kendo shiai

16th World Kendo Championships

I cannot, just by telling you about it, convince you of the pleasure of what happens at such as festival as well as you would learn for yourself, sitting in the middle of the crowd watching the arete of men and physical beauty, amazing conditioning, and great skill and irresistible force and daring and pride and unbeatable determination and indescribable passion for victory. I know that you would not stop praising and cheering and applauding.

Lucian (ca, 120-190 CE), Anacharsis (Athletics)

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the World Kendo Championships, held in the Nippon Budokan, Tokyo. I attended as neither competitor nor spectator, but as a volunteer staff member for the All Japan Kendo Association (ZNKR), which was a new – and eye opening – experience for me. In particular I got to see how things operated (specifically the media side of things), plus was privy to not a few highly interesting (and secret!) conversations. I also met a Japanese imperial princess, but that’s a story to be had over a beer or two. Due to my work situation I was only onsite on days 2 and 3.

I won’t bother detailing the flow of the competition nor the results – you can find all those on the official page or from your friends. My main goal with this post is simply to share some pictures and chat briefly about my experience.

Day 2: ladies individuals and teams

I rolled up to the Budokan just before 7am and was in for a long day: I didn’t leave until around 9pm. Other volunteers where there longer than that. This day was mostly spent acclimatising to the role so I didn’t walk around or take as many pictures as I did on the last day (which I now regret).

The highlight (!?!?) of the day was a large-ish earthquake that happened in the middle of the ladies award ceremony. The Budokan shook back-and-forth quite a lot and the ceremony was suspended for a few moments to ensure everything was ok. In Kansai we don’t experience quite as many earthquakes as they do in the Kanto region, so I was far from impressed!

Here are some pictures from the day…

Day 3: mens teams

This day saw the largest turnout spectator-wise, especially from the afternoon. I spent some pre-opening ceremony time watching the warmup of a few teams. The warmup area was in an ad-hoc tent that was set up in what I believe was part of the parking area! When the competition started proper I did some wandering around taking random shots, both of the shiai itself and of other stuff that was going on in and around the Budokan.

One thing that (happily!) surprised me over the day was the realisation just how technically proficient some of the teams have become over the last decade I’ve been in Japan, especially some of the European ones. There was some really athleticism on display as well as some precisely executed waza and nice seme-ai. Watching some of the tall and muscular young guys I started to feel inadequate!!

Check out some pictures…


Team snaps (random):


Behind the scenes

I spent a lot of my volunteering time posting on twitter, taking pictures for flickr, uploading stuff to the kenshi 24/7 facebook page, and monitoring Ustream comments. One thing I’d like everyone to know is that this is a massive operation, especially the Ustream -> YouTube process. Although there is a lot of self-automation, there is constant manual monitoring and intervention if required. It’s really quite impressive how something that was live-streamed a few moments ago get’s shifted to YouTube so quickly. There were also ippon collections and slo-motion vids that got uploaded super speedily.

Although some people had problem watching Ustream, most didn’t. The former we couldn’t really help as any strangling/blocking of the streams were happening at their end. Why some ISPs blocked some channels but left others open I have no idea. At any rate, those that couldn’t see things live could wait a few moments and see the recorded version on YouTube anyway… if they had the patience!

At the same time as all this was happening the scores were being recorded digitally and fed into the official tournament system. Part of this system also updated the official site the instant a point was made (input). It was all rather cool.

Although it was a very exhausting couple of days for me (and I didn’t even work that hard!!), I consider myself lucky that I was allowed so much access to what was going on. I think we need to thank the ZNKR and it’s team of volunteers for going to so much effort.

Some pics from behind the scenes…


To tell you the truth, more than watching the competition itself, I got a lot more joy just walking around, taking pictures, meeting some very old friends, and chatting to new people. Quite a few people came up to me and said “Are you George?” and thanked me for kenshi 24/7… which was unexpected but very nice!

Of course, I did watch a lot of the matches, and I not only enjoyed them immensely but came away with a new found respect for the increase in technical ability shown by everyone. This – assuming it is coupled with a deep understanding of the culture of kendo – can only lead to bright things for the future of kendo. Exciting times!!!!


Special thanks go out to Paul Carruthers from Newcastle who kindly donated a couple of spare tickets for day 3. I managed to get both tickets into needy hands pretty quickly (one person from Hong Kong, another from Osaka) – cheers Paul, I owe you a beer!

By George

George is the founder and chief editor of
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8 replies on “16th World Kendo Championships”

even I wasn’t in Tokyo, but watching from Ustream, and constantly checking the scores updates on 16WKC site was just as exciting!
The technical team really did a great job and set a good example for others to follow!
enjoy it very much!!!

Dude, that’s Toda sensei (hanshi 8dan)…. winner of the All Japan Kendo Champs before either of us was born and the most famous nito kenshi in Japan.

Man, excellent. Great synopsis. Volunteering in that role you did certainly allowed you the privilege of seeing all the behind the scenes machinations. What an experience eh? Uruyamashiiii!

By the way, that shot of the US member (Yang, I think it’s Chris) and the Korean kenshi is one of your best. Highly dramatic. A keeper.


Well, that’s him indeed 🙂 He was the expert in France when I was barely starting. I only remembered his face, not his profile, and he was about 25 years younger (and me too)… 🙂 At a local shiai in Paris, he was sitting next to his daughter, and I could not look at her without having him look back at me in disapprobation…

Besides for that thank you for all the great pictures that you took and for that insider’s look. 3 days of continuous shiais is totally different from the usual competitions and the ability to meet so many people from all over the world at once is really what made this competition special. I’ll be starting to learn Korean soon for the next edition 🙂

In my opinion the live stream during this WKC was the best ever and probably will still be the best for a long time since no other country have all this planing and structure to do this.

I hope this sets the example for other countries around the world

The people doing all this barely get to watch anything of the shiai….. some people got to see zero (eg the guy editing and updating pictures to Flickr).

I could only watch at the Tokyo Budokan some of the womans combats on Saturday, however, seeing how everything was organized and how well it was working it was clear that the ZNKR had made a great effort organizing the event.
I do not think there are many other Kendo federations that can have that number of volunteers and the means to make and broadcast all that so well.
Congratulations and thank you very much!

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