The refereeing job in Tokyo kept me pretty much focused on the shiai-jo and other than meeting referees and officials in the hotel, the opportunity to socialise was limited. That is until the sayonara party!
Walking around the party room of the Grand Palace hotel was a tour of who’s who in international kendo. Kendo seems to have a very mobile population and I was particularly pleased to meet a number of kenshi from Japan, New Zealand, Thailand and Ecuador who had spent time with us in Mumeishi when they were studying or working in London. It was also a chance to chat to lots of old friends who I only see at international events and to link-up with many people who until now had just been signatures on Facebook posts.
I imagine that devotees of other sports and hobbies also have common interests that give them lots to talk about when they meet; this is certainly the case with kendo. Whether you view kendo as a sport or shugyo, the challenges we face and the amount of effort that is needed to become proficient is the same across the globe. I notice slight differences in the kendo of different countries, reflecting national characteristics, but overall kendo is the same on all 7 continents (maybe 6 as I am not sure if we have kendo in Antarctica).
Perhaps it is due to the generosity of FIK in sending delegations around the World, or perhaps to the hard work of kenshi who have made the effort to travel and study kendo in Japan or Korea before taking what they have learned home to share with their peers. Though not the ideal way to learn, social media has also played a part in ensuring that we have access to written instruction and videos of some of the best kendo practitioners to follow.
However we get there, it shows when people are putting the effort into their keiko. Countries such as Mongolia which until this year I did not realise were involved in kendo, made a very respectable showing in the 16WKC and the list of dojo around the world continues to grow.
Certainly occasions such as the WKC work on two levels, as an opportunity to test our kendo amongst the world’s best and to meet and make friends with like-minded people from around the globe in the spirit of ko-ken-chi-ai.