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Posts Tagged ‘yuko datotsu’

FIK-Euro-Zone-referee-seminarFY2010-2I have been asked to deliver a referee’s seminar in the in UK in late spring. The purpose is to prepare people to take on this onerous task before those currently doing it become too old or too frail or too dead to continue.

I have very seldom heard of becoming a top referee as being high on the average kenshi’s bucket list. It comes a long way down from passing 8th dan, winning the All Japan/ World/European Championships, but like paying taxes we know we have to do it at some stage. Frankly refereeing is not cool. The last thing you are likely to hear from an exited group of high school kendo students leaving a shiai venue is “what did you think of the 3rd fight?” “Yeah, I thought the second fukushin was brilliant.”

Unfortunately like death and taxes there is a certain inevitability to becoming a referee, so we may as well try to do it as well as we can. The purpose of refereeing is to decide on valid yuko datotsu – strikes made on target, at the correct distance, with the correct blade angle and sharpness, in high spirits and followed by zanshin. You do this with your eyes and ears and you have to move in a way where you can constantly see both opponents and the signals of our colleague referees.

You also have to remember the senkoku commands, the flag signals and be responsible for the safety of the competitors without hindering the flow of the shiai. All of these elements are easily learned, but try them all together and chances are that even the most controlled, rational individual will look like a demented windmill undergoing a bout of Tourette’s.

Referees’ seminars can range from highly analytical whiteboard sessions where the finer points of yuko datotsu are discussed in detail to mass flag waving sessions reminiscent of a 1920’s youth rally. My ideal session falls somewhere between the two, with an emphasis on learning by doing, with the help of some constructive criticism from an instructor.

Usually space constraints do not allow more than one or two groups of referees to practise at the same time. For a reasonably well attended session, there are bound to be more onlookers than participants, making the 3 unlucky people in the shiai-jo particularly nervous.

What should be clear is that everyone is there to learn and we all learn by making mistakes. Once you have made your errors you can then go back to the side-lines and watch others make theirs. As long as you can laugh with, rather than at each other it becomes a rewarding experience.

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Capture Olympic PollAt the time of writing this the Rio Olympics are coming to an end and the post that I wrote at the time of the London Olympics has had quite a few new visits.  This and the conversations I have had with kendo friends, make me think that kendo’s stance on the Olympic Games is still a hot topic for many people.

As part of that post, I included a poll which showed that the majority of readers were in favour of staying out with a vote of 62% to 38%. I would be interested in everyone’s thoughts this time round.

Perhaps I am softening with age, or am feeling my share of national pride at Britain’s medal haul in Rio, but I can now take a slightly more balanced view than I did four years ago. The pluses of kendo becoming an Olympic sport are that we would attract more players. With increased funding the level of kendo would improve globally, eroding the dominance of Japan and Korea.

In the minus column there is a very real probability that we would need to simplify our scoring system so that it was understandable to non-kenshi spectators. This could totally change the nature of kendo with the current values for yuko-datotsu being eroded. Without the insistence on valid strikes being based on the “Principles of the katana”, we would lose much of the spirit of kendo. Reiho would almost certainly suffer too as we develop a win-at-all-costs attitude.

One other change that is either good or bad depending on your point of view is that instructors and coaches might finally receive some payment for their efforts.

Along with many other people, I am confused about the amateur status of Olympic sport, particularly with the recent addition of professional golf and tennis to the games. Certainly the more successful competitors for many sports fall into the “paid to train” category and I am sure that kendo would soon see an increase in “professionalism” if admitted. Having said that it could be argued that police tokuren and dojang instructors fall into this category already.

Opinion is still polarised with The All Japan Kendo Federation staunchly refusing to join the Olympic movement for the reasons mentioned, but nevertheless taking Kendo into the Combat Games. The Korean Kendo Federation on the other hand continually lobbies for the inclusion of kendo, making impassioned speeches at FIK meetings and WKC referee meetings.

On balance I still come down in favour of staying out of the Olympics. Having spent almost 50 years treating kendo as a shugyo I would not like to see it devalued. I wonder though how much sentiment has changed over the past four years so I include a new poll and would appreciate you taking the time to tick a box.

 

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Article 12

 

RulesI got home last night from the weekend’s European Referees’ Seminar in Brussels and we were discussing what we had learned from the ZNKR instructors during the car journey home. My kendo colleague John O’Sullivan suggested that I use my blog to reiterate the summary that the seminar’s leader, Iwadate Saburo sensei made on what is and what is not yuko datotsu, or ippon.

I made the point that I have written similar posts on numerous occasions and John’s reply was that the information needs to be constantly repeated because there is still a great deal of uncertainty from referees and competitors alike as to what constitutes a successful strike.

During his summary sensei referred several times to article 12 of the ZNKR’s “Regulations of Kendo Shiai”, the section that defines yuko datotsu. I won’t repeat or paraphrase this here as every kenshi should read it themselves, instead let me try to summarise Iwadate sensei’s instruction while it is still fresh in my mind.

Dou – Hasuji should be correct. It is not ippon if the point of the shinai slips down after hitting. You must have both hands on the tsuka of the shinai at the time of striking and of course the monouchi of the shinai must hit the correct target on the side, not the front of the dou.

Men – You must hit the men buton, the top of the men, with the mono-uchi. There is a tendency, particularly with hiki-men to make too shallow a cut, striking the mengane. It is also important that the zanshin for men has the shinai at the level where the strike finished. It should not be raised in the air in celebration.

Kote – You can’t score kote if you move across in front of your opponent to hit it. If you do this your posture crumbles and the point is not valid. Instead you should attack kote in a straight line and you should finish with the toes of your right foot in line with the toes of your opponent’s right foot. (Sensei made a general point at this stage about the importance of good posture to yuko datotsu.)

Nothing was said about tsuki.

In his closing remarks Iwadate sensei stressed that the only way to develop refereeing skills is to practise, not just as a referee, but to do lots of keiko. If you can’t do it yourself then it is impossible to judge the actions of others.

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I was happily browsing through the new Official Guide for Kendo Instruction; nodding sagely at the explanations of things I knew, when I reached the section on yuko datotsu. Having refereed internationally on many occasions and attended all the regional referee training courses, I like to think that I have a fairly clear idea of what constitutes ippon. My confidence started to waiver a little when I read the description of yuko datotsu for nito, particularly the explanation of ippon for the shoto.

Forgive me if I do not give the exact quote, as I am travelling without the book at the moment, but to score with the shoto the daito must be holding down the opponent’s shinai whilst the arm holding the daito (the long one) is fully extended. Now just to clarify this point, it means that the opponent’s shinai is being suppressed at a distance equating to the length of the arm plus a 38 shinai when you strike with the shoto (the little one). Now I am very far from being a nito expert. I have never tried it and have no intention to do so, but if I am not missing something, the rule makes it impossible to score with the shoto unless the player has a two metre arm or a telescopic kodachi.

I wrote about nito before http://wp.me/stBQt-nito and mentioned that I have never seen ippon given to a kodachi strike. I have also heard a variety of explanations from referee instructors and shinpancho about the difficulty of making yuko datotsu with the kodachi, because nito is “different from mainstream kendo”, but this makes it patently clear that the shoto is not meant for scoring with.

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