When my alarm went off at 6am this morning (Sunday) I dragged my body out of bed, had a large cup of coffee, grabbed my stuff, then headed over to Kyoto to take part in this years Kyoto University high school invitational competition. By “take part” I of course mean “take my students over to compete.”
Today I spent the whole day at yet another university invitational shiai for high school students (it’s that time of year!). I got up at 6am and was greeted with a cold and rainy Osaka morning. Jamming a banana in my mouth, I bought a coffee at the nearby convenience store and headed over to Kyoto.
As usual, the day went as follows:
– opening ceremony and morning shiai (preliminary rounds)
– lunch break and another warmup
– knock-out rounds
– godogeiko with university students and graduates
Of the different type of shiai I attend, I much prefer these invitational ones to “official” shiai because of the always-included (if short and frantic!) godogeiko session at the end.
Anyway, please enjoy the video clips and gallery:
Back in May I announced that I was having a re-think about what to do with kenshi 24/7 and then in September I posted a notice saying that I was semi-retiring posting content… at least for the “time being.” I tried to start a more casual blog on the side, but things in life (work!) are moving at warp-speed at the moment and my energy soon exhausted itself. Perhaps, if I can get myself organised properly, I’ll try to make another attempt at either a re-boot of the main site or some other side project next year.
Still, despite the hectic work schedule I haven’t stopped doing kendo… just not at the 2〜3 keiko/day rate I have managed over the past decade or so. I continue to post original media and share quality content to the Facebook page, so be sure and like it if you haven’t already.
Lastly, thanks to everyone for your continued support over all these years. Whether you’ve read an article, shared something, or bought a publication, I hope we can have the chance to do kendo sometime in the future. Cheers!
My favourite posts from 2016
- The mystery of the black-hand (Jan.)
- The shugyo spiral (Feb.)
- Improving tsuki waza (March)
- Kyoto Taikai 2016 (May)
- Hasegawa hanshi’s tai-atari and kakarigeiko (July)
- Shiga Butokuden (Aug.)
Just to prove that I am still active, here are some images/vid that I have taken since September. Enjoy!
A couple of posts ago I talked about renshu-jiai, or practise competition, what they are and what sort of benefits can be had from doing them. Since making that post I’ve spent three whole days (two Saturdays and one Sunday) at shiai with my students while they competed in the Osaka preliminaries of the All Japan high school kendo championships. This shiai takes three days because of the sheer amount of competitors: the first Saturday was the individual competition (boys and girls), then the following weekend was the boys and girls team competitions, each taking an entire day. Even though I didn’t compete, I’m knackered !!!!
iPhone-video footage I uploaded to the kenshi 24/7 facebook page proved popular, so I put together another short vid with some better quality footage to share. Most of it is of the warmup sessions, with a little bit of shiai action at the end. Turn your speakers to 11 before clicking play:
Lastly, here is a small gallery of pictures:
Over the past almost 9-years of being a high school kendo teacher (and the 5 years of teaching at junior high/elementary school level before that) I have been to quite a few shiai. Actually, I lie: I have been to about a million (if not that exact number then it certainly feels like it!). Behind all these official shiai are many many many more unofficially renshu-jiai (practise competition). These practise shiai sessions vary from smallish groups of one or two school kendo clubs getting together for a couple of hours of shiai followed by jigeiko, to massive multiple day events attended by 30 or more schools battling each other out.
In almost all cases there is no overall winner, you simply do as many shiai as possible and catalogue your own or your teams wins and losses. The competitor does his or her best against a – usually – unknown opponent then afterwards receives advice from their kendo teacher.
Apart from being fun, there are many helpful benefits to this kind of training, for example it:
– increases motivation;
– engenders a competitive spirit;
– offers a time and a place for experimentation without fear of loss;
– forces students to deeply consider why it was they won or lost;
– can be a good time to talk strategy with students (rather than purely form);
– allows the students to see if their kendo works against others in a low-stress environment.
Etc., etc. In other words, renshu-jiai offer opportunities to test ones kendo out against other people in a competition-near environment (timed, judged) without the emotional stress that can accompany official shiai.
If you don’t already do renshu-jiai as part of your kendo clubs training process, why don’t you try?
p.s. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t make a final point: it’s important to note that behind all of these shiai (official or practise) is keiko. Day-to-day keiko sessions far outnumber actually competition, exponentially so.
Bonus: Shiai wisdom
… the actual result of shiai is greater than simply winning or losing: it trains you to use the techniques you acquire in your daily practice fairly and justly, and gives you an opportunity to ensure that your manners are correct. Also, by reviewing how you acted during the shiai you can evaluate the degree of improvement in your spiritual and physical self-cultivation, providing you with a valuable reference about how to improve your kendo for the future.
One more …
Some exponents will tell us that there “is nothing to gain from merely winning in shiai” that the highest aims and the ultimate principles of kendo are beyond victory and defeat, and even transcend the realms of life and death; in this sense we can agree with this comment. However, even though the ultimate aims of kendo may transcend victory and defeat, the struggle for victory remains the only avenue for attaining them. Hence, comments such as the one above are easily misunderstood. Even if one tries one cannot divorce oneself from the confines of victory and defeat (shohai). It is only by focusing one’s mind upon shohai and submersing oneself into it that one eventually man- ages to emerge and transcend it. Consequently, the shugyosha must make it a golden rule that should he decide to enter a shiai he must endeavor to win at all costs.
– Noma Hisashi, The Kendo Reader
Some renshu-jiai pics from over the years: