The 67th All Japan Kendo Championships was concluded recently with 29-year-old 5-dan Kunitomo Rentaro taking the title in his fifth appearance. This was his third appearance in the final having been beaten by Takenouchi Yuya in 2014 and Katsumi Yosuke in 2016.
Perhaps the biggest shock of the tournament was the first-round loss of defending champion Nishimura Hidehisa from Kumamoto. Having won in 2015, as well as the previous two championships (2017 and 2018), he was looking to secure his fourth title and move into second place behind Miyazaki Masahiro in number of victories. He would also have become the first competitor to win three titles in a row. However, 5-dan Ichikawa Takumi from Tochigi had other ideas and beat Nishimura with a men strike in encho.
At 39 years of age, joint oldest with R7-dan Amishiro Tadakatsu of Hyogo prefecture, K7-dan Uchimura Ryoichi of Tokyo was in his 13th championships. The three-time former champion (2006, 2009, 2013) has an outstanding record in the AJKC finishing runner-up five times (2005, 2010, 2012, 2017, 2018), and third once (2011). He faced 5-dan Shibata Shunsuke, 10 years his junior, in the first round and beat him with a men strike, but fell against 5-dan Adachi Ryuji (Saitama) in the second. Adachi, in his fourth championships, would eventually lose to Oita’s Takeshita Yohei at the quarterfinal stage.
A special mention should be given to Osaka’s Kosumi Tomoki, who at 20 was the youngest competitor. Kosumi, a 3-dan, joined Osaka police straight from high school, and being able to make the AJKC at such a young age, especially considering the depth of talent in Osaka, was a great achievement. In the first round he faced R6-dan Kasahara Kosuke from Mie, who was 16 years his senior and in his sixth AJKC. Kosumi eventually won after a very long encho with a do strike. Then in the second round he faced Fukushima’s Otani Shohei (5-dan) who he beat with a kote and men strike in about a minute. In the third round he lost to Tokyo’s R6-dan Hatakenaka Kosuke who was making his sixth appearance at 32.
Since winning the AJKC in 2014 and becoming the youngest ever champion at 21, Takenouchi Yuya had only appeared once. In fact, this year was his first entry since 2015 when, as defending champion, he lost to eventual runner-up Katsumi Yosuke in the third round. Takenouchi looked impressive this year scoring with a men strike against Sugano Takayuki (5-dan, Hyogo) in the first round as soon as the match started. In the second round he faced 5-dan Takeda Naohiro (Miyagi) who he defeated with a men strike, and then Hiroshima’s 5-dan Morihara Ryo, who himself had been impressive in the first two rounds, with a men strike right after the start and a kote soon after taking about two minutes to win and progress to the quarterfinal for the first time since his 2014 debut. In the quarterfinal he came up against his University of Tsukuba kohai, Matsuzaki Kenshiro (Ibaraki), a third-year university student. Takenouchi took the lead with a men strike after around eight minutes, before Matsuzaki levelled with a superb men strike close to the end of regulation time. Another great men strike from Matsuzaki in encho ended Takenouchi’s AJKC.
Takenouchi made his debut as a third-year University of Tsukuba student. As noted above, he lost to his kohai, Matsuzaki Kenshiro, who was also a third-year student. However, this was Matsuzaki’s second AJKC as he qualified last year while a second-year student. In the 66th edition of the AJKC he made it to the third round where he lost to Osaka’s Maeda Yasuki. This year, Matsuzaki went all the way to the final. On his way there he beat Mikumo Yusuke (5-dan, Shiga); Murakami Yasuhiko (5-dan, Ehime); Yamada Ryohei (4-dan, Hokkaido), who was in the Japan team at last year’s WKC; Takenouchi in the quarterfinal; Oita’s Takeshita Yohei (6-dan), who finished third last year and in 2015, in the semifinal; before meeting Kunitomo Rentaro. Getting to the final Matsuzaki only conceded one ippon (a men in the quarterfinal against Takenouchi), and all the ippon he scored were men.
Similarly, Kunitomo also only conceded one ippon en route to the final – a strong tsuki from Tokyo’s Hatakenaka Kosuke in the quarterfinal. The first three rounds he only scored men, but in the quarterfinal and semifinal he scored with both a men and a kote.
The final, as was to be expected, was rather cautious. Matsuzaki had the first great shout for an ippon at around the eight-minute mark with a men strike. One of the shimpan’s flag was slightly raised but then quickly went down. Kendo World analyst K8-dan Shigematsu Kimiaki-sensei said this was likely due to correct contact not being made on the datotsu-bu. Not long after, Matsuzaki feinted for men to make Kunitomo raise his hands and open his kote. Matsuzaki struck kote but the shimpan were unmoved.
Before the final Shigematsu-sensei commented that as both Kunitomo and Matsuzaki have a very strong kamae and do not move their hands much keeping them on the centre, they will need to break their opponent’s kamae to score. That is exactly how Kunitomo scored the winning kote in encho. Kunitomo moved in slightly, Matsuzaki started to raise his hands but by the time he realised a kote strike was coming and he started to defend, Kunitomo had already landed a scoring kote strike.
Since Kunitomo’s debut in 2014, in which he finished runner-up, many of the sensei that we have spoken to have praised Kunitomo’s style of kendo. He has a strong and solid kamae, keeps his hands on the centre and does not make unnecessary movements, uses seme effectively, and does not make unnecessary strikes. That was clear to see at the 67th AJKC. Matsuzaki Kenshiro also displayed some great kendo and at the age of only 21, he will surely be around for many more years to come.
The AJKC should return to the Nippon Budokan in 2020 after its Olympic makeover, so we’ll see you there!
Quarterfinal, Semifinal and Final Analysis
By K8-dan Shigematsu Kimiaki
As in previous editions of the AJKC, from the quarterfinal matches onwards we were joined by K8-dan Shigematsu Kimiaki-sensei from Chiba Police. The plan was for him to give us his expert insight into these matches that would be published live on Facebook as the matches progressed. However, this year we were unable to get a reliable internet connection all day and could not do this. What follows are his comments.
Maeda (Osaka) vs. Ando (Hokkaido)
Both were in the Japan team for the WKC in Korea.
Maeda has had a great debana-men from the first round.
This is going to be a difficult match for either to get to the final.
Ando’s hands move up slightly. Maeda is waiting for Ando to come forward so he can do debana-waza.
If Ando’s left hand moves to much, Maeda will seize on that opportunity for debana-waza.
Maeda does exactly that and scores a great men.
Match time has become ten minutes. This means that it will be hard for Maeda to hang on for the rest of the match.
Ando should try to get Maeda to come for a men so that he can counter with kaeshi-do as he did against Goya.
Ando’s strikes are very quick and in one movement.
Maeda tries another debana technique, this time to kote.
Maeda moves in two movements to make Ando come forward. He moves the shinai up, stops briefly, Ando comes forward, and the second movement is to cut down. He does that for kote to win.
Hatakenaka (Tokyo) vs. Kunitomo (Fukuoka)
Both are police officers in Tokyo and Fukuoka.
Kunitomo scores straight away with a debana-kote.
Kunitomo has a great men which he has been using to great effect.
Kunitomo’s kamae is solid and does not break.
Hatakenaka scores with a great tsuki against his Kokushikan kohai.
It looks like Kunitomo will try and decide the match with a men.
Kunitomo’s seme is very strong.
Kunitomo still looks like he’s shaping for a men strike and Hatakenaka with a kote.
Hatakenaka is often pressuring men but then changing to kote.
The match moves into encho.
The match is settled with a men strike from Kunitomo who deflects Hatakenaka’s kote strike with the shinogi and strikes men.
Matsuzaki (Ibaraki) vs. Takenouchi (Tokyo)
The previous match was a Kokushikan senpai/kohai match, but this is a Tsukuba senpai/kohai match with Takenouchi the older of the two.
Matsuzakai, being the kohai, probably feels like he needs to strike more.
Takenouchi is not completing his strikes.
Matsuzaki is raising his hands well.
Takenouchi still not completing strikes. It’s like he’s switching into defence too soon. If he doesn’t he’s likely to get struck.
Matsuzaki appears to have the stronger spirit.
Takenouchi scores a men.
There’s a big difference between when Takenouchi completes his strikes and when he doesn’t.
Matsuzaki levels the contest with a men.
Takenouchi is moving the left hand up and to the left instead of staying on the centre.
Matsuzaki wins in encho with a great men strike. He reversed the score.
Takeshita (Oita) vs. Adachi (Saitama)
Last year Takeshita had a great AJKC. Adachi left Tsukuba and joined Saitama police.
Takeshita is good at doing hiki-men from tsubazeriai.
Both are capable of unleashing great attacks.
Takeshita is looking like he will go for kote.
Adachi launches a great men strike and makes contact but it’s not quite strong enough.
They should only launch strikes that they are comfortable with.
Both need to think about the type of waza that they are using.
The shimpan call a gogi. Both a given a hansoku for too much time in tsubazeriai.
Another good attempt at men from Adachi but it doesn’t make enough contact.
The match moves into encho.
Takeshita should make more effort to strike men. He then has a good attempt.
Takeshita striking a lot of kote.
Takeshita takes a step forward for seme, as Adachi raises his hands, Takeshita strikes kote to win.
Maeda (Osaka) vs. Kunitomo (Fukuoka)
This will probably be the most exciting. Both have a great men strike, and both keep their left hand still and on the centre.
They are starting from toma and moving in.
Their left hands are solid on the centre. Neither can then move in on their opponent.
Kunitomo scores a great debana-men. He still has to maintain concentration and not think about the ippon he just scored. That’s a way to concede a debana-men yourself.
Kunitomo scores a debana-kote to win. He invited in Maeda and seized the opportunity.
Matsuzaki (Ibaraki) vs. Takeshita (Oita)
Matsuzaki scores men straight after the start.
Matsuzaki is moving forward little by little.
Takeshita is looking a little lost. He’s moving in but then going into defence.
Takeshita’s left hand is moving too much in kamae. If he doesn’t do that, Matsuzaki won’t be able to come forward.
Matsuzaki’s footwork, like Kunitomo’s in the previous match, is better.
Takeshita can’t make the opportunity to strike as Matsuzaki’s kamae is not breaking down. Even when Matsuzaki is striking his kamae remains strong. Has great footwork too.
The buzzer sounds and Matsuzaki is in the final.
Kunitomo (Fukuoka) vs. Matsuzaki (Ibaraki)
I think this will be a great match. Both have great kamae that doesn’t really break down. It will probably be decided by men, probably with Kunitomo as the winner.
Since the match has started, both are being cautious.
Both don’t move their hands unnecessarily. If they do their kamae breaks down which will give the opponent an opportunity to strike.
Both are finding the opportunities to strike hard to come by.
Matsuzaki has a great attempt at men but it doesn’t make correct contact on the datotsu-bu.
Matsuzaki makes Kunitomo raise his hands by feinting for men and strikes kote, but not given.
Kunitomo can’t find the right maai. That’s why his strikes aren’t connecting properly.
Kunitomo finds range and has a good attempt at men, but not given.
Kunitomo pressures Matsuzaki who raises his hands. Kunitomo scores with kote.
67th All Japan Kendo Championships - Results
1. Oishi – M Kaneko
2. Maeda M – Sato
3. Yamashita M – Yoshitomi
4. Haraguchi M – Osaka
5. Mashiko – M Tajiri
6. Ando M – Sanada
7. Kitamura MM – Sasai
8. Goya H – Osonoi
9. Kasahara – D Kosumi
10. Otani M – Ago
11. Ichikawa M - Nishimura
12. Hatakenaka K – Nishimura
13. Yamamoto M – Maeda
14. Kanno – M Matsumoto
15. Shimono – M Kunitomo
16. Urakawa – MM Amishiro
17. Yamada K – Kato
18. Kitani K – Murayama
19. Murakami M – Uezu
20. Matsuzaki M – Mikumo
21. Sakatsume – MH Morihara
22. Morikaku M – MM Shinoda
23. Takenouchi M – Sugano
24. Takeda M – Yamaguchi
25. Kusanagi – MM Takeshita
26. Matsumoto – K Kasahara
27. Okamitsu – KM Nakazawa
28. Kitamura – K Nakamura
29. Kubo D – Kurimoto
30. Tsuchitani K – Kurita
31. Shibata – M Uchimura
32. Adachi M – Araki
33. Kaneko – M Maeda
34. Yamashita – K Haraguchi
35. Tajiri – M Ando
36. Kitamura – M Goya
37. Kosumi KM – Otani
38. Ichikawa – K Hatakenaka
39. Yamamoto KK – M Matsumoto
40. Kunitomo M – Amishiro
41. Yamada M – Kitani
42. Murakami – MM Matsuzaki
43. Morihara MM – Shinoda
44. Takenouchi M – Takeda
45. Takeshita M – Kasahara
46. Nakazawa M – Nakamura
47. Kubo – D Tsuchitani
48. Uchimura – K Adachi
49. Maeda MM – Haraguchi
50. Ando D – Goya
51. Kosumi – K Hatakenaka
52. Yamamoto – M Kunitomo
53. Yamada – M Matsuzaki
54. Morihara – MK Takenouchi
55. Takeshita MM – K Nakazawa
56. Tsuchitani – M Adachi
57. Maeda MK – Ando
58. Hatakenaka T – KM Kunitomo
59. Matsuzaki MM – M Takenouchi
60. Takeshita K – Adachi
61. Maeda – MK Kunitomo
62. Matsuzaki M – Takeshita
63. Kunitomo K – Matsuzaki
1st Kunitomo Rentaro, 29, 5-dan, Fukuoka, Police Officer, 5th app.
2nd Matsuzaki Kenshiro, 21, 4-dan, Ibaraki, student (3rd year uni.), 2nd app.
3rd Maeda Yasuki, 26, 5-dan, Osaka, Police Officer, 3rd app.
3rd Takeshita Yohei, 31, 6-dan, Oita, Police Officer, 6th app.
Fighting Spirit Awards
Ando Sho, 29, 5-dan, Hokkaido, Police Officer, 8th app.
Hatakenaka Kosuke, 32, R6-dan, Tokyo, Police Officer, 6th app.
Takenouchi Yuya, 26, 5-dan, Tokyo, Police Officer, 3rd app.
Adachi Ryuji, 28, 5-dan, Saitama, Police Officer, 4th app.
Yamamoto Daiki, 28, 5-dan, Chiba, Police Officer, 2nd app.
Yamada Ryohei, 22, 4-dan, Hokkaido, Police Officer, 2nd app.
1. Oishi Hiroshi, 33, R6-dan, Tokushima, Teacher, 4th app.
2. Kaneko Ryosuke, 28, 5-dan, Fukui, Police Officer, 1st app.
3. Maeda Yasuki, 26, 5-dan, Osaka, Police Officer, 3rd app.
4. Sato Hirotaka, 26, 5-dan, Chiba, Police Officer, 5th app.
5. Yamashita Kazuma, 26, 5-dan, Ibaraki, Teacher, 2nd app.
6. Makoto Yoshitomi, 27 5-dan, Shizuoka, Police Officer, 2nd app.
7. Haraguchi Kosei, 32, R6-dan, Saga, Police Officer, 2nd app.
8. Osaka Takashi, 32, 5-dan, Aomori, Prison Officer, 1st app.
9. Mashiko Takayoshi, 29, 5-dan, Saitama, Police Officer, 1st app.
10. Tajiri Wataru, 30, 5-dan, Nagasaki, Police Officer, 1st app.
11. Ando Sho, 29, 5-dan, Hokkaido, Police Officer, 8th app.
12. Sanada Taiki, 29, 5-dan, Tottori, Police Officer, 1st app.
13. Kitamura Ryosuke, 30, 5-dan, Aichi, Police Officer, 1st app.
14. Sasai Kota, 34, 6-dan, Ishikawa, Police Officer, 3rd app.
15. Goya Ryo, 27, 5-dan, Kyoto, Police Officer, 1st app.
16. Osonoi Naoki, 31, 6-dan, Tokyo, Police Officer, 3rd app.
17. Kasahara Kosuke, 36, R6-dan, Mie, Police Officer, 6th app.
18. Kosumi Tomoki, 20, 3-dan, Osaka, Police Officer, 1st app.
19. Otani Shohei, 29, 5-dan, Fukushima, Police Officer, 1st app.
20. Ago Kenji, 32, 5-dan, Shimane, Police Officer, 1st app.
21. Ichikawa Takumi, 26, 5-dan, Tochigi, Police Officer, 2nd app.
22. Nishimura Hidehisa, 30, 6-dan, Kumamoto, Police Officer, 6th app.
23. Hatakenaka Kosuke, 32, R6-dan, Tokyo, Police Officer, 6th app.
24. Nishimura Ryutaro, 29, 5-dan, Fukuoka, Company Worker, 3rd app.
25. Yamamoto Daiki, 28, 5-dan, Chiba, Police Officer, 2nd app.
26. Maeda Shogo, 23, 4-dan, Nara, Police Officer, 2nd app.
27. Kanno Ryusuke, 27, 5-dan, Iwate, Teacher, 4th app.
28. Matsumoto Kazuaki, 33, R6-dan, Kagawa, Police Officer, 2nd app.
29. Shimono Yuki, 29, 5-dan, Gunma, Police Officer, 2nd app.
30. Kunitomo Rentaro, 29, 5-dan, Fukuoka, Police Officer, 5th app.
31. Urakawa Shinichiro, 32, R6-dan, Kanagawa, Police Officer, 1st app.
32. Amishiro Tadakatsu, 39, R7-dan, Hyogo, Police Officer, 7th app.
33. Yamada Ryohei, 22, 4-dan, Hokkaido, Police Officer, 2nd app.
34. Kato Shunsuke, 35, 6-dan, Okayama, Police Officer, 1st app.
35. Kitani Yosuke, 31, 6-dan, Aichi, Police Officer, 2nd app.
36. Murayama Hitoshi, 30, 6-dan, Kanagawa, Police Officer, 1st app.
37. Murakami Yasuhiko, 29, 5-dan, Ehime, Police Officer, 2nd app.
38. Uezu Takahiro, 32, R6-dan, Okinawa, Police Officer, 4th app.
39. Matsuzaki Kenshiro, 21, 4-dan, Ibaraki, student (3rd year uni.), 2nd app.
40. Mikumo Yusuke, 30, 5-dan, Shiga, Company Worker, 4th app.
41. Sakatsume Yuta, 24, 5-dan, Niigata, Teacher, 2nd app.
42. Morihara Ryo, 31, 5-dan, Hiroshima, Police Officer, 1st app.
43. Morokaku Tomoji, 33, R6-dan, Nagano, Police Officer, 2nd app.
44. Shinoda Kohei, 31, 5-dan, Saitama, Police Officer, 1st app.
45. Takenouchi Yuya, 26, 5-dan, Tokyo, Police Officer, 3rd app.
46. Sugano Takayuki, 29, 5-dan, Hyogo, Police Officer, 1st app.
47. Takeda Naohiro, 28, 5-dan, Miyagi, Teacher, 3rd app.
48. Yamaguchi Takenori, 32, 6-dan, Kagoshima, Police Officer, 2nd app.
49. Kusanagi Daishin, 31, 5-dan, Akita, Police Officer, 5th app.
50. Takeshita Yohei, 31, 6-dan, Oita, Police Officer, 6th app.
51. Matsumoto Takemichi, 25, 5-dan, Fukuoka, Police Officer, 1st app.
52. Kasahara Shu, 31, 5-dan, Wakayama, Police Officer, 4th app.
53. Okamitsu Kentaro, 27, 5-dan, Chiba, Police Officer, 1st app.
54. Nakazawa Kimitaka, 29, 5-dan, Koichi, Police Officer, 3rd app.
55. Kitamura Shin, 32, R6-dan, Yamagata, Police Officer, 1st app.
56. Nakamura Shunta, 25, 4-dan, Shizuoka, Police Officer, 1st app.
57. Kubo Kikyo, 25, 5-dan, Miyazaki, Police Officer, 1st app.
58. Kurimoto Takumi, 30, 5-dan, Gifu, Police Officer, 1st app.
59. Tsuchitani Yuki, 27, 5-dan, Osaka, Police Officer, 2nd app.
60. Kurita Kazuki, 22, 4-dan, Yamagata, Prison Officer, 1st app.
61. Shibata Shunsuke, 29, 5-dan, Yamaguchi, Police Officer, 1st app.
62. Uchimura Ryoichi, 39, K7-dan, Tokyo, Police Officer, 13th app.
63. Adachi Ryuji, 28, 5-dan, Saitama, Police Officer, 4th app.
64. Araki Keisuke, 28, 5-dan, Toyama, Police Officer, 2nd app.