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Kent Taikai 2018: How to Deal with Disappointment

A sobering entry today, but hopefully a valuable lesson for me and anyone reading.

Last weekend my dojo mates and I participated in the Kent Taikai in Kent, WA.  I look forward to this tournament as it's a little smaller and more intimate than the PNKF Taikai we attended last month, and it's a chance to catch up with my kendo friends in the area as well as participate in some good matches.  This year delivered in that regard.

We had six competitors this year, ranging from 1-3 kyu up to the 3-4 dan divisions.  One of our new-to-us members participated, as well, so that was fun to welcome him to our crazy taikai weekend trips.  The trip itself went well, and the pass was clear for us so we had a smooth ride to the Seattle area and to training at the Bellevue Kendo Club on Friday night.  It was a good night, and I was able to have a lot of quality keiko with the kodansha over there, as well as received some helpful feedback and advice that I'll be putting into practice soon.

Saturday morning brought the start of the tournament.  My division wasn't until later that day so I had a full morning of shinpan duty ahead of me.  I was able to shinpan matches for the 9yrs and under division, as well as 0-4 kyu, 3-1 kyu and 1-2 dan divisions.  No drama to be had, although I did have to shinpan a match for one of my own members, as well as hand out some warnings to the kyu participants for improper tsubazeriai.  Considering that I didn't get any criticism directed at me that day I'll call it a win for my judging!

the 3-4 dan division started that afternoon and we were spread across two of the four courts.  The last division to run before teams, so I had plenty of time to warm-up that morning and cool off!  After running a few warm-up drills with my dojo mate, who was also competing in 3-4 dan, I felt ready.  My first match was with one of my friends, whom I've also fought many times before, S. Day from Kent.

Now, I don't mind fighting him . I rather enjoy it. BUT I've fought him so many times that I seem to see him more than anyone on the court now.  Oh well.  We started the match and I took the first few moments to feel him out.  I contemplated blitzing him off the line, but decided against it as he's pretty sharp and might be ready for it.  Might be.  We traded blows and exchanges, with neither of us really getting the upper hand.  A couple of his strikes were dangerously close to landing, although I think I also had some good attacks that may or may not have been waved off.  Regulation time ended and we headed into encho.  I felt confident that if I could keep him moving and working I could either catch my opportunity to score or possibly win by hantei at the end.  Unfortunately neither of those happened.  As I backed out off of a missed hiki men he blasted forward and caught my kote, taking the only point of the match and the win.

Final Score: 0-1 (Day in encho)

I'll admit, I was really disappointed.  Not at my opponent; he fought well and deserved the win, as he caught me wide open.  I was disappointed in myself.  I felt like I not only didn't perform to my best ability, but also let the team down.  I'm not sure why this one hit me harder than other losses, as I've had a lot of them, but it did.  So how did I deal with it?  Well, I'm still figuring that out, but instead of focusing on the negative (I lost), I'm trying to focus on how I can improve that for next time.  In this case, I'm thinking about my footwork.  If I had been faster I don't think he could have caught my kote.  So that's one thing I'm going to work on.  I'm also going to work on having sharper hiki waza in general.  Hiki waza has always been a low point for me.  I see others that can do it and they seem to go from completely calm and relaxed to exploding and striking in the blink of an eye, and are out of range before you realize what happened.  I've never been that fast or explosive, but it's something I'll have to work on if I want to try and effectively use hiki waza going forward.  Either that or catch the right timing for it, which is something else I'm looking into.  Also, I could have just been having an off day and been too hard on myself.  It does happen, and I think we can all agree that we are our own worst critics.

So those are my thoughts on that.  I'm dwelling on the loss, but I'm pushing myself to dwell on what I can do to improve, instead of the disappointment of the loss itself. Plus, everyone loses, right?  And they lose often.  A quote comes back to me, although I don't remember where I heard it.  Kendo is learning through failure.  Nowhere is that more apparent for me than in these moments.

After watching some surprises and upsets in our division, and seeing my buddy Ian rise to the top and take first place, we were ready for the team division.  Our line-up this year consisted of me (4 dan), a 3 dan jodan player, two guys sitting at 2 kyu and one who has yet to test but did well in the 3-1 kyu division earlier, missing a top 3 finish by only one match.  Our first opponent was Cascade 2.  We had an immediate advantage over them, by the fact that they only had four players.  This gave us a one win, two point advantage to start with.

The matches were a bit of a toss-up.  Our first guy went out and tied his match, fighting strongly but not able to seize a point for us.  Our second match went well, as well, although our guy was outranked by his opponent.  He had a few close calls but ultimately lost by one point to his opponent.  Our third player also went out and fought his hardest, but ended with a one point loss.  Given that our fourth match was the automatic win, this left it to me to score at least one point and either tie or win for us to move on.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on whose perspective you're looking from, my match was with a rather new player from Cascade.  Not to try and talk myself up, but my tournament and kendo experience definitely outweighed hers, and I took two points to win the match and send our team to the next round.

Final Score: 2-0 (Ruiz)
Team Score 2-2 (Spokane by 2 points)

 After watching an exciting match between Sno-King and Kent 2, with a nail biter of a sudden death match, we saw that our next opponent would be Sno-King.  I knew that we would have to fight hard and be on point to beat them.  They're team consisted of four 4 dans and one 3 dan, all of whom were tournament veterans and solid players.  Things looked good starting out, as our first player was able to fight hard and force a tie with his opponent, but things went downhill for us after as Sno-King took the next three matches in a row to give them the win.  Since they were trying to run the matches as fast as possible, they didn't let me fight our last match, since Sno-King had already sealed the win.

Team Score: 3-0 (Sno-King)

We watched the rest of the matches, with Sno-King and Kent taking third places finishes, Bellevue second and Northwest taking first in another action-packed sudden death match.  All in all, a great finish to a good tournament.

I'm still thinking about the loss I had and how I'm going to improve for next time, but I have some ideas and am formulating a plan.  We'll see how well it goes, as the next tournament I'll probably attend will be in April.  That gives me five months to work out some bugs in my own kendo and polish it up again.  I have faith that I can do it, though, and I'll be working hard to not only improve myself but my dojo mates, as well. 


  1. "I'm trying to focus on how I can improve that for next time. In this case, I'm thinking about my footwork. If I had been faster I don't think he could have caught my kote. So that's one thing I'm going to work on"

    Just out of interest how do you intend to do this? Backwards speed is tricky in my opinion.

    1. Hi Simon, thanks for checking out my post! Personally, I tend to take bigger, loping steps when backing up so I'm going to work on tightening those up and using smaller, quicker steps to start my movement before extending out to larger steps. This should also help me if I get caught in a position where I'm being pursued immediately again, as my feet and body will be ready to strike instead of being caught in a transitional period between large steps.


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