Posts Tagged ‘Kendo referees’

FIK-Euro-Zone-referee-seminarFY2010-2When it comes to shiai time, most of us would prefer to fight than to referee, and why not?  Kendo is all about improving your technique and trying it against others. What better opportunity to test yourself than in shiai, where we get as close as it is possible to be to kendo’s life or death roots.  At the same time everyone is conscious of the fact that without referees there is no competition.

In countries with large kendo populations there are lots of competitions which are limited to specific age groups and classes. So it is possible to continue as a shia-sha at your own level whilst refereeing younger or lower graded groups. In Japan there are taikai for 7th and 8th dan competitors who will regularly be called upon to referee at other competitions. This is important because one of the conditions of being a referee is that you should also actively train and compete yourself.

Unfortunately for smaller kendo nations, most kendo competitions are open, so that people have to choose between being a competitor or a referee, and the easy option is the first one. Let’s face it as well as being less fun than fighting, refereeing is difficult. The objective is simply to judge what is and what is not ippon, but the challenges of remembering all the commands, using flags to signal correctly and thinking about maintaining the correct position on court make the simple act of judgement very difficult.

Unfortunately all of this stuff is important. If you give the wrong command or indicate incorrectly with the flags the fighters become confused and lose confidence. If you are unable to maintain a correct triangle between the three referees as the fighters change direction, then it is possible that you will miss points.

Like every aspect of kendo, the only way to overcome these challenges is to practise. Once the commands and flag signals become instinctive they no longer cause you to break your concentration while you think about how to move the flag or what you should say. Once you learn to read the fighters movement you will be in the correct position to see and judge each attack. To help us get to this position, it is important that kendo federations run regular referee seminars. These give us the opportunity to learn from more experienced referees, and more importantly to practice to a level where we have the confidence to try in the shiai-jo. Even if it is just taking a turn after you have been knocked out of the competition

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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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