Kiwada wins! 60th All Japan Kendo Championships

The 60th All Japan Kendo Taiaki was held at the Nippon Budokan on November 3rd 2012, I made it to the taikai by 11:30 and had an extremely enjoyable experience despite having to leave and come back due to work.

Uchimura vs Kiwada. 60th All Japan Kendo Championship Final

I have been to a few other taikai at the budokan now and it's a really great experience. The budokan is massive, with some university shiai having 10 -12 or even more shiai-jo.

For the All Japan's the set up is quite different. There are only two shiai-jo with seating for spectators and VIP Sensei on the arena floor itself. Seats in the arena cost ¥6000 and usually sell out quickly, I bought my ticket for the first floor for ¥3000 at 11:30, to sit higher up costs only ¥1000 but the view form there is apparently not as good.

I found my friends and took a seat next to them. I was in time to watch a few of final first round shiai, as well as the beginning matches of the second round. The atmosphere was great, everyone there was a kendo player of some level or other, so the whole crowd was gripped by the shiai. During particularly tense shiai you could really feel the pressure coming from the fighters, and when one made took an ippon, the crowd would let out a gasp and a chorus of appreciative applause.

Continue for a review of the Semi finals and finals!

Sitting there I could only begin to imagine the pressure these players are facing, but they all look so calm, bodies poised but kame relaxed, ready to spring at any moment, but barely flinching to the opponents seme.

During the early aftenoon I saw some great kendo, but I always had my eye on the clock, I would have to go soon. Before I stepped out, I saw a wonderful tsuki, a shiai with two successive dou uchi from each player, Yoneya scoring a beautiful kote and Takanabe scoring one of the best debanna men I have ever seen! I took a bit to eat and a quick look at the bogu stands, stopping to talk to Andy Fisher about the new All Japan Cross Pitch bogu (looks great, as I mentioned on facebook!) Its really great to see a fellow kendoka really living the dream!

I quickly ate my lunch and dashed to work, checking the All Japan Kendo Federations facebook page regularly for the scores. I made good time going to and coming back from my lesson, and got back just at 4 pm, just in time for the quarter and semi finals!!

Of the quarter finals I saw Kiwada vs Yoneya, Kiwada winning, and Takabnabe vs Hashimoto, Takanabe winning.

In the Semifinal first was Uchimura vs Amishiro, Uchimura scored a lightning fast do in the early stages of the shiai to put him through to the final.

Video property of Zennihonkendorenmei

The second semifinal was between Takanabe and Kiwada, two team mates from this years WKC, the fight was very tense, Takanabe winning would see him to another final, giving him the chance to win for the third time in a row, Kiwada would be given a chance to win his first title. I didnt think Takanabe looked his best for this shiai, I thought he was doing a little bit too much probing and feinting (in my humble humble opinion! he has won it twice and the WKC this year after all!!)

The shiai started, the whole crowed quickly hushed as we were absorbed in the match... the players moved about the shiai-jo, pressing and probing, testing and feinting trying to find an opening... the tension had the whole crowd wrapped in silence with no one daring to move or even blink for fear of missing something...

The winning cut came about 7 minutes into the shiai. Kiwada - kote, the gasp from the crowd clearly showed their shock, the moments leading to the point had been so tense, the breaking of the pressure was like the lifting of clouds as everyone quickly spoke in whispers to their neighbour.

Kiwada had played a great defensive game against Yoneya, and it was surely a matter of running down the clock for him now. Sure enough, he employed a similar style of limiting Takanabes chances to cut by keeping just the right amount of distance, or holding in tsubazeriai for just long enough. Takanabe upped his game, and tried to take an ippon to force ensho, but it was not to be.

The timer sounded the end of the match and that was it, Kiwada was through to the final and Takanabe was out.

Video property of Zennihonkendorenmei

There was a 10 minute break before the final. Both players then made their way to the shiai-jo, making seiza in front of each other placing their bogu down and performing za-rei to show respect to each other.

They were given a few more moments for settle themselves before taking to the shiai-jo. They stepped onto the court, bowed to sho-men and took their three steps to the centre to make sonkyo, the shipan called "Hajime!" and the final for the 60th All Japan Kendo Championship had begun!

Uchimuras distinct kiai rang out as the players quickly rose from sonkyo and began circling each other, Kiwada returning his own kiai as they searched for the first opening. Uchimura came close to landing  kote in the first minute of the shiai and was close a few moments later with a kote-kote men. The moved into a period of both players pressing forwads, ending up in tsubazeriai and retreating to distance, neitehr player really attacked, but you could see they were always trying to create their chance, the shiai was tense, with neither player willing to give anything away. After about 7 minutes had passed, Uchimura attacked kote, sharply whipping his shinai back as he made taiatari, Kiwada lost his grip and his shinai was flung over his shoulder to land next to the court side spectators.

"Hansoku ikkai" said the shinpan after he had collected his shinai and returned to the centre of the shiaijo, Kiwada was unphased, and not long after the restart he scored  a debanna kote as Uchimura pushed forwards. The crowd clapped  appreciatively, and the shiai restarted. Uchimuras approach was visibly different, he began to attack with more conviction coming close with men on two occasions, Kiwada began to play even more defensively, coming to tsubazeriai quicker than before and retreating to a further distance each time. Uchimura pushed for the opening, again coming very close with men in the closing seconds, but it was not to be, Kiwada's flawless defensive play saw the clock run down, and time run out. "Shobu Ari" said the shinpan, with the white flag raised, Osaka's Kiwada Daiki had won the 60th All Japan Kendo Championship, his first All Japan title!!

Video property of Zennihonkendorenmei

A great result for him, on his way to victory he beat Yoneya, Takanabe and Uchimura which is something to think about!

I made a few references to Kiwada's defensive game, he played it perfectly both against Yoneya and Takanabe, running down the clock one he scored an Ippon. I though agains Takanabe he was pushing it a bit and could have been given a warning.

In the final I felt he would get a warning or hansoku against Uchimura, I thought he was maybe doing it a bit too much, but, since he already had one, and another would be a point for Uchimura...? I don't know!

Like most people I didn't stick around for the closing ceremony, I just made
my way out through the crowds!

An excellent day out, and I can't wait for next year. I most definitely will not be working this time!!!

Thanks for reading I hope you enjoyed it!
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