subjectivity, I was very confident that on Saturday we picked three worthy winners – Jenny Wilding, Mukhtar Hussain and Sarfraz Aziz. All fought consistently well throughout the day and displayed the true spirit of kendo.