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PNKF Shinpan Seminar

Last weekend one of my dojo mates and I drove across the state to attend the PNKF Shinpan Seminar, hosted by the Bellevue Kendo Club in Bellevue, WA.  Let me tell you, if you've never driven 10 hours in a day, and attended a 5-hour seminar on top of that, you aren't living.  Or, perhaps, you're living more than I did that day!  I was a zombie when I got home, but we had a successful trip over and back, complete with our routine stop for sushi on the way out.

There were a few main concepts that were covered during the seminar.  First off, almost all of the matches that we practiced with were either junior kids (10 and under) or high school kids.  The reason for this is because these are, a lot of times, the hardest matches to judge correctly.  A pair of ideas introduced to us were ichidori and sakidori.  I don't know if these are kendo-specific terms or not, but in the context of our seminar they helped us to understand what was being presented.  Apologies for my definitions and spelling if they aren't quite right.  Icihidori, as it was explained to us, is the idea of all three shinpan moving and working as a single unit.  They should be unified in not only how they make calls and judgments, but also the way they move at all times, including when they enter and exit the court.  We even got down to everyone rolling the flags in unison, and in the same manner.

Sakidori is anticipating the player's movements so that you can be in an optimal position, thus allowing you to make the best calls.  I think of this kind of like future distance, but for shinpan.  We are trying to stay one step ahead of the players, while moving quickly and efficiently into those positions.  One thing that Yotsuuye Sensei brought up was for the fukushin.  He said that they should always keep their areas in mind, and move quickly to adjust the triangle of shinpan if necessary.  Sometimes this involves one fukushin taking the center spot while the other fukushin swings around to the other side, with the shushin, so they can preserve the triangle and keep everything in view.  Movements like this should be done quickly, without hesitation, so the match continues uninterrupted.

I was able to get in quite a few rotations, and learned a lot.  A few things that stuck in my mind were talks of not missing the first point in a match.  This can be discouraging for the players, and shows a lack of focus from the shinpan.  They should always be ready for that first point.  We should also be working to adjust our level and what we deem a good point or not.  This can vary immensely between divisions, where you have kyus and kids in their first tournaments who can rarely make a good point that will satisfy every single point of yuko datotsu, all the way up to seasoned veterans that can make yuko datotsu in their sleep.  We need to recognize this and adjust as necessary so that we can encourage, not discourage, the competitors.

After the seminar, we had an hour of open floor.  I was fortunate enough to do keiko with most of the kodansh that were on-hand, including a couple that I'd never practiced with before.  Toshima Sensei, from Portland, was very good, and reminded me a lot of our own Ando Sensei when he was training at our dojo.  He seemed to hit me at will, but I still tried to put up a good fight.  We ended after a few minutes when I caught him going for men and delivered a suriage men of my own that found its mark.  I was also able to practice with Shimizu Sensei, from Seattle.  A man of slight stature, although it didn't feel like it when I squared off with him.  He had a way of moving toward my kote before hitting my men that I, try as I might, could do nothing to stop.  Again, we went for a few minutes before he finally let me go with one of my men strikes that I landed.  Elliott Sensei, Imanishi Sensei and C Marsten Sensei helped round out the hour for me, and I learned a lot from each one of them, and also took some ideas home with me to work on.

A successful seminar, and I'm glad I was able to attend and go over things in person with all of the sensei there.  I feel like I have a lot more to work on as shinpan, but I also feel like I'm on the right track as far as how I'm moving and calling points.  I just need to keep putting in the practice time on the floor, in the matches, to keep pushing my shinpan skills as far as they will go.

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