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Archive for the ‘16th WKC’ Category

KendoJPN2015-Foto-405One of the great things about international kendo events is that you get to meet people face-to face who you have only encountered on social media.

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.

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Courtesy of Kenshi24/7

Courtesy of Kenshi 24/7

Two flights, three days in the office and two keiko sessions in the UK and I am clearly back to reality. Thanks to the generosity   of Turkish Airlines and a flat-bed upgrade, the journey home was a breeze and gave me time to reflect on the experiences of the 16WKC.

The week before the Championships had been purely for pleasure, giving me a chance to meet with old friends and revisit some of my favourite places in Japan. It was also a chance to join in keiko sessions in Osaka and Yoshino. On reaching Tokyo the focus changed to the main business of the trip – refereeing the 16th WKC.

On the Wednesday before the event, the early morning bus took us to the Olympic village and the second referees’ seminar.  As the first session in Narita in February, we had volunteer fighters from Japan’s top kendo universities to practice with.

We trained in the groups that we would be working with at the Budokan , so had the opportunity to align our approach. Whereas the first session had focused on improving our technique, this session gave us positive feedback, building our confidence in our refereeing abilities. In fact, throughout the competition, the Shinpan shunin, Sato Nariaki sensei , reassured us that we were “the best referees in the world”.

Unlike some other international events the referee groups were assigned throughout the competition, with some adjustments to avoid judging our own national groups. I worked mainly with Ralph Lehman of Germany, Kimura sensei from Canada and Shimano Taizan sensei from Japan. The only major changes to the running order were for the semifinals and finals.

I expected the experience to be more daunting than it actually was. The Nippon Budokan was full for the whole event and on the final day every seat was taken. From the quarter finals of the men’s team event the NHK cameras were constantly rolling and from my position on Court 1, I was staring out at an army of press photographers. Nevertheless when we stepped onto the court, the crowds faded into the background and we were able to concentrate on the fighters.

The only nerve wracking part of the event was at the day two prize-giving when at the end of a 12 hour day we felt the floor shake from side to side in a force 5 earth tremor. The waiting competitors had to be moved from the centre of the arena in case the lighting rig collapsed on them. The ZNKR seemed to take a fairly sanguine approach and the award ceremony continued and was followed by a referees’ meeting where the main topic was an overly long gogi that happened earlier in the day.

On day three, I was fortunate enough to be asked to referee the semi-final between the USA and Korea. This was a keenly fought match with some great points from both sides including an explosive tsuki from a Korean fighter. There was some expected jockeying for position from tsubazeriai and we awarded hansoku in the first match, but overall we saw good clean fights from both sides.

The final match between Korea and Japan had its share of controversy and the referees had to make some difficult judgement calls. I am glad that I was able to watch from the comfort of the resting referees seats at the edge of the shiai-jo. Thinking about it, the referees’ bonus is having a ring side seat and I saw some great kendo over the three days. As in previous years I was particularly impressed by the standard  of some of the younger kendo countries, particularly Poland, China and Mexico.

The 17WKC is moving on to Korea. It will be interesting to see what happens there.   

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Matsumoto sensei's keiko kai members

Matsumoto sensei’s keiko kai members

The 16th WKC is almost here. Lots of us are on our way to Tokyo and many foreign kenshi are already in Japan for pre-match training. I am about to leave today.

I have spent a lot of time congratulating people who have been selected for their national teams, but have not said much to some of the people who have given 100 per cent to their training for the last 3 years and who were not selected this time. Who knows why not? It may be that the selectors considered there were others better than you. It may have been that they thought you were a strong prospect but that you would be even stronger if kept back for future WKCs. Without asking you won’t know.

Nevertheless, I can emphasise with the way you are feeling now. In 1979, the year of the 4WKC in Sapporo, I was in the third year of training in Japan. At the beginning of the year I was told that I would not be selected for the British Team, which I previously represented, as I was not resident in the UK and therefore unable to attend regular squad training. I obviously understood the logic, but as I was in the best kendo condition of my as to then short kendo career, I felt enormously disappointed.

After moping for a few weeks, I decided to forget about it and to get on with my normal kendo life in Japan. This was a good thing as I was invited to take part in a friendly match between the French National Squad, who were visiting with their trainer and the members of Oji dojo in Kobe. This was a shiai between teams of 10 , (if I remember correctly)   and I am glad to say that Oji dojo won every match including mine. I passed 4th dan a week later in the same dojo. Luckily for me this confidence boost put all thoughts of disappointment out of my mind.

I was fortunate to be cheered up so quickly after missing out and not everyone might be as lucky, but the important thing is that kendo is a lifetime’s pursuit. Many of us have been doing it for 40, 50 even 60 years and for those that stick with it there will be lots of other opportunities to prove their worth.

Good luck to the chosen players and those who will be chosen in future. As I am travelling without the benefit of a proper keyboard, kendoinfo might be silent for a week or two.

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NanbanI am off to Japan next week for the 16th WKC. As a warm-up I am traveling a week ahead of the competition and spending time revisiting some of my old haunts in Kansai. I am going with a kendo friend and as a reminder to him and to myself I have put together a list of things to do and not do when visiting dojo or enjoying hospitality with Japanese kendo friends. As there will be many kendo visitors in Japan over the next few weeks, I thought that this might be worth sharing.

Do:

  • Only go to dojo where you are invited by members or teachers, or if you have an introduction. Do not walk in off the street.
  • Keep quiet and follow what other people do.
  • Wait to be told where to sit. If no information is forthcoming sit in the lowest position.
  • Unless you know the grade of your training partners always defer the higher side the dojo to them.
  • If you are queuing for senior sensei, stand correctly while you wait your turn and don’t expect more than 3 or 4 keiko in a session.
  • Always cross the dojo after keiko to bow to teachers.
  • If you exchange sitting bows with someone from your own side of the dojo, do it in a way so that you are diagonally further away from kamiza than the other person.
  • Take some small gifts and ideally name cards to give to teachers who spend time with you.
  • Make sure that your chakuso is correct and that you carry your men and kote correctly.
  • Check out the dojo’s tenegui etiquette and follow it.
  • Respect other people’s personal space.

Do not:

  • Hug, fondle, pat, stroke or generally man-handle Japanese kenshi. (This rule does not apply only in the case of a famous sensei who spends time in Belgium)
  • Give advice to anyone, particularly those with higher grades than yourself.
  • If you receive constructive (or destructive) advice on your failings, do not offer excuses. “Yes I understand”, “Thank you” and “I will try harder” are all much better answers.
  • Talk too loud.
  • Slouch in the dojo.
  • Get into communal dojo baths before sensei, wait until you are asked.
  • If you are invited for a drink or meal after keiko, don’t start on your beer until someone has said kampai and don’t start eating until you hear or say itadakimasu.

And once you have remembered all that, please don’t forget to enjoy the experience.

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Referees 16WKCAs promised, I am using this opportunity to provide some more detail on information I alluded to in my last post. Steven Roosevelt did a great job in answering the question on scoring with shoto in nito by directing us to Stroud sensei’s description on the Idaho Kendo Club site:

  • “The minimum requirement for making yuko datotsu using Shoto is to have the Daito physically control (pressing) the opponent’s tachi at the time of the strike. However, it is generally rare that striking by Shoto will result in a yuko datotsu.”

We were fortunate enough to have a demonstration from a nito 7th dan who showed us that the opponent’s shinai needs to be totally suppressed by the daito and that the nito player’s body should be completely square on to his opponent as he makes the strike. He also made the point that he had never received or seen ippon given for a strike made with the kodachi.

With gyaku dou it was emphasised that as well as striking the correct part of the dou (the left side), with the correct part  of the shinai (datotsu bu) and with the correct hasuji i.e. striking the target with the bottom take, it was imperative that the attacker step back in a straight line after hitting. The logic being that if he steps to his right or crosses abruptly to his left in front of the opponent this does not constitute a natural path for a pulling cut or hikigiri.

This was in the broader context that all yuko datotsu should be considered with reference to “The Principles of the Sword”.  So the instruction was to consider posture and zanshin carefully along with bu, bui and strength of strike.

Another point of discussion was that bad behaviour in and around the shiai-jo should be dealt with promptly. Hansoku should be applied as per the rule book and in cases of severity, for instance where a combatant refuses to return to the kaishi sen, taijo (disqualification) should be used.

Reference was also made to supporters’ behaviour and that encouragement should be limited to (non-rhythmic) clapping.

The fact that 56 of FIK’s 57 countries are attending, (I did not ask who the no-shows were!) was mentioned several times. This obviously means that the schedule for the whole 3 days is going to be very full. Please competitors and coaches get to the right shiai-jo at the right time, or we will all be in the Budokan until midnight.

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IMG_0143I wrote this half way through the 16 WKC referees seminar, where 36 of us from 16 countries were being gently reconstructed in the interest of refereeing perfection.

This year the action takes place in Narita High School which has some of the best kendo facilities I have seen. The shiaisha  for the practice matches came from the 5 top kendo universities in the Kanto area – and they are fast. Trying to keep up with the speed of the succession of renzoku waza they produce feels like refereeing in fast forward.

The instructors in charge of the seminar were Sato Nariaki sensei and Kakehashi sensei and the referee’s theme for the event is 16CWKC. The C stands for clean, stressing, clean, sharp technique and correct shiai behaviour. A considerable amount of time was spent on examining the various elements of successful and unsuccessful yuko datotsu. This was particularly illuminating for gyaku dou. I was also shown the answer to a question that has been a mystery to me for years. When can a into player score ippon with the kodachi?

One very interesting fact came out of the opening address. 56 of the 57 IKF member countries are coming to the event in May.This is going to be the biggest kendo ever! With 3 days of men’s and women’s individual and team events on four courts the referees are going to need their vitamin drinks.

Excuse the brevity and typos, but fat kendo fingers and mobile devices are not natural partners. I will do my best to outline some of the key points in my next post.

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ShigakukanI have just returned from the Sunday Mumeishi keiko and am writing this post before preparing for next week’s trip to Japan. On Tuesday we had a visit from Tajima sensei and 12 students from Shigakukan University. The energy and enthusiasm of our visitors was infectious and we enjoyed two hours of flat out keiko.

I am leaving for Tokyo on Wednesday morning for what should be a short but very interesting trip. I am meeting up with a number of Mumeishi OBs in Tokyo and also planning to visit Chiba sensei when I arrive on Thursday, then the hard work begins.

On Friday I check in for the 16th WKC referee’s seminar in Narita to become one of 36 referees who we will spend two days together improving our refereeing technique and learning to work as a team. So far I only know the names of the other eight members from Europe and can only guess who has been selected from the Americas and Asia zones. I am confident however that it will be a tough but valuable learning experience.

The format of previous WKC Referee Seminars has been for referees to officiate in real matches between “All Japan” level competitors from either the university or police sections of the ZNKR competition groups. Last time the organisers had also invited some nito players. The process is overseen by hanshi level instructors and shinpans’ errors and misdemeanours are examined and discussed in minute detail.

It is expected that at this level, referees can correctly judge yuko datotsu and move  as a group so that each has a clear view of the players. The aim of these seminars is to hone these skills to a level where there is complete consensus. I have been told that this year emphasis is being placed on correct shiai etiquette and tsubazeriai, so there may be a lot of instruction and discussion on the role of hansoku and the balance between managing correct discipline and the smooth running of the shiai.

Obviously spending only four days in Japan is far from ideal, and as I am straight back to the office the day after  I return home, there might not be time for next week’s blog post. I am sure that there will be some interesting information to pass on the following week.

I am looking forward to a much longer trip in May, when as well as attending the 16th WKC in Tokyo, I plan to travel to Kansai to catch up with old friends and enjoy the sights as well as some extra keiko. There may even be time for an onsen visit.

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16wkcI am really excited. I am going to the 16th WKC in Tokyo as a referee, which is both a great honour and a big responsibility, particularly when on court in front of a highly knowledgeable kendo audience and in the world famous Nippon Budokan.  This will be an opportunity to take part in a one of a kind kendo event, to witness some great kendo and to meet old friends from all around the world, so I am looking forward to it immensely.

I have attended many of the previous World Championships in a number of different roles but I have the feeling that this one will be special. The venue alone is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and for competitors to take part in the home of the All Japan Championships will be a life changing experience. In the same way, as a referee, I expect that the seriousness of the job in hand will be counterbalanced by the excitement of the occasion.

Referees tend to keep themselves to themselves during the days of the competition to maintain impartiality, but I aim to build in some time before or after the event to meet old friends. Hopefully there will be lots of keiko opportunities and I am really looking forward to returning to Tokyo after an absence of a few years.

There is a referee seminar in Narita before the competition and another refresher in Tokyo at the beginning of the championship, so the AJKF are doing their utmost to ensure that we are all ready for the task. In the meantime I am trying to fit in as much practice as possible. In fact I am writing this having just returned from Malmo, and refereeing the Swedish National Championships.

I have not yet seen the l list of referees, but I met with Matts Wahlquist in Sweden and he also received the news on Friday morning informing him that he had been selected. I believe that the full list of officials will be announced today.

So as well as having the Christmas holiday to look forward to, I am already thinking about next year’s kendo schedule and how to prepare for such an important kendo event. Having seen some of the pre-event publicity, I have the feeling that this could be one most exciting World Championships ever.

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