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Can-do Spirit at 10th National Kendo Championships



Kenji Inoue with the winning strike to clinch the Single’s Category National Championships 2011 (Photo:SSC)
 
Which sport consists of three referees, three point matches and three elements in order to score a point?
 
The answer is none other than Kendo, the modern Japanese martial discipline of sword-fighting. Combining sporting attributes with martial art values, Kendo is a sport which is both physically and mentally challenging.
 
Kendo has gained popularity outside its country of origin. Last Sunday morning, about 50 Singaporean citizens and permanent residents showcased their Kendo valour and skills at the 10th National Tournament 2011.
 
This annual tournament was held at Changi Japanese School and was organised by the 39 year old Singapore Kendo Club. It was divided into four categories: Men's & Women's Senior (All Dan Grades) and Men’s & Women's Junior (All Kyu Grades) where each one had to battle it out in a round robin format before heading into the elimination rounds. The participants then compete for the championship title in the finals.
 
The exciting and entertaining tournament was a platform for all local kendoka, or kendoists, to display their swordsmanship to outwit and outplay their opponents. There were many impressive and elegant strikes from the competitors which left the crowd awestruck. Although the competition was stiff, each participant was determined to win and make their supporters proud.
 
The competition uses a three point match system. To score a point, one has to strike any of the following four targets:
1) The top or sides of the head protector
2) A padded area of the right or left wrist protector
3) An area of the right or left side of the armour that protects the torso
4) An area of the head protector in front of the throat
 
The fourth target which is in front of the throat is only allowed in the senior levels because of safety precautions. It may sound easy to just hit the opponent twice in any of the four targets and walk away victorious but in reality it is much more complex.
 
In addition to hitting the opponent, the referees will only award the points if “Ki-Ken-Tai-Icchi” and “zanshin” is achieved.

“Ki-ken-tai-ichi” refers to having the mind, sword and body as one. When translated into practice, it means that one must strike their target at the same time as their body weight comes down onto their leading foot accompanied by a yell.
 
“Zanshin” refers to continual awareness following through the strike, ending in a correct posture and ready to fight.
 
As Amanda Yeo , a Women’s junior participant put it, “Constant practice and executing accurate strikes are essential to earning a point instead of blindly hitting an opponent which will only leave you open to hits from your opponent.”
 
Judging and awarding of points were not easy towards the end of the tournament as the competition heats up. Every senior kendoka were brimming with confidence and attacked aggressively with deafening shouts, or “kiai” to express their fighting spirit when landing their hits.
 
Sureshwaran Krishnasamy, Singapore’s 9th ASEAN Kendo Tournament 2010 representative, blazed through the round robin and eliminations to the Men’s senior final. Having won the Men's Individuals Best Fighting Spirit honour in the ASEAN tournament, he demonstrated vicious strikes while being amazingly composed. He put on show of various speedy combinations which made the crowd and fellow competitors watch in amazement.
 
The other Men’s Senior finalist was Kenji Inoue, who was an underdog as it was his first competition after becoming a Singapore permanent resident. He slowly made his way up the ladder to the final with a fine display of swordsmanship and perfect execution of strikes.
 
The Men’s Senior Finals was the last match of the day. Both kendokas were exhausted but gave their best in the battle for the title. The finalists put up a good exhibition of strikes and technicalities and in a moment of brilliance, Kenji caught Suresh off guard and took advantage to strike Suresh’s side torso in lightning speed for the national title.
 
“I tried my very best and am very tired after the final. This win is unexpected as I had no time to train in the last month and had to rely on my 10 over years of experience to compete in this tournament.” said the new champion Kenji Inoue. ““The competitors in this tournament are very good and of high level. Kendo in Singapore is continuously improving and reaching greater levels. ”
 
Singapore Kendo Club will be organizing the 23rd Lim Kwa Chwee Tournament 2011 on the 18th December later this year.