|Courtesy of T. Patana (Kendo Photography)|
The 40th Annual UW Taikai. Forty years of competition at the University of Washington. I've competed in five previous tournaments here and always had a challenging (although fulfilling) time. This tournament would be no exception.
My division started in the afternoon, so after warming up in the morning I was able to cheer on my teammates in the Women's and 1-2 Dan divisions before going out and fighting my own battles. There seemed to a lot of drops and changes to the line-up this year, so I ended up fighting C. Marsten in my first match. I'd fought him before at the Kent Taikai a few months prior so I knew I could win if I fought smart enough. But even with that past experience I knew I was in for a tough fight. H is definitely a force to be reckoned with and would take advantage of anything I gave him. It's funny, too, since we'd already been on the court together that day, as shinpan (judges). Now instead of working together we'd be fighting each other. Bring it on, I say! The match started and we both took our time to get a feel for the other person and what they'd be bringing to the court that day. After our introduction, I pressured in and tried to give him the obvious kote before going for a big men to start. He went for the kote but unfortunately was too fast moving in for me to catch with my attack. This would set the tone for the rest of our time, I think. Both of us fought hard but neither could capitalize on the other. I did my best to open him up and counter his incoming attacks, but he was always just a tad too fast with his movement or his blocks for me to take the point. Likewise on my side I feel like I was able to stay out of danger fairly well with his attacks, although he did get close a few times. Regulation time ended and we found ourselves fighting through not one, but two rounds of encho (overtime). During that time I believe we both had flags fly in our favor, only to be waved off by the other judges. The match ended and we ended the match at a 0-0 tie. It was up to the judges. Unfortunately for me the judges ruled in his favor. Good job for him, he fought well, but my time in the 3 Dan division came to a close early this year. I definitely learned a lot from the match, though, and saw a few things I did well and other spots I need to work on. I've taken this information home and have already started working on it at my home dojo, so that next time we meet I can give him an even better match!
Final Score: 0-0 (C. Marsten by Hantei)
Even though I was out of the running early I still had a great time. I cheered and rooted for my fellow teammates and was able to see some amazing matches, both from our guys and from the other dojos. The most shocking to me, I think, was T. Hamanaka's win over S. Asaoka in the 4 Dan+ finals. What a kote that was!! I also got to see one of our guys take third place in 1-2 Dan and was very happy for him. With the 4 Dan+ over, though, it was time to get ready for teams.
Again, it looks like the line-up was switched around from what we originally thought, so after a few moments of confusion and waiting we found ourselves facing our first opponents - Seattle. To me, the Seattle Dojo has always had solid kendo. They have (in my opinion) some of the best technically skilled members of our federation so I knew that this match would be a good one. I was placed at chuken, the middle position, and as we lined up I saw my opponent would be G. Suzaka. Anyone who's been around our federation for even a little bit of time has probably heard or him or met him and today I had the pleasure of facing him for the first time. As it turned out, our team came into my match with a 2-0 lead in matches. This would be the turning point for both of our teams.
We bowed, stepped in and began the match. Even though I was, admittedly, a bit intimidated I tried not to let it show. I was still going to do the best out there that I could. We took our time again, feeling each other out and pressing here and there to see what we could open or take advantage of. The first attack, a kote by both of us, came in quickly and luckily I was able to keep up with his and at least neutralize. Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to keep that up for long. After a few back and forth exchanges I stepped in for what looked to be a nice open kote, only to find out that he had totally baited me and I fell for it. He countered with a men strike that I hardly even saw coming, let alone had time to do anything about. We reset and after a few more exchanges I fell for the same thing! The match was over and unfortunately Seattle took two more matches after that for the win. Well, I lasted longer than I thought I would, at least! That's a good thing. I also learned that when someone of that rank and experience level shows their kote it's probably not by accident. I'll have to be more mindful of that next time.
Final Score - 2-0 (G. Suzaka)
Team Score: 3-2 (Seattle)
We all fought our best but unfortunately for us our team match run was cut short, as well. But we kept our spirits high and finished out the tournament as happy competitors and spectators. We were even able to see the Kent team, amid some issues, do a stellar job and take second place in teams with only four fighting members, falling only to Steveston in the finals. It was a sight to see and I'm glad I was there to witness it.
It seemed to me that everyone has been stepping up their training. I myself have been inspired to do the same and will hopefully be able to train hard (and smart!) so that next year at this time I can come and demonstrate everything I've worked on and improved. Until then, UW, it was a blast!!