I did not have a chance to post my regular weekly piece last week, as Sunday was spent as a referee and then grading panellist at the 27th EKC in Macedonia. The whole of Monday (or 18 hours of it) was used up travelling between Skopje and Malaga and a good part of Tuesday was devoted to tracing and collecting my baggage which went off on an interesting detour via Vienna and Madrid.
By the time I had the opportunity to write this post I have refereed in yet another taikai, this time a much lower key affair, which was part of a series of league matches currently being run between dojo in Andalusia. With the two events only a week apart, it is interesting to compare the differences between them.
In Skopje we had four courts and a team of 24 referees, most of us with 7th dan grades. We were under the watchful eye of a Japanese shinpan-cho and four shinpan-shunin, two of whom were sent by the ZNKR. We spent 3, 10 hour days in the arena and the tension was felt as much by the referees as the athletes who were desperate to make themselves and their countries proud.
In Estepona, we had one court in the local sports centre. There were 4 referees, including me, and the number of shiai were limited by the four hours available minus an essential half hour for keiko.
In Skopje the four courts were co-ordinated by pre-arranged rei to shomen and the shinpan-cho’s whistle. In Estepona, Mr Kim, a visiting Korean 6th dan, kindly agreed to sit in joseki and to take the opening and closing rei. Whereas at the EKC we had daily referees’ meetings and match by match debriefs from the shinpan shunin, at the Andalusia league match we shouted some on the job instructions to any referee who was not sure of the commands.
The 3 days in Skopje finished with a lavish party with a live band held at the Hotel Continental. Unfortunately I only got to enjoy an hour of it as I had to pack and get to bed for a 2.30 a.m. transfer to the airport. In Spain we rearranged the tables in the street outside the bar facing the sports centre to enjoy a quick beer together in the sunshine.
Travel and lost luggage apart, both events were good experiences, but the local shiai in Spain felt like getting back to the true spirit of kendo. The attitude of all competitors was determined but generous and and from opening rei to final beer the taikai was conducted with a a real feeling of friendship.