2011 All Japan Naginata Championships

By Hughes & Chloe.

Where? the Osaka City Central Gymnasium.
When? This last 3 & 4th of December.
What? The All Japan Naginata Championship Meeting, in it’s Men and Women folds

It was a perfect sunny weekend to go and lock ourselves in that big underground gymnasium in center Osaka. But where else would we want to go? As long time Naginata enthusiasts happening to be around Osaka in time for those events, we gladly ran to sit on the first row, set the camera, and waited for the show.

Pointers for non-naginata readers. This weekend were held 2 events: the historically respectable Empress Cup, aka the 56th All Japan (Women) Naginata Championship, and it’s comparatively young masculine counterpart, the 11th All Japan Men Naginata Championship.
On the Saturday comes the Men event, with engi and shiai contest. The selection process remain somewhat fuzzy for us, but players between shōdan and godan are send from the Prefectures, on Sensei’s choice. It looks more supple for men (as their number is considerably lower among the Naginata players) than for women (for instance, it includes University exponents).
Women ranks run from sandan to renshi. Only 2 players (3 for big Prefectures like Tokyo and the like) by prefecture are allowed. Women only compete in a shiai event.

We won’t say much about the engi tournament, as we missed it. Look at the programm, it will give you a hint on the reason.

The Saturday afternoon, 55 men would go for direct elimination 4 minutes bouts, without prolongation.

From our point of view, the level array seemed wider for the women than for the men

For the two events, the non-prolongation rule enhanced the psychological aspect of the bouts to a maximum. Players would have to rely as much, if not more, on those resources as on scoring points to win. Who would take over it’s opponent, setting his/her own pace? We could see players rapidly or not, destroy their foes composure, inhibit their actions. Very often, the winner could be guessed from the first minute of the bout. Mental calm or stability, fighting spirit , subtle game of balance and imbalance of the minds at fight, were the most interesting aspects of those 2 days.

After winning the World Naginata Championship in August, the East Japan Taikai just last month, Tanaka Kousuke was the fancied one. But we should not forget that strong players as Suzuki W., Itagaki I.(last year champion), and Watabe N. didn’t participate.

The All Japan (women) Championships final opposed one again the two finalists of the World Naginata Championships (Ajiki and Ikemi) with an opposite outcome.
Tanaka Chikage, coach of the Japan team and winner of the competition last year lost against Ajiki Ai in semi final and against someone from her own region for the third place.

11th All Japan Men Championships
1- Tanaka Kosuke
2- Ogawa Kentaro
3- Sakaki Seishi
4- Machida Daisuke

56th All Japan Championships
1- Ajiki Ai
2- Ikemi Keiko
3- Nukui Misaki
4- Tanaka Chikage