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Well, it is Sunday November 3, 2013, and that means that the day of the 61st All Japan Kendo Championships has arrived.
Last year’s champion, Kiwada Daiki, has handed back the trophy but he will not be contesting it this year as he failed to qualify.
Yoneya Yuichi (Saitama) has just received a commemorative do as he is making his tenth appearance in the AJKC.
Speeches are under way.
H8-dan Ishida Kenichi (uchidachi) and H8-dan Kosaka Tatsuaki (shidachi) are about to perform the Nippon Kendo Kata.
Ct.2: SHOCK! Higashinaga loses to Mikumo to kote in encho.
Just as encho started, Higashinaga got caught with a great de-gote from Mikumo. That was a big surprise to everyone, not least Higashinaga who looked despondent afterwards. It would have been a great 2nd round match to see him fight the big jodan kenshi Oguma from Hiroshima.
Ct.1: Tsutsumi beats Amishiro with men.
Ct.2: Oguma (jodan) bests Takeda with a men strike.
Ct.1: Shikano scores kote against Matsuo to book his place in the second round.
On Ct.1, Kusangai (Akita) has a big height advantage over Fukuoka’s Mori.
On Ct.2, Kanari and Kimura are still trying to score the ippon needed to progress.
Mori scores kote against the taller Kusanagi, and then another in the first match to be decided by two ippon. Next up, Uehara vs. Abe.
Kimura has a good shout for do on Ct.2 but the shimpan are unmoved.
Ct.1, Uehara vs. Abe, heads into encho.
On Ct.2, Kanari eventually defeats Kimura with a tsuki.
Ct.1 sees Abe win in encho with a men strike.
On Ct.1 we now have Kotani (Chiba) vs. Omura (Shimane) and on Ct.2, Kasahara (Mie) vs. Sasakawa (Saga).
On Ct.1, Kotani wins with a men strike. Next up is jodan kendoka Kambe (Ibaraki) vs. Sugano (Nara).
On Ct.2, Kasahara beats Sasagawa with a men strike. Now it is the doctor from Tottori, Harimoto, vs. Nishina (Tokushima).
On Ct.1, Kambe just cannot get the breakthrough he needs.
Dr. Harimoto is having no luck with kote against the taller Nishina. He tries a huge men but it does not quite make the target.
Kambe has a good shout for kote, but no. He is then successful with a men deep into encho against Sugano. Next up on Ct.1 is Oshige (Miyazaki) vs. Terashima (Toyama).
Nishina finally beats Dr. Harimoto with a men strike in encho.
Now on Ct.2 is Kanagawa’s Kamei against Kitani from Ehime.
Kamei, the son of H8-dan Kamei Toru from Kagoshima, scores a wonderful men against Kitani. It turns out to be enough to progress as the match finishes. Only the second match not to go into encho.
Next up on Ct.2 is two time winner Uchimura (Tokyo) vs. Suzuki (Yamagata).
On Ct.1 Oshige beats Terashima with a men strike in encho. Now it is Harada (Fukushima), younger brother of former winner Harada Satoru, against the veteran from Tokyo, Koseki Taro, who is now 37.
A big men strike from Suzuki makes the crowd gasp, but luckily for Uchimura and his supporters, it does not count. He tries with a men strike of his own, but also to no avail. The match heads into encho and Uchimura scores kote to progress.
Now on Ct.2 is Hagihara (Osaka) vs. Takeshita (Oita).
On Ct.1, Harada and Koseki are still trying to get the ippon they need to progress.
On Ct.2, Hagihara gets a men near the corner of the shiai-jo against his taller opponent. Replacing them is Yoneya (Saitama) making his tenth appearance, against Furukawa from Osaka.
The two oldest and highest ranked competitors are Koseki and Yoneya, both are 37 and R7-dan. Will they meet in the final? They are both in action now.
Yoneya and Furukawa head into encho.
The shocks and disappointment for Saitama continues with Yoneya losing to Furukawa with a kote in encho.
Then the other veteran, Koseki, loses to Harada by a tsuki.
Now up on Ct.1 is Matsui (Kyoto) vs. Maeda (Fukui), and on Ct.2 it is Hara (Fukuoka) vs. Furuhata (Aomori).
Matsui gets a hansoku as Maeda knocks his shinai out of his hands. Things get worse as he then conceeds a men.
The men from Maeda is enough to send him through to the second round. No encho needed in this match.
On Ct.1 is Koe (Yamaguchi) against the company worker from Saitama, Hashimoto. All of Saitama must be behind him as they do not want to see all of their three representatives out in the first round.
On Ct.2 Hara finally beats Furuhata with a men strike in encho. They are followed by Shimazu (Chiba) vs. Yasuda (Shizuoka).
On Ct.2, Shimazu dispatches Yasuda with a men strike in encho.
Meanwhile on Ct.1, Hashimoto is still trying to make sure that a Saitama rep makes it to the second round. Koe is proving to be an obstinate opponent though.
It is now Nishi (Kagoshima) vs. Nishimura (Hyogo) on Ct.2. They head into encho as neither can make the breakthrough.
Nishimura eventually gets the opportunity and takes kote well into encho. They are replaced by Okayama’s Oike, and the popular Ando Sho from Hokkaido, who quailified last year while still a student at Kokushikan University.
Ando is very strong, but Oike is a former prision officer championships winner.
Koe and Hashimoto have been going at it for what must be over 30 minutes now…
Ando, in only his second appearance, beats Oike with a kote to progress.
Compounding a miserable day for Saitama, Hashimoto loses to a men strike.
On Ct.1 we now have Nakagawa (Gifu) vs. Honkawa (Fukuoka). On Ct.2 it is Jinno (Ehime) against Ebihara (Ibaraki).
In what is something of a rare event, Nakagawa takes a men in regulation time. The match finishes soon after and they are replaced by Kudo (Hokkaido) and Shodai (Tokyo).
On Ct.2, Jinno and Ebihara head into encho.
On Ct.1, Shodai scores with a tsuki to Kudo’s surprise.
Shodai progresses to the second round. He and Kudo make way for Shiraishi (Tochigi) and Koyama (Nagano).
Ebihara scores a down-the-middle men to see off Jinno.
Kumamoto’s Yamamoto now faces off against Ishikawa’s Nakamura.
It is going off on Ct.1! Koyama gets a hansoku and then scores with do. Shiraishi comes back almost immediately with a men to level things up.
A few seconds after the restart, Koyama scores a great hiki-men against his taller opponent to finish the match, the first with three ippon scored and only the second to finish before regulation time.
Now on Ct.1 is Osaka’s Oishi who knocked out Kiwada in qualifying for this tournament, against Koichi’s Nishiyama.
Yamamoto and Nakamura head into encho.
Oishi scores a kote against Nishiyama just before the end of regualtion time.
The last match of the first round starts on Ct.1 with the jodan kendoka Takasaka (Shizuoka) against Iwate’s Suzuki. Takasaka finished third a few years ago. A few minutes in he scores men, quickly followed by kote to win the match soon after.
On Ct.1 Katsumi (Kanagawa) takes on Kayo and scores a men not long into the match. A couple of minutes later, Katsumi pressures Kayo and as he moves backwards strikes men to win the match.
The second round matches start on Ct.1 with Tsutsumi against Shikano.
The final first round match on Ct.2 is about to start with Wakayama’s Fujioka taking on Tokyo’s Hamasaki. Fujioka almost takes men right off the bat.
On Ct. 1, Tsutsumi scores tsuki and do to knock out Shikano. They are replaced by Mori and Abe.
Tokyo’s Hamasaki has had a couple of good calls for men, but the shimpan are unmoved.
Mori scores a hiki-men against Abe on Ct.1 and the final first-round match on Ct.2, Fujioka vs. Hamasaki heads into encho.
Mori’s hiki-men is enough to see him into the third-round.
On Ct.1 Kotani (Chiba) and jodan Kambe (Ibaraki) face off. Soon after the start, Kotani takes a kote, and then another two win 2-0.
On Ct.1, Oshige takes on Harada, who will probably be tired from his lengthy first-round duel against Koseki.
Harada scores a kote-nuki-men, immediately Oshige comes back with a men, and then he takes another huge men! Wow, what a match! They are replaced by Maeda and Koe.
Still the final first-round match on Ct.2, Fujioka vs. Hamasaki. Fujioka seals it with a gyaku-do.
The second-round starts on Ct.2 with Mikumo the company worker against Oguma, the giant jodan kendoka policeman from Hiroshima.
Maeda and Koe head into encho.
Mikumo and Oguma head into encho.
Koe was involved in a 40-minute first-round match, and his second-round match is heading that way too as he struggles to break down, Maeda.
On Ct.2, Oguma breaks his shinai’s tsuru and has to replace it. Straight after the restart, both go for men, then Mikumo another. But nothing given. Mikumo then scores a beautiful tsuki.
Kanari and Kasahara step up on Ct.2.
Maeda scores with a men to knock out Koe.
Now on Ct.1 we have Nakagawa vs. Shodai. Shodai scores a kote a couple of minutes into the match.
On Ct.2, Kasahara thinks he has a men as one of the white flags goes up, however, that is changed to red as the shimpan judge that Kanari scores a kote first.
Shodai’s single kote is enough to send him into the third-round as the match ends.
On Ct.1 now there is Koyama vs. Oishi, and on Ct.2 Nishina vs. Kamei.
On Ct.1, Oishi scores a men against Koyama. It is enough to go through as the match ends.
The final second-round match on Ct.1 starts with Takasak vs. Katasumi.
Kamei beats Nishina with a beautiful hiki-men. They are followed by Uchimura and Hagihara who start with a flurry of strike. About a minute in, Uchimura takes a trademark kote. Hagihara has a good shout for men in response, and another, but nothing given.
Katsumi takes kote against the jodan Takasaka. The match ends and Katsumi moves to the third-round.
Back on Ct.2, Uchimura gets his second kote to finish the match.
On Ct.1, the first third-round match is underway with Tsutsumi vs. Mori. On Ct.2, still in the second-round, Furukawa faces off against Hara.
Mori takes men against Tsutsumi. The match finshes.
The match on Ct.2 also finishes as Furukawa scores a do in regulation time which Hara cannot reply to.
It is now Shimazu vs. Nishimura on Ct.2 and Kotani vs. Oshige on Ct.1.
Oshige has a men strike that excites the crowd but not the shimpan. The match goes into encho. Shimazu and Nishimura on Ct.2 also go into encho.
On Ct.1 Kotani takes a kote to win in encho. Next up are Maeda and Shodai.
Maeda and Shodai head into encho. Deep into encho, Shodai takes kote to progress to the QF.
The final third-round match on Ct.1 starts with what looks like it will be a good one, Oishi vs. Katsumi.
On Ct.2, deep deep deep into encho, Shimazu beats Nishimura with a kaeshi-do.
Now on Ct.2 is Ando vs. Ebihara. This one looks like it could be a bit tasty.
On Ct.1, Oishi and Katsumi move into encho. Oishi takes it with a men.
Back on Ct.2, Ando scores a terrific men to beat Ebihara. He is only 23.
Now on Ct.2 we have Nakamura vs. Fujioka. Nakamura scores with a do, right before the end of regulation time to move to the third-round. That was the final second-round match on Ct.2.
The first third-round match on Ct.2 is Mikumo vs. Kanari. Kanari has a good attempt at tsuki but the shimpan do not raise their flags. The match goes into encho. Kanari prevails with a men strike.
Next up on Ct.2 is Uchimura vs. Kamei.
Because the third round is behind schedule, Furkawa vs. Shimazu has been moved to Ct.1.
How fast is Uchimura’s kote….? Very. If we are not being rhetorical. His match with Kamei has just gone into encho, as has Furukawa and Shimazu’s.
Uchimura scores a fantastic hiki-do to knock out the impressive Kamei. He will face Kanari in the QF.
One more third-round match to go, Ando vs. Nakamura. Then there will be a break and the QFs will start.
Furukawa eventually defeats Shimazu with an ai-men in encho.
Now it is Ando vs. Nakamura. Ando has a good attempt and men that draws applause from the crowd, but not from the shimpan. Ando scores a great tsuki from below, and then the match ends.
That’s all the third-round matches finished. Next there will be a demonstration of the kihon kendo kata before the QFs start.
Now we have been joined by K8-dan Shigematsu-sensei of Chiba police who will be offering us expert opinion on the QF matches.
QF 1: Mori (Fukuoka) vs. Kotani (Chiba)
Kotani has got a peculiar fighting distance and style making it difficult for his opponent.
This is Kotani’s 5th appearance and he is also now a national team member.
Mori is good at throwing out techniques when the opponent has stopped his.
Kotani is taking the initiative using sen sen no waza. He is able to maintain his rhythm by taking it to Mori.
Mori understands this and is looking for the start of the technique.
Mori is looking for de-gote; he just nearly got it. He is waiting for Kotani to strike.
A great ai-men but nothing given.
Kotani is being careful now, not as fluid as he was before.
Kotani scores a de-gote, one of his specialities, from close in. When Mori is not following through with his attacks, Kotani is taking advantage of that.
Mori launches a tsuki but just misses the target.
The match finshes at Kotani’s pace.
QF2: Shodai (Tokyo) vs. Katsumi (Kanagawa)
This is between Tokyo and Kanagawa, and both competitors are going for their first win in the AJKC.
Shodai from the first round has been making great strikes following through until his techniques have finished.
Katsumi has WKC experience so he is able to connect all of his techniques, bring his kendo together.
Proof of this is when Katsumi stopped moving, Shodai came over the top with a big men strike that scores.
He is able to reign himself in and keep his energy, not striking needlessly. He has great explosive power as was just demonstrated. His tame is very strong.
Almost another men by Shodai.
Katsumi needs to try renzoku-waza. When his kote does not connect he needs to keep going forward.
Katsumi is being stiffled because of knowing how good Shodai’s men is. He needs to get through that to get an ippon.
Katsumi has to force himself in, not doing it naturally when the timing is right. As a result the advantage is Shodai’s and he takes another beautiful men.
Katsumi succumbed to Shodai’s seme.
QF3: Kanari (Chiba) vs. Uchimura (Tokyo)
Power wise, Uchimura is stronger. He is going for his third victory.
Uchimura is pressuring to make his opponent raise his hands and strike so he can strike kote. People know kote is coming, but as he makes the strike with such conviction he is able to score.
Kanari is being forced into striking which is playing into Uchimura’s hands.
Uchimura scores a great men.
At this stage you need to have great tame.
Kanari has a chance still, but he cannot rush in.
Again, Uchimura makes Kanari raise his hands so he can strike kote. It does not score though.
Uchimura is at a different level to everyone else at the moment. He wants to keep going forward.
He scores another men. Uchimura is in the SF.
QF4: Furukawa (Osaka) vs. Ando (Hokkaido)
Furukawa has a big chance as his main rival in Osaka, Kiwada, is not here. He is also Osaka team captain and haas finished 3rd in the WKC.
Ando is taking it to Furukawa. He can do anything, and has a massive repetoire of techniques.
Furukawa has to be careful with Ando’s seme and not be drawn in.
Ando’s older brother is also at Hokkaido police.
Ando’s waza are great. You cannot afford to give him an inch.
Ando is the one applying pressure forcing Furukawa to move.
Ando looks like he is not sure if Furukawa is trying to lure him in and make him think that he is taking the initiative.
There is sen no sen and go no sen – Furukawa should take advantage of Ando’s constant pressure – Furukawa should use his strong go no sen.
Now into encho.
Ando moves in to invoke a reaction, and as Furukawa moves, Ando takes another step and strikes men for ippon.
Ando has had some great teachers while at Kokushikan, and it shows.
SF1: Kotani (Chiba) vs. Shodai (Tokyo)
It might be hard for Shodai to use his men because Kotani has a great kote.
Kotani’s men is very different from Shodai in that the forward momentum is very strong, even though it looks like it is going up.
Kotani scores a men.
Shodai is trying to keep Kotani at bay with his kensen, always putting it in his throat.
Shodai’s men has missed its beat from the match before because he cannot build up tame. He needs to relax to get the explosiveness back like in the QF.
Shodai launches forward and scores a men. It was a little light but the shimpan scored it.
From both kenshi, it feels like there is a big men strike brewing…
Waiting for the men timing, Shodai is having to keep Kotani at bay.
This SF moves in encho.
Shodai’s kensen never leaves the centre, it is very strong. Kotani went over the top with a fantastic tsuki that rocked Shodai and scores!
SF2: Uchimura (Tokyo) vs. Ando (Hokkaido)
In sumo this would be like the yokozuna vs. the young pretender.
Ando’s seme is strong, but Uchimura’s is strong too, and he is not waiting for Ando to stop before striking. That is why he can get kote so quick. He scores kote.
Incredible. Uchimura bests Ando with a men-kaeshi-men. The sempai showed the kohai who was boss. Ando has a great future though.
FINAL: Kotani (Chiba) vs. Uchimura (Tokyo)
Last year in the police tournament SF, Uchimura beat Kotani with a kote. This looks like it is going to be a great final. Uchimura has been impressive all day, but so has Kotani, too.
Straight off the bat Kotani goes for kote.
Kotani is going for it from the start. But maybe Uchimura will get the kote.
Kotani nearly gets a kote-nuki-men.
Uchimura went for kote but Kotani countered with a men. Neither given.
Uchimura can strike from anywhere with any posture.
A trademark kote to Uchimura! Still a lot of time to go though…
That was the first point that Kotani has conceded today.
Kotani almost lands a tsuki.
Kotani has to hold on and not get chaotic. That will play into Uchimura’s hands.
He has to wait for the right opportunity or Uchimura will pick him off.
Kotani goes for men but Uchimura is ready and picks of his kote. Uchimura wins!
An amazing display of kendo. That is Uchimura’s third championships.
In his eight championships he has now won it three times, been runner up three times and finished third once.
Thank you to Shigematsu-sensei for offering us his valuable insight into the last few rounds.
Thank you for following us today, and we all probably need to head to the dojo after seeing that.