It’s been a while since I wrote something but there was a kendo tournament yesterday on which I would like to make a few remarks. Especially because I was the unlikely winner of this tournament, even though I decided on saturday to give my mom a trophy as a mother’s day present.
First a little explanation of what kind of tournament this actually is:
The National Student Kendo Tournament, or NSKT, is a tournament in which all students ages 15 and up are allowed to participate in. As a student you are supposed to be enrolled in a program at an educational institution.
The conditions of the tournament as it was held yesterday:
- 9 participants total
- Participants’ experience ranging from 1 to 5 years, and aged around 20 to 24. (I think.. I was probably the oldest at 26, and probably the 3rd most experienced with 4 years of kendo after Juliën who regularly attends teamtraining and 5 years of experience and Ivo who has gone to the IBU in Katsuura for a year of kendo training and more kendo experience than I had before that, both of whom I had to face during the tournament. With Ivo during the poules and Juliën in the finals).
- laminated concrete floor, in an elementary school’s gym
- 9 x 9 m shiaijo (minimum size for a shiaijo)
- 3 poules of 3 participants of which the best 2 proceeded
- followed by 3 single-elimination rounds where 2 people got a bye to the 2nd round/semi-finals
- sanbon shoubu (best of 3)
- Afterwards the poule you were in was your team for the team competition (which was a round-robin setup like the poules during the individual competition).
Now an explanation of why I think I could win:
Right from the beginning I tried to keep my back towards the middle of the shiaijo while facing my opponent. This gave me dominance over the shiaijo and from this position it was easy for me to force my opponents into attacking my men using seme. I would do this the whole time deflecting their men when I felt it was too fast and going for their kote with debana kote or nuki kote if they were being too slow. If they got past me I would follow them right up into chikamaai usually forcing them to go backwards so they were right up in the corner of the shiaijo and I had my back towards the middle again. Usually I would even follow them further and do a men taiatari hiki men or kote. This almost always caused them to drop out of the shiaijo so they would get a hansoku or I would get a kote or men ippon. Sometimes I would not even let them pass me at all if they tried to hit me and when this happened they would sometimes try a hiki waza in that tight corner they were already in, so then it became even easier for me to do a men or kote taiatari hiki waza with the same result as mentioned before.
What I noticed as well was that, after I gave my opponent their first hansoku, they would get all flustered. And the level of their kendo would diminish somewhat, or their conviction rather. This happened to a somewhat lesser extent to the stronger opponents I had, but the weaker ones became easier to “move around” to where I wanted them to go once they had gotten their first penalty. It was like they had already lost but were still fighting. The only thing I had to do was to “finish the job”.
In the end I scored 3 kinds of points. The most points I scored were kote, followed by points given to me by hansoku and finally a couple men ippon. I believe there was no match for which I needed the hansoku points in order to win but I think I caused a whopping 8 hansoku in only 7 matches, for a total of 3 ippon I got from just my opponents’ hansoku. There was even one match during which I got my opponent out of the shiaijo 3 times. The men ippon I scored were usually followed by my opponent stepping out of the shiaijo too. All the taiatari techniques I performed were a single push while my opponents were already in an unstable position, so it wasn’t like sumo or something, just one push to propel our bodies away from eachother.
So what this tells me is that many of the contestants were poorly aware of the shiaijo lines, and they were letting themselves get pressured into underspirited attacks because of my area dominance. Most of the time they weren’t turning around properly either. This has probably to do with them minding the lines so much that their posture was off while turning around. Which obviously I took advantage of by doing my own, essentially kihon, techniques followed by taiatari.
There was one occasion during the team competition where an opponent I had was on the line, but because I felt I had taken so much advantage of the previous hansoku already I balked. I stepped back so he could regain his posture. In other words, I was being nice that time. Even though I was already starting towards him and halfway in my taiatari position. This is the only match I lost with 2 men ippon against me.
Things to take away from this tournament:
Based on what I experienced during the tournament, and on what the shimpan had to say about the performance of the various participants, I would like to make the following remarks.
- Keep the middle of the shiaijo behind you.
- Keep doing seme, if your opponent has a weak conviction you will back them up against the line, forcing them into a half-hearted attack so you can take advantage of their openings at your leisure.
- Do not let them pass when they strike so you retain area dominance, sometimes they will try hiki waza even though they are already on the line!
- If you do let them pass, follow your opponent after their strike, especially with small shiaijo they will end up near the line so their zanshin might be absent and their kamae will usually be off for you to take advantage of.
- If they are near the line just do a men or kote taiatari hiki waza, doing this you might get an ippon for your technique or your opponent gets a hansoku for stepping outside which might mess up their train of thought. So this is “isseki ni chou” or “one stone, two birds” as they say in Japan, because you get a double advantage by only performing one technique.
- And finally, kihon is a lot more powerful than what I previously thought. The only strikes I attempted were kote and men. No tsuki, no do, just the simple up and down motion of kote and men were mostly enough to get me the top prize.
I hope this will inspire you all to train harder at kihon! It certainly inspired me after being so flabbergasted.
And last but not least the results:
- Zicarlo van Aalderen
- Juliën Lubeek
- Charl Barel and Ivo van Roij
- Team 2: Sarah Klomp, Pepijn Boomgaard and Charl Barel
- Jonathan de Croon