Towards the end of semester, I have received an e-mail regarding a tournament from Imafuji sensei. It was a mini-tournament held at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by Iwasaki sensei.
Previously a few months ago, I had an opportunity to practice with Iwasaki sensei at Imafuji sensei’s dojo, Gotokukan in Indianapolis.
At the time, I had an awful habit of presenting bad posture after striking which no one in my club had noticed.
With just one jigeiko, Iwasaki sensei found my problem and corrected me. Because of this encounter I got excited and with no hesitation decided to attend the tournament.
Although University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is considered to be one of the closer schools from Purdue University, even with my previous visit a year ago, due to my poor sense of direction I got lost. With several detours and turning back, I arrived at the tournament, obviously being late.
Everyone was dressed and ready. With help from some of the participants, I found a place to change. The thoughts about being late and the possibility of making other participants wait made me extra nervous and my hands trembled while changing which made it worse.
Once I was set, I felt more relieved and was able to look around. I was very surprised and impressed for the number of participants, which exceeded my expectations. Starting from closer locations like Purdue University, there were participants from further places such as Michigan and, to my amaze even from Washington.
Not only for the number of participants, but the tournament by itself was full of surprises. During the opening ceremony, I learned that there were official sponsors for the tournament which included Nippon Steel, Kendo Style and Kendo For Life.
Before the opening ceremony I had noticed that the prices and gifts were very good quality. I could not help myself but had wondered how it could be possible to make such arrangement for a non-entrance fee tournament.
Not only for the sponsors, but I was impressed by the tournament for being well organized. In fact, it was one of the most well run competitions I have ever participated in.
The twenty page instruction manual was clear and contained many helpful information. The manual is still with me and I intend to make a copy for our club as future reference.
In addition, what really left a strong impression was the opportunity to practice judging. In terms of making a call for an Ippon, although there are guidelines, in some cases the matter can be subjective.
Just like soccer and baseball, the replay does not change the result of the match. Therefore there is tremendous amount of stress and responsibility on the referees.
I sometime encounter people who complain about the judgment, but the fact is there are many cases where it is very difficult to make an accurate call. Just like performing good kendo, the only way to make good judgment is to practice.
The experience of judging gave me better understanding of how much stress was on the referees’ shoulder. Participating in Iwasaki cup was not only great experience for competing, but also great opportunity to learn.
The tournament was very refreshing, full of surprise and educational. However, it was not only the tournament that was enjoyable. Everyone had a great time in the following party.
The fact that everyone had a chance to mingle and to know each other better was probably the best part of the event. Most participants are still keeping in touch via Facebook and I cannot deny that I made good friends through the tournament.
Overall, the tournament provided great opportunity to compete and learn at the same time. Also considering the nature of arrangement, it was a great place to meet people and exchange information regarding practice routines and skills.
The fact that most of the participants are still frequently communicating through on-line is the best part. It makes me realize how kendo can make people come together and bond with each other. I look forward for the next Iwasaki cup tournament.
Purdue University Electrical Engineering Ph.D. candidate