The 5 nations Taikai was hosted at Brunel University in London(ish) yesterday and I was fortunate enough to watch the high level of kendo performed by these national teams.
My obsession with arriving at venues 30 minutes early meant a 6:30am start to get to the venue around 8:30am. The journey there wasn’t too bad, my sat nav did take me to the wrong location and I did have to ask someone for directions. So after getting lost for a while and driving around closed roads I found myself parking at the Brunel University Sports Centre car park at 9am! It was quite confusing as I had to walk for about 2 minutes to find I was in between 3 buildings. I knew it was around here somewhere but didn’t know which direction to go until I heard the familiar sound of Kendo. It was faint, but I could still make out the direction it was coming from so I decided to walk towards 2 of the 3 buildings. The sound of shinai clashing and kiai full of spirit was starting to become louder and louder. Actual it became so loud it was clear which centre it was in, even passer bys were concerned with what was happening (it was really, REALLY loud). I finally found my way to the entrance of the shiai-jo where I took my trainers off.
As I got closer to the door the stronger the excitement and anticipation within me grew. I’ve been to competitions with fighters from other countries come to participate before but this is different. This is the competition where Great Britain, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland – 5 European countries, gather some of their strongest fighters to participate in this ‘friendly’ event. I finally walked through the door and rei. As I raised my head I saw every single team doing their own warm up drills ‘Great! I didn’t miss it!’ I thought.
After a while, everyone ended their warm up and waited for the opening ceremony to begin, which gave me a chance to say ‘hi’ to some of my friends participating in this event. I actually missed the opening ceremony because one of my friend had disappeared! Apparently, he was there earlier in the morning but he never turned up for the warm up. This was very out of character so I went everywhere looking for him; the changing rooms, toilet, eating area, other parts of the sports centre – everywhere! I was beginning to get worried and tried to recall whether I had passed his car in the car park. I didn’t think I did so I thought it’d be a good idea to go back to see if his car is in the car park. As I got to the car park I was scanning the whole area and then literally as I was going to give up, his car enters the car park and I signal him to hurry up (which he did). He had forgotten to pack his gi so had to drive all the way home to get it. He made it in time and there was no penalties as the men’s individuals event hadn’t started yet (and because it’s a friendly).
The level of kendo and shinpan was very high compared to the national ones I have been to. Watching some of the matches I thought to myself, I would’ve lost already if that was me. The highlight for me was seeing a beautifully executed men cut during the ladies individuals. I think it was performed by one of the German ladies. In the middle of the fight, she did a taitari and her opponent started to fall backwards, she was able to react fast enough to perform a men cut on her still falling opponent! I have never seen anyone do that before! When all the flags went up signalling an ippon I was even more amazed! I have seen people fall and then their opponent would cut them whilst they are down but never on a falling opponent. The flexibility in both the body and mind required to pull that off is insanely high.
I would’ve lost already if that was me
Overall I was very impressed with what I saw, especially some of the matches in the ladies category. This experience has driven my motivation to improve myself even more. Maybe if I train hard enough I will someday be fighting in a national team? Hehe I wish.