London Cup 2-3rd May 2009

Well done everybody who took part or came to watch the London Cup over the weekend. It was another two days of great kendo and friendly encounters.

Saturday 2 May was the Team event.

Including our main Hizen Team, a total of 15 people from our group competed, easily making us the largest dojo representation. Hizen Team was: Andris Pramalts in Senpo, Steve McDonald in Jiho, Nick Davey in Chuken, Ini Udofah in Fukusho, and Taisho Julian Biddulph. We started in pool D with University of Northumbria, which included Dillon Lin who filled in for their missing player, and
Portugal 2, which included Kyeong-seon Cha in Senpo and Chi Leung Fung in Fukusho position. The first match for Hizen was against University of Northumbria. Andris started positively, scoring with an early Men, but then lost two careless de-gote. Steve in contrast struggled a bit in his first match, but scored late with a good Men. Nick had to fight Dillon, and while failing to dominate the match, followed up with a nicely timed kote. Inni had a very positive match but lost by one point. At this point the match was in balance, with both teams winning two matches, and Julian faced an experienced Barry Straughan tried hard to regain the advantage, but lost to a careless hiki-men, and then to a unlucky kote.With University of Northumbria already through, Hizen’s second match against Portugal 2 was to decide who goes through the pool as second. First up came Andris against Kyeong-seon, who was her usual energetic self, but also showed composure and good selection of techniques. Although Andris scored with Men early, Kyeong-seon recovered with two well timed de-gote. In jiho, Steve used his footwork effectively to put pressure on the opponent, but lost a point to de-gote. With our first two players losing, our backs were against the wall. Nick showed good composure to read the opponent well, and scored with a nicely timed Men, and then with a good kote. Inni then came up against Chi, and both had a good positive and honest contest, but Inni eventually prevailed with a nice Men.

As with the first match, with the tie in balance, Julian was again under pressure to take the responsibility as Taisho, but this time Julian scored with a nice hiki-men, and send Hizen into the knock out round. Hizen’s opponent in the first round of knock out stage was the Montenegro National Team, a physical and awkward opponent. Andris struggled to impose his authority against a tall and physical opponent, and instead gave away opportunity for de-gote, which the opponent duly picked up twice. Steve showed improved performance using his footwork to create opportunities, but lost to a de-gote, and an unlucky Men. Nick in Chuken came up against a very tall jodan player. Nick used his footwork, mixing up his techniques well, and scoring on Hidari-gote (opponent’s left kote), and further created two or three chances to score Men. However he could not capitalise to finish the match off, and in almost the dying seconds, the opponent scored Men to draw the match. Inni faced another Jodan, less tall but more technical player. Inni fought very positively, putting the Jodan player under pressure and creating many opportunities for nuki-men. Although unluckily losing to a kote, he did not look fazed against an opponent of international standard. Julian’s Taisho match was against a physical opponent, that unfortunately became a slightly messy match, but Julian held his ground and showed a solid performance. Overall, while we were eliminated, I was very proud that everybody faced up to the difficult challenge and showed strength of character. Other Hizen members who took part in the Team Event: Phil Wilson and Clayon Stewart featured in the British National Team 2 in Pool A, which was a tough group including the Swedish National Team and Mumeishi. Phil started his match positively, always putting the opponent under pressure, but lost against Mumeishi to a well timed kote-nuki-men, while Clayon unusually started a bit slowly, losing to a straight men cut. In the second match against the Swedish National Team 1, both Phil and Clayon drew their matches, helping the contest to be a close one, but in the end were not able to get through to the knockout round. The Lithuanian National Team was also in a difficult pool facing a strong Budo XI from France and UCL, and while failing to progress, Mykolas Maciulevicius (who practiced with us on Thursday) did extremely well, winning all his matches (including a two point feat over ex-Hizen member Pascal Labru), Mindaugas Sakalauskas demonstrated one of his best competition performances in all of his matches, and Gerardas Rukas struggled against the strong French team but dominated his second match against UCL. Adam Tennant and Narendra Arjan helped out with the Latvian Riga Kendo Club, who were in another Pool of death with last year’s (and this year’s eventual) winner, The Italian National Team and Wakaba, which also included Jeff Martin, and while facing opponents of a higher competitive experience, both excelled to help the team progress to the knock out round, only to face the eventual runners up The Swedish National Team.

Sunday 3 May was the individual events.

Kyeong-seon Cha represented us in the Ladies Individual, and won her first match against Anja Neubauer of Germany with a nicely timed kote. Kyeong-seon generally showed a new found maturity in her kendo over the two days, without losing her usual energy. But she was overcome by a technically superior Sarah Hernandez of Switzerland in her second match, finding it difficult to keep her composure under pressure.
In the Men’s Individual, the tall and awkward Jimmy Cedervall of the Swedish National Team, the eventual semi-finalist, was the nemesis of Hizen members in Shiai-jo A side of the tournament. I had him in the first round, and having taken the match to Encho, lost to another dubious Men cut. Personally it was an excellent match full of opportunities and challenges, so I was not disappointed with the experience. On the other hand, I have lost my recent three tournaments in exactly the same situation: I step in to put pressure, the opponent reacts by swinging his shinai, which I block but is deemed to have hit when it is not even close to touching the Men; so I have to think hard not to put myself in a position to give that impression to the referees. Julian Biddulph had Barry Straughan in the first round, the same opponent he faced in the teams, but this time defeated him with a confident Men cut.
Julian developed superbly over the two days, and I could see that he was gaining more and more confidence and potential in his kendo. Julian then faced Cedervall in the second round, who overpowered him by kote and men, but his overall performance over the two days was excellent. Narendra Arjan won his first match against Ronnie Gibbs of UAK with two nicely timed kote. His next match was a difficult one, having lost a men to the opponent, but then superbly recovered with kote and a men.

He faced the towering Cedervall in the third round, who again conquered Nari with two men cuts. Nari experienced disappointment here in the previous week’s grading, but he responded positively showing his strength of character. His kendo has already progressed in the past one week, and the experience of competing here with opponents of a high standard will no doubt give him confidence and a platform for further development in his kendo. Mindaugas Sakalauskas faced the Swedish captain Juan Sato in the first round. Sato took the first point with a kaeshi-do, but Mindaugas levelled with a Men, and then took the second point with a kote. His second round opponent was Clayon Stewart, who in his first round negotiated an awkward match with Milutin Nikitovic of Montenegro with a Men. In the second round match, Clayon won the first point with another Men, but Mindaugas again responded with two kote to progress. Mindaugas’s third round opponent was Werner Karandi of the Dutch Team, who defeated Ingo Wickenhauser in the first round, and prevailed over Denis Arsenin of Riga, who previously beat Peter Tornkvist. Mindaugas won this match as well, putting him into the best 16 of the tournament. His fourth round opponent was the colossal Cedervall, who dominated with two Men cuts. Mindaugas had gone through a difficult period in his kendo over the past year, but kept working hard, and in these two days has flourished magnificently. He was always positive, looked confident, holding his composure against opponents of superior experience. Mindaugas is an example that even when we experience disappointments and our form worsens, if we keep at it, eventually we can break out of a slump and come out stronger. Nick Davey had Martin Kiosew of Dublin in his first round. He dominated the first half of the match scoring with Men, but then sat back a bit allowing the opponent to come back with a kote. At Shobu, Nick found the courage to step forward, winning with a wonderfully timed kote. However in his second round match against Aurelien Nacrour of Mumeishi, he could not match the opponent and lost to a men and kote. Over the weekend, I think Nick developed a new dimension to his kendo, showing composure and better understanding of timing, reading the opponent well. The challenge now is to find a good balance with his usual energy and attacking flair, but I think Nick has come far since being selected in the ‘squad’ and putting pressure on himself to develop his kendo. Adam Pettifer came up against the young and energetic Abraham Christie of UAK in the first round and while working hard, struggled to impose his authority over the opponent. Steve McDonald faced James Ogle of University of Gloucestershire in the first round, and although eventually losing to two men cuts, used his footwork and movement effectively to create opportunities, and generally demonstrated his positive approach. Steve is another person who cultivated new dimension in his kendo over the two days, and I look forward to him taking this back to the dojo and continue his impressive progress.

In the Shiai-jo B side of the tournament, Dillon Lin won his first round match against a strong Nuno Ricardo of Portugal, and then faced Gareth Allwood-Spieres of the GP Team in his second round, who defeated Darius Sutkus of Lithuania in the first round. Allwood-Spieres took the first point with kote, but Dillon recovered with Men. Eventually Allwood-Spieres won using his experience and physical strength to take the second point with Men. Dillon was another person who performed well against strong opponents, and gained much from the experience of the weekend.After winning his first two rounds confidently, Phillip Wilson faced the eventual semi-finalist Giuseppe Giannetto of Italy, who beat Gerardas in the earlier round, in his third round match, who defeated him with a kote and men. Over the two days, Phil showed good form, being positive and always first to initiate and put pressure on the opponent, creating many chances, but against a technically good and physically strong Giannetto, found it difficult to maintain his rhythm. But his overall performance was a credit to Hizen and the GB team he represented.

Hizen members all showed an excellent standard of kendo as well as good etiquette and respectful manners.

Photos by J.Martin & N.Arjan
Report by S. Miyamura