In 2009 I wrote a post called TSUBAZERIA RULE CHANGES IN HIGH SCHOOL KENDO that looked at new rules that were being implemented for high school kendo competitions here in Japan. Just over 4 years later and I can say without a doubt that the flow of shiai has improved drastically due to this simple change: there is less time wasting in tsubazeriai and students kendo has become a lot more positive and forward-attacking than it was before. There’s probably not been enough time since the rule implementation for a larger change in shiai flow to occur in university and adult shiai, but I’m pretty positive we are going in a good direction. So, it’s with great interest that I listened to a sempai of mine talk about a further change happening in Junior High School kendo (which I am not personally involved in).
A new rule in junior high school change states the following under the section “Strange defensive postures” (変形な構え等の防御姿勢):
“In the case of a strange defensive kamae, the following shall occur:
In the first instance: call a goki and instruct the players (of what is acceptable and what isn’t);
In the second instance: issue a hansoku.”
What is defined as a “strange defensive posture” is basically when you “lift your left hand above your eye level in order to block your men, kote, and dou” i.e. the “Sanpomamori” posture referred to by Morishima Tateo sensei. The rule change goes onto state that any waza executed out of this kamae (or something near to) will not be judged as valid.
As things stand at the moment, you can see people run into tsubazeriai using this posture a lot in shiai. I guess it’s a combination of not wanting to be hit and time wasting. Even if you look at video of the All Japan Kendo Championships – and of 3-time winner Uchimura Ryoichi – you can see that in the highest level shiai in Japan this type of movement happens a lot. It’s not just time wasting and defensiveness that’s the problem – it’s that it looks ugly.
I think that this is a great rule change. If it’s as successful as the tsubazeriai rule change in high school kendo then I think the flow of shiai will become much better in the future, and we will see students perform not only more beautiful kendo, but also less defensive, more positive kendo.
Personally, it’s my hope that this new rule in junior high school, plus the tsubazeriai rule of high school, be applied to not only adult competition here in Japan, but be spread abroad as well (the conduit for which would be the World Kendo Championships). I assume that these changes are part of the ZNKR’s long term plan, the aim of which is to eventually produce kenshi with better kendo who will in turn teach and influence others. Will it work? I guess only time will tell.