Monday, April 4, 2011

UW Invitational Taikai 2011

It's always hard to come back to "reality" after such a great Kendo weekend.  This past weekend was the UW Invitational Taikai, and it marked my first time fighting in the upper Kyu division.  I was in the 1-3 Kyu division for this taikai.  Initially I was also going to fight on our B team in the team division, but due to a few complications we were unable to run a B team.  So I had to pour everything I had into the individual matches that I had.  I was not only fighting my opponents for this taikai, but also a pulled muscle in my leg and a sickness that I was recovering from.  Despite all that, though, I don't think I did too bad.  Here is my account of the taikai.

Friday night I had to cut my training at Bellevue dojo a bit short.  I felt feverish and didn't want to overdo it the night before the taikai.  I believe I made the right decision, although I really wanted to jump into jigeiko with everyone from Bellevue.  Saturday morning rolled around and I felt pretty good, all things considered, until the time for our division to go came.  I was really, really nervous throughout all of my matches, and I think it showed while I was out on the court.  I did my best, though, and worked to overcome those feelings and my shortened fumikomi for the day.  I made it a point to lure people in closer so I didn't have to fumikomi as far, and tried to use oji-waza more.  I think, for the most part, this strategy worked, as I didn't injure myself further, but the shinpan and other sensei definitely noticed my lack of movement throughout the day.

My first match was against Tagami, from UW.  This was my first time fighting him, and I wasn't sure what to expect.  The match began and we stepped in to size each other up.  He launched forward with a Men strike, which I blocked and ended up tsubazeriai.  After a short exchange there we were back out at our proper distances.  I stepped in and applied pressure to my opponent, looking for an opening.  I inched closer and closer and closer to my target, and finally launched a Kote strike, which connected, giving me the first point of the match.  We reset and after a few other exchanges I scored my second point with a Nuki-Men to take the match.

Final Score: 2-0 (Ruiz)

My second match was against Kim, from UW.  This made the third time I've fought him, and each time his level of Kendo is constantly improving, and each time I fight him I find that I, also, have to step up my own level of Kendo.  The match started and he quickly lured me in for a Kote to score the first point.  We came to our lines again and the match started up once more.  I stepped in for another Men strike, and luckily he was just off on his Kaeshi-Do.  I turned to follow him and stopped for just a split second as he turned around.  That second gave me the opening I wanted, and I lunged forward for a Men strike that connected, giving me a point to tie the match.  We reset one last time, and ended up in tsubazeriai again after a while.  He stepped back for Hiki Kote, which I struck down, and I followed with a Kote-Men strike, which found its mark to give me the win.

Final Score: 2-1 (Ruiz)

The next match was the quarter-finals, and my opponent was Nozawa, from Sno-King.  Again, this was my first time fighting this particular opponent, but I had watched his previous match so I had a little idea of what to expect.  We started and I sprang forward after a moment for a Kote, which missed the mark, so we found ourselves in tsubazeriai.  We started to back out, and I took the opportunity for a Men strike, which connected.  We reset to the lines and I sprang forward again with a quick Kote-Men strike to take the win.

Final Score: 2-0 (Ruiz)

I had made it into the semi-finals.  Only two more matches and I could claim victory in the 1-3 Kyu category.  But standing in my way was Tsai, from UW.  He was a very strong Ikkyu, and I'd seen his name in the top 3 of many taikai before, so I knew it wasn't going to be an easy fight.  I took my allotted two-minute break to relax and focus, and then stepped up to the line to start the match.  After a few moments, he threw a very quick Kote at me, which I countered with Nuki-Men.  But he was expecting that, and threw up his shinai to block my strike at the last moment.  We found ourselves in tsubazeriai, and after a brief exchange there, back out.  He stepped forward and delivered a Kote strike that found its mark, giving him the first point.  After we reset, we fought for about half the match, with no one scoring, although we both came close a few times.  I had one shinpan raise her flag on a Debana Kote that I delivered, but it was waved off by the other two.  We wound up in tsubazeriai again toward the end of the match, and I backed out a bit before going in for a Kote strike again.  Unfortunately his strike was a bit faster than mine, and he landed another Kote to take the match.

Final Score: 2-0 (Tsai)

 So my road to glory ended at the semi-finals.  Tsai went on to take first place in our division, which made me feel a bit better.  I didn't beat him that day, but no one else did, either.  Actually, I didn't feel bad at all with how I did.  I ended up taking third place in the 1-3 Kyu division, which is not bad at all for my first time fighting there.  I had far exceeded my own expectations for that day, and overcame my initial nervousness to do very well, if I do say so myself.  I spent the rest of the day taking pictures and videos of my fellow teammates as they fought in their categories, and we were treated to quite the show during the team finals between Steveston and Vancouver (Steveston ended up taking first place during unlimited encho with a great Harai Men).

We all had some wins and some losses, and I think that spirits were pretty high afterward.  I felt really good about how I did, and even though most of the time I don't feel as if I'm really Nikyu, looking back on this weekend I kinda feel like the technical proficiency is in there, somewhere, and it tends to come out every once in a while.  Also, even though victory is good, defeat also shows me where my weaknesses are, and I'm glad for the opportunity to reflect on that so I can improve myself and my Kendo.  I have two months until our next taikai, and I plan to be a better, more ferocious kenshi by then.

Photo by T. Patana


  1. Great Job at the taikai. I happened to see a couple of your matches, and would of been matched up with you as well if it wasn't for the same person that struck you down as well. Next time I see you at an event I'll have to introduce myself.

    Congrats again on 3rd place!


  2. Thanks, Wes! I saw some of your matches on Youtube, you move really well and your points were impressive! I look forward to meeting you in person in the future. I believe that next taikai I'll be attending will be at Obukan in June.
    Take care and keep training hard!