The 9th All Japan Invitational Kendo Hachidan Tournament kicked off in Nagoya’s Nakamura Sports Centre on Sunday, April 17. Amidst the terrible destruction suffered in Japan with the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear problem, it is nice to be able to take some time out to enjoy some of the world’s best kendo again. The lineup of sensei is fantastic as usual, and we are looking forward to seeing some hard-fought matches. KW is here covering the event, and will upload HD videos of the semis and the final later tonight, along with a progress ladder of the fights. In the meantime, the AJKF is providing a live stream of the matches, so you can watch in real time.
Here is the ladder for the day, and a report by Taylor Winter.
On the 17th of April 2011, Nagoya hosted a congregation of Japans kendo elite. Thirty-two 8-dan were vying to take out the title at the 9th All Japan Invitational 8–dan Taikai. Last year’s champion, Funatsu Shinji of the Osaka tokuren appeared in full glory as he stood among his fellow competitors proudly brandishing the awe inspiring first place trophy. With the crowd already ecstatic the taikai began.
Matches were ten minutes and in most cases, competitors used every minute, as a majority of matches ticked over into encho. Straight off the bat it was obvious that the crowd was witnessing a battle of the titans with every match being a display of solid kendo which produced unarguable ippon. Most competitors utilized their own unique style which sent spectators into frenzy.
Funatsu was seen as a shoe in for a second victory with a noticeably strong presence making him appear as an immovable object…That is to say, an immovable object with a terrifying tsuki strike. His initial match seemed to pose little threat but in the quarter-finals he encountered Nishikawa Kyonori from the Tokyo police. Nishikawa blitzed his way to the quarter-finals by exploiting his towering height which gave him a phenomenal reach and arsenal of techniques which kept spectators begging for more. For most of their battle it looked as if it could go either way, but Funatsu pulled through to the semi-finals to fall to Kamei Touru of Kumamoto who packed an unreadable spirit which enabled him to take victory with an epic men strike.
Another competitor who sought to destroy all who came before him was Higashi Yoshimi of Aichi. Higashi’s style from his first match stood out loud and clear, it was blatantly obvious that he was here for one reason, victory. His style involved strong aggression in tsuba-zeriai, a powerful men strike, and a tsuki strike that best not be trifled with. Part of his intimidating demeanour was gained from his first match against Mizuda Shigenori of Ibaraki where Higashi effortlessly moved in on his opponent and landed a dominating morote tsuki resulting in instant applause. This action then resulted in his later opponents taking great caution against his aggressive tsuki. It was clear that he had a superior ability to pluck ippon as he so desired. However, his style became somewhat more subdued when he met Kamei in the finals.
His objectives became well known as he definitely was not going to be phased by Kamei’s very active style which Higashi easily refuted by holding a strong centre. Higashi was asserting as much control over the match as possible, which Kamei was able to meet and combat till encho. It was not till approximately the 15 minute mark that Kamei made a blunder that cost him. Kamei attempted to move in right when Higashi was primed to strike. Higashi who had been waiting for a single opportunity seized Kamei’s error and scored an awesome men strike to win the 9th All Japan 8-dan Taikai.