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Posts Tagged ‘Referee Seminar’

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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FIK-Euro-Zone-referee-seminarFY2010-2I returned last night from Brussels where I attended the annual European Zone Referees’ Seminar. These events take place in the three FIK zones, Europe, Americas and Asia and serve the purpose of both updating referee skills and as a selection forum for referees for upcoming regional championships and in some years World Championships.

For those of you who have not attended one of these functions, the format tends to be fairly consistent every year and in all three zones. The ZNKR send a delegation of three 8th dans as instructors to share their knowledge and each member country sends a group of referee candidates to benefit from their instruction. The referees work together in two groups; red numbers – who are candidates for the next regional championships and black numbers – people who are either newer referees or who are not available for selection but who want to keep their skills up to scratch. Each country also sends groups of fighters to take part in the shiai.

The event takes place over a weekend and includes keiko sessions on Friday and Saturday nights and at the end of Sunday morning. The grand finale is a grading examination up to 7th dan, which in Europe is one of the few opportunities to try for this grade. The weekend is a great chance to meet up with old kendo friends and to make new ones.

The actual seminar takes the form of referees working together in groups of three and the 8th dan instructors stop the shiai to point out mistakes and invite discussion from the rest of the group. Candidates are numbered according to age and seniority and each session starts with the lowest numbers first on court. For some reason, probably due to the retirement of some of my senior colleagues, I was number two red. I therefore had the pleasure of being in the first group to referee; the one that invariably gets stopped most often to set the tone for the weekend. In some years there seems to be an emphasis on a particular aspect of the shiai rules. This year it was not so. The sessions served more to emphasise correct positioning of each group and the criteria for judging valid yuko datotsu.

The groups of fighters did a great job, treating each shiai as if it were the final of the World Championship. This year I was particularly pleased to see that the British national coach, Malcolm Goodwin, had arrived with a team of our younger competitors who fought well and gained a number of compliments on their attitude and team spirit from the EKF organisers.

My last job before leaving was to sit on the grading panel for the first to fifth dan group. This was of course an honour and a pleasure to do, but sadly it meant that I was not able to watch the 6th and 7th dan grading which took place simultaneously in the next court. Two candidates out of 14 passed 7th dan including Mr Kurogi from Belgium. Our team manager Malcolm Goodwin was one of the few to pass 6th dan and in my court two British guys Alan Thompson and Keith Holmes passed 5th dan. Congratulations to all the successful candidates, name checked or otherwise. I am now going to unload a case of duty-free wine and two sets of wet kendo equipment from the car.

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