Saturday, October 15, 2005

40th Annual All-Japan Iaido Taikai

The 40th Annual All-Japan Iaido Taikai was held yesterday (October 15th) in Chiba city. It moves around from prefecture to prefecture. Last year, apparently it was held in Miyazaki. Next year, I understand it will be held in Hokkaido. Anyway, lucky me - this time it was held about 90 minutes from my house.

Namitome Sensei called me and told me he'd be going, so I should make sure to attend. I thought that he also invited me to go drinking after the taikai was finished ... or so I thought. (That's foreshadowing there, folks.) I seem to have a knack for misunderstanding Namitome Sensei, so it seems that he meant that I should come and drink Friday night because he was flying back to Fukuoka directly after the taikai. Ah, well. Pretty disappointing, but anyway.

I learned (to my naive surprise) that the championships are basically rigged. Last year, the team from Miyazaki won and their members did very well individually. This year, the Chiba team won, and each member won his own division too (5th, 6th, and 7th dan groups). Sure enough, looking back at the "trees" that show how the elimination tournament progressed, not once was there a vote cast against any of the Chiba players. Each one of them won all their matches 3-0. That seems a bit fishy, doesn't it? Don't get me wrong; they were very strong guys ... but sheesh... And the Miyazaki players this year (surely some of them were champions last year, right?) didn't make it very far at all.

I was very disappointed to hear this. I don't know how much of a "sure thing" it is; ie, whether the judges decide in advance that the host team will win, or whether it's simply a case of "tie goes to the home team" and at this level of competition, there are a heck of a lot of ties. Certainly, I saw only a very, very few matches where I could clearly predict the outcome.

Overall, however, the level of the competitors was quite awe-inspiring. I thought the best group overall was the 6th-dan division. They seemed to possess the best mix of spirit and physical technique. The 7th-dan players may have been technically "better" (I don't know) but from where I was sitting, the 6th-dan group was really strong and dynamic.

After the competition, there was a demonstration by lots of 7th dans, a bunch of 8th dans, and the 3 surviving (or at least, mobile) 9th dans. It was really impressive. Among this group I saw (just to drop as many names as humanly possible) Oshita, Koyama, Ishido, Kaneda, Morita, Kaminoda, Namitome, Ide (the younger), and Miyazaki Senseis. No time to shmooze with them all, I'm afraid...

After the competition, I had the strange experience of sitting beside Namitome sensei while he was waiting for his ride to the airport. It would be an exaggeration to say that everybody in the building bowed to him; just everybody who came within 5 metres. Crazy. And I just sat there doing nothing because they're not bowing to me, so it would be improper for me to bow back... kind of like if you were standing beside Tom Cruise and a bunch of photographers showed up and started taking his picture, and then you started smiling and waving too as if it was you they were interested in...

After Namitome sensei left, I was filled with this feeling that I'm either going to improve my iaido or kill myself. I decided on the second option, and went to McDonald's to do it slowly... Mmmm... death by Big Mac... ssslurrrrp...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pictures, Jeff?

3:13 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home