2010 Summer Taikai

Not the sound of us hitting each other with shinai. But as we were warming up on a hot Saturday morning for the annual Hizen Team’s Taikai (competition), the back door of the dojo was filled with the whup-whup-whup sound of a helicopter landing in the car park. Paramedics then ran into the dojo. Fortunately, this was not due to someone injuring themself before the start of the competition. Rather, it was, we think, a PR exercise with the paramedics heading through to the front of the building where a colourful street carnival was taking place. Still, it made for an unusual start to the taikai!
Distractions aside, the shiai jo was taped up and teams drawn. In previous years, kendoka of sandan+ level were excluded from the team taikai (fighting in a separate ‘senior plate’ section later in the day), but the success of the Hizen club over the last couple of year’s has meant that a substantial proportion of members have now reached sandan. The practical effect of which was to reduce the number of eligible participants in the taikai – so to ensure enough teams could be formed each was allocated a sandan player for the first time this year.
Matches started around 11am with teams of three fighting. Each match was three minutes in duration and each team was to fight all the others, so several hours of kendo lay ahead of us. Senior grades and those sandan not allocated to teams were to act as shimpan.
The team fights were numerous and it was quite hard to follow which teams were doing better than others or which kendoka. And there were too many matches to describe each in detail. I know that the final must have been close, as a member of my own team assured me that we had it ‘in the bag’ on match wins about 20 minutes from the end, but the ultimate winners – Team A (Narendra Arjan, Adam Tennent and Dillon Lin) creapt up on us and finally won on points in the final few minutes…. Team B (Paul Gray, Steve McDonald and Endre Szvetnik) came second and Team C (Clayon Stewart, Jo Jaehyeok and Minaxi Arjan) came third.
Fighting Spirit was won by Ruth Heams. Her partner Steve had given me special permission to quote “beat her” in our match but after my first point she’d fought back with a splendid debanna kote – and this grit and excellent timing was on show in several other matches as well – with at least one other sandan receiving a similar stroke. When Humm sensei later announced the choice, it was a popular one with participants.

The came the Senior Plate. Participants this included Phil Wilson, Clayon Stewart, Paul Gray, Jeff Martin, Lewis Guneratne, Adam Tennent and Julian Biddulph There was a notable number of draws in the sandan taikai but ultimately the winner of the two previous competitions also prevailed this year – Phil Wilson will have to take the trophy to the engravers again.

Humm sensei presented the prizes at the end of the afternoon and commented that while the basic level of kendo in the club is improving, many individuals would have done better if they could focus more on the importance of ippon. The number of draws in the Senior Plate was illustrative of this need to create a decisive win.

Following the taikai, the club held it’s Annual General Meeting.
Report: Paul Grey Photos: Jeff Martin