Tournament | Journey to Kendo

This past weekend, my kendo team attended a collegiate kendo tournament that took place four hours away from us. It was an exhausting, but exhilarating weekend — surely one to remember.

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The planning for this weekend started in January when we started to figure out if it was possible for us to even go because the logistics were looking tricky. I started to train with the possibility of going so that I could perform well. I had also anticipated in testing for a new rank; I was 4 kyu. Around February, we worked out the logistics and started to train even harder with frequent sparring matches during practice and reviewing testing etiquette. I’ve been running more during the week to build up my cardio and that proved to be really helpful.

The weekend rolled around and we took a team of four people to the tournament. I was the driver and even though I was a bundle of nerves, I managed to get us there safely. We arrived late Friday night and the next morning, we headed to the gym for a joint practice. It was a really long practice and it was physically tough, but it felt great to know that the energy you’re exerting will be beneficial for kendo. There are definitely exercises that we’re going to start adapting into our own practices. After that, we got a little break (gummy bears and water 🙂 ) before having a time to spar with senseis and get critic. I was able to spar with Inoshita-Sensei and Small-Sensei before I had to rest. I didn’t want to tire myself out too much before the test. An hour later, they finished the practice and started setting up for testing. We got our numbers and sat quietly before we had to go up and show the judges what we got. Before the test, I wasn’t terribly nervous but while I was testing, my mouth went dry and I found it pretty hard to kiai, yet I have it my all. My teammates also did pretty well. In the end, I passed my test and got 3 kyu and my teammates who were testing for the first time also got 3 kyu.

The next day was the tournament. We went to a larger gym very early in the morning, get settled before we had to line up and hear some announcements before the tournament started. We watched the kids go at it, their fervor inspiring us before we had to go to our courts to get ready for our matches. I was the first to go for the women’s division, 19 years old and up and I won my first match! I won with one point in the “sudden death” round on her men and I didn’t realize I had won until afterwards. I was completely wiped out and I had another match to go. I lost my second match, but the girl I went against actually proceeded to the final rounds. She was a higher rank than me so it was expected. I was pretty happy with how I progressed!

The next division was the individual matches and three of us had matches, but we weren’t sure when we were going so we stayed in our courts. I ran around the gym giving my phone/camera to people to make sure we had footage to look back on. I ended up going first and I won my match again with one point. I also fell over in the beginning of the match, but it was all okay. Afterwards, I talked to my opponent and he was a really cool guy just starting out kendo! Before my second match, I had the opportunity to watch my teammate’s matches which motivated me more for my next match. I lost my following match because I was so tired but I tried my best.

We took a break for lunch with some interesting conversations 🙂 before heading back to the gym. We were able to witness senseis spar each other. We noticed that the higher the rank, the slower the movements in the fight and it becomes more based in reflex and strategy. Then, it was time for our team matches. We were put up against West Point and in our team of three, I was the first leg and I lost my match. The second leg also lost his, but the third leg won his. In a team match, you need to win two matches out of the three people in order to proceed, so we were already eliminated. We were kind of glad since it made traveling back easier on us.

Well, thanks for reading my adventures! This weekend was a lot of fun and I definitely learned a lot with regards to what I need to improve upon, how to better our own club and that I’m progressing quite well!

Alice

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