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The 60th All Japan Kendo Championships - REPORT


  • The 60th All Japan Kendo Championships - REPORT

    The Kendo World team has assembled at the Nippon Budokan in central Tokyo to cover the 60th All Japan Kendo Championships.

    Takanabe Susumu, the 2011 champion has handed back the trophy that he won last year and received a commemorative doh for making his tenth appearance in the AJKC. In his tenth appearance he is going for his third victory, and if he does win, he would be the first kenshi to win three in a row.

    The Nippon Kendo Kata was performed by Oshitari-sensei (H8-dan) as uchidachi and Nakata-sensei (H8-dan) as shidachi.

    The first round started with Ebihara (Ibaragi) taking the first ippon on Court 2 with a kote against Rokujo (Tokushima) which was not answered. In the next match on Court 2 Osaka's Kiwada beat Shimura (Nagano) with a kote strike.

    The first match on Court 1 went well into encho with Yamamoto beating Domon with a men strike.

    The next two matches on Court 1 were both decided by solitary kote strikes deep into encho with Sato (Tokyo) and Kinoshita (Kagawa) both going through.

    Chiba's Makita beat Otsu (Fukuoka) with a men strike in encho on Court 2.

    In a feisty encounter on Court 2, Harada of Fukushima eventually beat the jodan kenshi Kawabata (Gifu) in encho.

    In the next match on Court 2, Hashimoto (Yamaguchi) took two very quick ippon, a men and tsuki, to dispatch Sugimoto (Hyogo). This is the first match to be decided by two ippon.

    Next up on Court 2 is the popular Yoneya (Saitama) who is making his ninth appearance against Shimizu (Aichi). At the same time on Court 1, Hayashida (Fukuoka) takes a men right off the bat against Higashinaga (Saitama).

    Back on Court 2, Yoneya and Shimizu head in encho which Yoneya eventually wins with a kote.

    On Court 1, sighs echo around as Higashinaga, last year's runner-up, loses to Hayashida in regulation time, in the first shock of the competition.

    The Court 1 match between Kimura (Niigata) and Fujita (Shiga) had a slow start but soon burst into life with Kimura taking men. Then immediately after, Fujita responds with a doh before Kimura seals victory with a doh of his own.

    On Court 2, both Aratake (Tokyo) and Kuraoka (Hokkaido) went through to the second round in encho with a kote and men strike respectively.

    Next on Court 2, Fukui's Suzuki is against the bigger and heavier jodan kenshi Kakuta of Aomori. Suzuki goes for a tsuki that does not connect and then Kakuta gets a kote ippon. He finishes off the match with a men.

    Now it is the turn of Takanabe (Kanagawa), the reigning champion who is greeted with a big round of applause from the crowd, against Enokida (Osaka). After a couple of minutes, Takanabe unleashes a trademark men and takes the first ippon of the match. Enokida hits men but nothing is given. Then kote but to no avail. In the end, one ippon is all that is needed for Takanabe to go through.

    On Court 1 Hyogo's Amishiro and Gunma's Akao went deep into encho, with neither able to make the decisive strike.

    On Court 2, Nishimura (Koichi) and Koroki (Oita) goes into encho and Nishimura took doh straight after the restart.

    Amishiro and Akao's marathon encounter eventually ends with tsuki from the former. Replacing them is Hokkaido's Ando who gets a men soon after the start against Kumon from Mie.

    On Court 2, it is Ishii (Chiba) and Onda (Shimane).

    Ando's men is enough to send him through to the second round.

    Another crowd favourite and two-time winner, Uchimura (Tokyo), takes on Jinno (Ehime) on Court 1.

    Chiba's Ishii takes men from Onda in encho to go through on Court 2.

    Shizuoka's jodan kenshi, Takasaka, starts against Tokyo's Hamasaki on Court 2.

    Uchimura and Jinno's match seems evenly matched with neither giving away too much. It heads into encho.

    On Court 2, Takasaka took a big men from jodan against Hamasaki, one of Tokyo's four representatives. Hamasaki has a good shout for kote, then men, and then men again but the shimpan remained unmoved. Perhaps sensing that his time is running out, Hamasaki is on the offensive but cannot find a way through. The match is then decided as time runs out.

    On Court 1, Uchimura almost removes Jinno's men with a tsuki that misses.

    On Court 2, it is Fujiyama (Nagasaki) against Kikuchi (Iwate). Fujiyama had a good men strike, but not good enough.

    Soon after the restart on Court 1, Uchimura hits Jinno's kote but the shimpan do not raise their flags. Soon after, Uchimura hits kote and the shimpan have no doubts, all raising their flags.

    Hijioka (Osaka) and Shiratori (Shizuoka) start on Court 1.

    Fujiyama scores a kote against Kikuchi on Court 2 to progress. Next up is Hashimoto (Saitama) and Kaneda (Kyoto).

    Hijioka wins with kote in encho on Court 1 before Kaneda scores with a doh right before the end of regulation time on Court 2.

    Another jodan kenshi, Nakama (Okinawa) starts against Oike from Hiroshima and takes two very quick men to end the first round matches on Court 2.

    Chiba's Kotani and Ishikawa's Nakamura start on Court 1.

    The first second round match starts on Court 2 with Ebihara against Kiwada. Plenty of strikes, but none good enough, start this match. Kiwada, is the favourite.

    On Court 1, Kotani loses to a tsuki from Nakamura. Kotani will be disppointed at going out in the first round after beating Takanabe in the police championships team competition.

    Kiwada scores a men and kote to knock out Ebihara.

    Oshige (Miyazaki) and Endo (Miyagi) enter Court 1. Oshige strikes a men ippon but the match is decided when Endo strikes men and then doh.

    They are replaced by Asahina (Kanagawa) and the jodan Hirase (Nara). Asahina was a policeman but never qualified for the AJKC. After he quit the police, he started working as a high school teacher. He basically bullied Hirase all over the court winning with a kote and then men. He looks like one to watch.

    On Court 2, Makita's kote is enough to see off Harada. They are replaced by Yoneya and Hashimoto.

    On Court 1 Yamaguchi (Kagoshima) and Tsuchida (Akita) are up.

    Yoneya takes a sweet kote which scores. Hashimoto comes back with a couple of men strikes after the restart but to no avail. He is forcing Yoneya back well but cannot find the opening. Yoneya holds on to the end and progresses. Could it be his year?

    Aratake and Kuraoka start their bout on Court 2.

    Yanmaguchi scores a kote in encho to progress. They are replaced by Shiraishi (Tochigi) and Kajiya (Okayama) in the penultimate round one match on Court 1.

    Aratake scores a doh just seconds before the end of regulation time and progresses.

    Takanabe is now on for his second round match against the big jodan bruiser, Kakuta. Kakuta seems to be making the early running forcing Takanabe back. Takanabe goes for kote as Kakuta does the three-point defense but it is not good enough. He is having his work cut out. Another attempt at kote from Takanabe amounts to nothing.

    On Court 1, Shiraishi breaks his shinai giving both competitors a break.

    Takanabe and Kakuta move into encho. Takanabe deflects Kakuta's men and strikes men but it still remains 0-0. Just as Kakuta goes for men, Takanabe hits kote but the shimpan do not think it is good enough. A good men from Kakuta gets the crowd sensing an upset, but no. Just after Takanabe launches a tsuki but does not connect well enough. This is a more lively fight than Shiraishi and Kajiya which is deep, deep in encho.

    Takanabe goes through with a men-kaeshi-men.

    Up next on Court 2 is Nishimura and Ishii. A strong ai-men at the start and a kote from Nishimura but no ippon given. Nishimura scores with a men. Ishii comes back but cannot get the point he needs. He goes for a gyaku-doh as Nishimura starts a men but mistimes and mis-strikes. Ishii is coming more into the match now.

    Kajiya scores a men on Court 1 meaning that the final round one match can start. Koiso (Ibaragi) and Murakata (Fukuoka).

    Nishimura's men is enough and he progresses to the third round. Now starts Takasaka and Fujiyama.

    On Court 1 the first round matches finish as Murakata takes a men and a kote against Koiso. That brings up Yamamoto and Sato.

    Takasaka and Fujiyama head into encho. Takasaka was in one of the picks of the first round but is so far unable to get an advantage. He is moving Fujiyama around the court well. Fujiyama launches a kote as Takasaka goes for men but both do not make sufficient contact.

    On Court 1 Yamamoto tries a de-gote but misses.

    On Court 2, the shimpan raise the white flags leaving Takasaka looking confused, but after a consultation, they reverse the decision and award Takasaka a kote.

    Yamamoto scores a kote before the end of regulation time and goes through.

    Hashimoto and Nakama start on Court 2 as do Kinoshita and Noda on Court 1.

    Hashimoto and Nakama start encho. Nakama seems to be pushing Hashimoto back but cannot find the opportunity to strike.

    On Court 1, Kinoshita and Noda start encho. Soon after Noda has a go at men but does not get it.

    Hashimoto is coming into the match more now, and strikes what sounds like a solid right men but the shimpan do not agree with the crowd.

    There is a brief pause on Court 1 as Noda replaces his shinai. Noda has a good attempt at kote and rushes in but cannot score. That is followed by ai-men but neither score.

    The action on Court 2 stops as Hashimoto has a problem with his foot. After the restart he launches himself at Nakama's kote but misses. He tries a hiki-men, and another after forcing Nakama back. They separate.

    The shorter Noda is pushing Kinoshita back on Court 1. Noda eventually settles the match with a kote. Next up, Hayashida and Kimura.

    Hashimoto beats Nakama with a men strike in encho to conclude the second round matches on Court 2.

    In the first third round match on Court 2, Kiwada beats Makita with a kote in encho.

    On Court 1 Hayashida loses 2-1 against Kimura who scores two men. Then Ajiro bests Ando with a doh in encho.

    On Court 2, Yoneya continues his march to the quarter finals with a kote strike in encho against Aratake.

    Takanabe takes a men from Nishimura in encho to progress to the quarter final.

    The final third round match on Court 2 sees Hashimoto beat Takasaka with a men strike in encho.

    The action on Court 1 is very far behind Court 2 which has finished for the time being.

    Uchimura wins with a solitary men strike in regulation time against Hijioka before Ando ensures his progress to the next round with an encho men strike against Nakamura.

    The impressive Asahina is up next against Yamaguchi. He, like in the first round, bullies his opponent around the court using his physical strength. However, it still takes Asahina well into encho to dispatch Yamaguchi, which he does with a kote strike.

    The final second round match on Court 1 is decided in regulation time with a kote ippon from Kajiya against Murakata.

    The first Court 1 third round match sees Yamamoto face-off with Noda.

    It is taking so long on Court 1 that Asahina vs. Kajiya has been moved to Court 2.

    On Court 1, Noda eventually wins with a men strike in encho. Next up is Kimura and Amishiro. Kimura has a good shout for men but is denied. And another.

    Asahina gets a big round of applause as his match against Murakata starts. And what a great start. A flurry of strikes before Asahina, probably the most orthodox of all the competitors, bundles over Murakata.

    Meanwhile, on Court 1 Amishiro takes a men against Kimura. That is enough see him through.

    Back on Court 2, Asahina again bundles over Murakata.

    Uchimura is up now against Endo on Court 1.

    Shigematsu-sensei of Chiba Police, one of the sensei present at the Kendo World Keiko-kai, competed in the AJKC three times in the late 1970s. He has joined us to give his feedback on the matches. He said that Asahina never really prospered when he was a policeman in Kanagawa, maybe due to the very different style of Miyazaki-sensei. Now, since becoming a teacher, he has come of age.

    Asahina's match went into encho. After the restart, he launches a tsuki. One flag only goes up. Almost immediately after he gets kote to set up a quarter final match against Uchimura who has just beaten Endo with a men and then a kote soon after.

    Shigematsu-sensei is looking forward to the Asahina vs. Uchimura match due to the different styles of both. Uchimura is small and flexible whereas Asahina is big and strong.

    All the third round matches have now finished. Now it is time for the children's demonstration of the Kihon Kendo Kata.

    From the quarter finals, the matches become 10 minutes and all take place on one court.

    There is some truly horrific music playing while we wait for the quarter finals to start at 1530.

    Just to remind you, Shigematsu-sensei will be offering his input into this report.

    Quarter Final 1 - Noda vs. Amishiro
    The first quarter final is under way with a beat of the big taiko drum in the Budokan. Amishiro lunges forward with a men but Noda avoids by stepping back.

    As Amishiro moves towards men, Noda goes to strike but Amishiro scores with a kote.

    Amishiro is looking very relaxed, as he has been all day. He recently came third in the police championships.

    As each match is now ten minutes, the competitors do not need to rush.

    Amishiro knocks Noda's shinai out of his hands.

    These two fight each other regularly so they know each other's kendo well.

    If Amishiro tries to stick to his one point lead and see out the match, he will get into trouble. He needs to keep using seme and attack.

    Amishiro has a decent attempt at a doh, but does not score. He is trying to pressure Noda and get him with oji-waza.

    Amishiro avoids Noda's tsuki by taking a step back.

    A couple of good men strikes from Amishiro, but not good enough. And then another.

    Noda tries a hiki-men.

    Amishiro has stopped moving his feet a little. He needs to keep going. Noda is becoming conscious of the time so his strikes are become lighter.

    The buzzer sounds.

    Quarter Final 2 - Uchimura vs. Asahina
    Now the highlight of the quarter finals.

    It will either be the waza of Uchimura or the strength on Asahina that wins this.

    They know each other well and Uchimura will know Asahina's strength and must have some thoughts on how to defeat him.

    Shigematsu-sensei asked the Kanagawa Police coach about what has happened to Asahina since he left the police as he seems to have really blossomed. A bemused, 'I don't know,' was the reply.

    Uchimura is used to fighting big guys so Asahina will do well not to get sucked in.

    Uchimura is not defending much - offense is the best defense.

    Uchimura is good at nipping Asahina's techniques in the bud, not giving them time to flower into something meaningful. It is frustrating for big guys like Asahina when their techniques are smothered.

    Asahina is starting to get hold of Uchimura's rhythm.

    Uchimura is not moving back. If he does, it will be to Asahina's advantage.

    Uchimura launches a trademark kote attack, but the shimpan remain unmoved.

    Uchimura is striking kote a lot, trying to open the front door so to speak to give him access to men.

    Uchimura goes for a rare men attack. Asahina holds firm.

    Asahina cannot get any big waza going.

    Now into encho.

    Asahina strikes kote and Uchimura counters with men. Neither given.

    Asahina swats Uchimura away like a fly.

    Uchimura is controlling the match at this moment.

    Uchimura has been going for kote all the time. Then he goes for katsugi-men, now that the door is open, and scores.

    Uchimura had a plan and stuck with it. That was to smother Asahina which he did well.

    On video, it might look like the strike was light, but he created the opportunity which swung the result in his favour.

    Quarter Final 3 - Kiwada vs. Yoneya
    If Yoneya wins this match, he might meet Takanabe in the semi-finals and be able to get revenge for his quarter final defeat by him last year.

    Even though Kiwada is tall, he is very flexible and malleable.

    Yoneya is the stronger kenshi whereas Kiwada is softer.

    Kiwada has a lot of tricks up his sleeve and is a very intelligent fighter according to Shigematsu-sensei, who trained with him before the Brazil WKC.

    At the moment it is about 50/50, but as soon as Yoneya's feet stop he is in trouble.

    His feet do stop and Kiwada scores a kote.

    Yoneya comes back with a kote that excites the crowd but not the shimpan.

    He follows that with a kote-men. Again, nothing given.

    There is a short break as Kiwada has to adjust his men.

    Yoneya knows he is now against the clock and is pressing more.

    Kiwada is just trying to fend Yoneya by constantly moving in and stopping Yoneya from executing techniques.

    The crowd seems to be on the side of Yoneya as this will probably be his last AJKC.

    The buzzer sounds and Kiwada is through.

    Quarter Final 4 - Takanabe vs. Hashimoto
    It is now the Takanabe the policeman against Hashimoto the company worker.

    The crowd seem to be rooting for Takanabe but Hashimoto is a wily shiai fighter.

    Takanabe is probably quite relaxed as he has been in this position many, many times before.

    Takanabe scored many tsuki last year - none so far this time.

    Takanabe is biding his time, not getting sucked in.

    Kenshi are generally very cagey when fighting Takanabe as he just seems to strike from anywhere. Having said that, Hashimoto strikes a kote that excites the crowd. The shimpan raise no flags.

    Suddenly, an ai-men attack is made. Three red flags go up for Takanabe. So fast.

    Time is now running out for Hashimoto. He steps out and gets a hansoku.

    Hashimoto strikes men but it is not clean enough. If he scores against Takanabe, which he must do very soon, he will be the first person to do so today.

    As Takanabe raises his hands Hashimoto attempts gyaku-doh.

    The buzzer sounds, the crowd applauds, and Takanabe is through to the semi-final.

    Semi Final 1 - Amishiro vs. Uchimura
    Now it is time for the first semi final with crowd favourite Uchimura hoping to progress to the final so that he has a chance of getting his third trophy.

    Lots of time has been spent in tsubazeriai. No strikes of any real purpose.

    Uchimura scores with a doh. Despite his diminutive size, he is always pressuring and pressuring so he can create the opening to score, like he just did.

    Uchimura has put Amishiro in a position where he just cannot execute techniques and so is in a position of control.

    A good attempt at men from Amishiro which hits but is still smothered by Uchimura.

    Uchimura is not giving his opponent any room.

    The only defense that Uchimura has is his offense which is why he can score so many times. He has his sansappo down to a fine art. He is killing Amishiro's shinai with ease. It is therefore impossible to get hold of his rhythm and allows him to dictate the match. His hips never bob up and down so there are no openings.

    Uchimura goes through to the final.

    Semi Final 2 - Kiwada vs. Takanabe
    Takanabe gets the loudest cheers when the names are called. He is clearly the crowd's favourite in this match.

    For Takanabe, this is probably more comfortable situation than the WKC.

    Takanabe is controlling the action so far.

    A big men attempt from Kiwada but to no avail.

    Takanabe avoids Kiwada's men by taking a step back.

    If a point is going to scored, it will likely be a men from Takanabe. However, Takanabe's weakness is that he keeps raising his hands too far exposing his doh which Kiwada could capitalise on.

    Takanabe raises his hands and Kiwada scores katsugi-kote at that moment.

    This is probably the first point that Takanabe has conceded in about two years. How will that affect him?

    Takanabe launches men, then kote, then another men that gets the crowd excited.

    Kiwada is not striking but blocking all of Takanabe's strikes.

    The buzzer sounds and Kiwada goes through to the final. Takanabe will not make it three in a row.

    FINAL - Uchimura vs. Kiwada
    Uchimura has a cycle of winning every three years. If he wins today, that pattern will continue. His previous victories were in 2006 and 2009. in total, this is Uchimura's fifth appearance in the final. That is even more impressive when you know that this is his seventh championships. Kiwada's best finish so far was a 3rd place in 2007.

    Uchimura is considerably shorter than Kiwada but has so far been the more aggressive.

    Kiwada will likely seme men and then strike kote to get the ippon.

    Uchimura goes for a trademark kote, but does not connect.

    Kiwada goes under Uchimura's shinai to go for kote but Uchimura is wise to that.

    Neither is giving away much at the moment.

    They clash and in the melee, Kiwada's shinai goes flying out of the court. He gets a hansoku.

    Kiwada moves forward with seme, and as Uchimura responds, Kiwada strikes debana-kote and gets the ippon.

    Uchimura launches a big men strike, but it is not enough.

    A good kote from Uchimura that seems solid, but is not.

    Uchimura is starting to take it to Kiwada, goes for men.

    In the end, it is not enough. Kiwada wins his first AJKC and is the 60th All Japan Kendo Champion.

    In the end, neither of the favourites were able to get their third trophy. We have a new champion, Kiwada Daiki, a policeman from Osaka.

    Kiwada gets a round of applause from the crowd.

    Thank you to Shigematsu-sensei for offering his insight into the matches and the competitors.

    Photos will be uploaded to the homepage soon and we will have videos on YouTube in the coming days.

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