CT: shiai/shinpan

Today was hard work! Over sixty people traveled to Sporthallen Zuid in Amsterdam for the national level ‘central training’. This month’s edition focused on shiai and shinpan skills, meaning both the fighting and the referreeing of competitions. Today, Renshinjuku’s turnup was also impressive with a dozen members attending. Excellent :)

It was a lot to take in! Before lunch, Mark Herbold-sensei took us through kihon in order to practice legwork and speed. He impressed upon us the importance of moving from the legs and hips, with 80% of your effort coming from there. The remaining effort is 10% stomach to retain posture, then 8% and 2% left/right hands for the strike. By properly using your hips and legs you assure that you close in quickly and that you retain control of the situation.

Exercises included kirikaeshioki-menoki-kote-menhayai kote-men and then a number of hayai variations of kote-menkote-men-menkote-kote-menkote-men-kote-men and so on. In each of these, the connection and distance between both kendoka was key:kakarite needs to move in fast enough to pressure motodachi backwards. Motodachi needs to be surprised and should not dance backwards before the attach. Learning this speed and pressure is what will help you overwhelm your opponent in shiai.

After lunch Vitalis-sensei went over a few basics regarding referreeing: valid strikes and hansoku (violations).

A valid point only has the following five requirements:

  1. Using the kensen, the top 1/3 of your blade.
  2. Using the hasuji, the cutting edge of the blade.
  3. On the datotsu-bui, the proper part of the target.
  4. With fighting spirit.
  5. With proper zanshin.

Salmon-sensei has written a little more about what makes a valid ippon. Vitalis-sensei remarked that many things that we learn are important for a strike (like ki-ken-tai-ichi) are NOT in the rulebook. This means they are NOT required for ippon. He also impressed upon us that there are two common mistakes that beginning shinpan make:

  • They do not grade kendoka according to their level. They grade every kendoka as if they’re 3rd dan or higher.
  • They treat the list of five points above as a checklist. Scoring ippon is very much a grey area and you can bet that a strike will always be missing something. If you are only looking for things that a strike is missing, then a scoring strike will never be made.

After Louis’ introduction the sixty kendoka were divided across three shiaijo, each led by a high ranking sensei. I was assigned to Mark Herbold-sensei’s shiaijo. He led the session with clear instructions and a pleasant amount of humor. He explained so many things, it’s hard to remember them all. The following will simply be a stream of conciousness, trying to recall as much as possible of what was said.

  • As kendoka you focus on the fight. Don’t think about the shinpan until you hear commands. Fight! Don’t acknowledge strikes made by your opponent, don’t indicate your own strikes, don’t communicate with anybody.
  • Many kendoka left a lot of points untaken by missing out on followups. If your opponent doesn’t react to something, you take the chance and make another attempt immediately.
  • If your opponent’s shinai gets stuck, like for example under your arm or against your do that is NOT a bad thing for you. Right at that moment you have him stuck and you can take the chance to swat away his shinai to open him up for a valid strike. Do NOT strike when his shinai is still stuck as that is not a valid point.
  • Shinpan should maintain a triangle, eyeing both the fight as well as their colleagues.
  • Shinpan should have proper posture: straight back, active posture, no slouching, no cocked head, etc.
  • The two flags should be held properly against your body, with your index fingers controling them. They shouldn’t be waving about, as it may distract the fighters.
  • Flag signals are handled in chronological order. For example, say that A strikes B’s men and then in zanshin rushes outside of the shiaijo’s boundary. What we saw was one shinpan flagging the point, while another flagged for yame because of thehansoku. What shold have happened was that the three shinpan reach quorum regardin the point and indicate their opinion, then followed by the yame signal to deal with the violation.
  • With regards to violations, the process is: call yame, assume positions at the center, move both flags to one hand, indicate with one/two fingers (first or second violation) to the violating kendoka, “hansoku ikkai/nikai“. If it’s the second violation: “hansoku nikai“, then flag for the other kendoka “ippon ari“.
  • When flagging and announcing an outcome, you don’t have to keep the flags high up throughout the whole thing.

The last hour of the day was free jigeiko.

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