44th All-Japan Jodo Tournament
October 8, 2017
The 44th national Jodo championship tournament was held this past weekend at the Tokyo Budokan. This tournament, alongside the Kyoto Taikai in May, is one of the main national events for Jodo in Japan. However unlike the Kyoto Taikai, which is open to 6-dan renshi and up, the national championships are an opportunity for any jodoka from shodan on up to test their ability against the best practitioners in the country. Over 500 participants from all over Japan joined this year’s competition, a sure sign that Jodo, while the least populous of the three arts under the auspices of the ZNKR (along with iaido and of course kendo) is enjoying very good health.
Jodo competition is held between two pairs. Each pair consists of one person performing the jo side and the other wielding a bokuto. After doing three predetermined techniques, the pair switches weapons and performs three more techniques. Thus, both partners need to demonstrate their mastery of both sides of the techniques. Three judges raise their flags for the pair they deem to have executed the techniques most perfectly; the team with most flags is the winner, and moves on to the next round while the other team is eliminated.
The six required techniques begin with the kata of the same number as the participants’ level. In other words, shodan competitors do techniques 1 – 6, while 7-dan competitors perform kata 7 – 12. Another difference is that from shodan through 3-dan, no “winner” is declared; rather, the top two teams are both recognized with Prizes for Excellence. From 4-dan and up, prizes are awarded for First and Second Place.
With 500 participants and multiple rounds, the elimination tournament takes time. The morning saw the completion of the shodan through 4-dan divisions. After lunch, the upper-level competitors got down to business. With 128 competitors, the 5th dan division was the largest group by far.
Once the finalists had been decided, there was a temporary break in the action to allow for one of the most highly-anticipated parts of the day’s events: demonstrations by the top level Sensei from across the country, overseen by 8-dan hanshi Namitome Shigenori of Fukuoka. The competition was limited to Seitei-gata, but the embu section included both Seitei and Shindo Muso-ryu koryu kata.
The last event of the day was what everyone was really waiting for: the final round to determine the winners of the 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th dan competitions.
The final 7th dan showdown is viewable in the video below.
Congratulations to all the winners:
1st: ASAI Yasutaka & HOSONUMA Tetsuya (Hokkaido)
2nd: TAMURA Hiroshi & TAKAGI Makoto (Hokkaido)
1st: NOZAWA Sota & ITO Minoru (Hokkaido)
2nd: SASAKI Koji & KAMITAKA Ryo (Miyagi)
1st: SANO Hirokazu & ISHIDA Yukiko (Kanagawa)
2nd: OCHIAI Takeshi & TAKAWASHI Tsuyoshi (Tokyo)
1st: KOBAYASHI Rikichi & TAKAHASHI Shin (Hiroshima)
2nd: KANEMURA Mari & OTOFUJI Mitsuko (Fukuoka)
The level of Jodo on display was truly inspiring. For those of us watching, it was a great opportunity to do some mitori-geiko (practicing by observing). Next year, the tournament moves to Fukuoka. Kendo World will be there; we hope to see you then!