8th January 2010, day before my first team tournament, the 13th President Trophy Kendo Competition, we were training at the Tai Kwok Tsui centre. I was very lucky to be selected to participate and represent Shoujinkan.
After our usual kendo kata session, Sensei had the tournament team members prepare via mock shiai so that on the day of the tournament, we could properly demonstrate rei, our spirit, our resolve and hopefully our best kendo. As a person who learns best kinesthetically, this was the best way for me to prepare, since my body would remember everything for me.
9th January 2010, I arrived at the hall and warmed up with the rest of the team. Although not particularly nervous, I practiced some kendo kata, as I found it very useful in regulating my ki and reinforcing my mental state. After a wonderful iaido performance we went down to business. Our team was starting first against HKUST team A. My position was chuken and after wins from MJ and Ando-san, it was my turn. The pressure was on to win it for the team. Fortunately, my opponent did not seem to be very prepared and I was able to defeat him with 2 men strikes. I remember making do and kote strikes but not achieving ippon, which tells me there is a lot for me to work on.
And then came the women’s team as our opponents. This is a rather humiliating defeat on my part but also the shiai which has exposed many of my weaknesses. In our early exchange my opponent had got ippon on me via men. I was not too worried as I thought there were plenty of chances to catch up. But unfortunately I found myself in a position which I am not very experienced at which is when my opponent is sticking to me like mud with no intention to attack. I found that my tai-atari was not very effective as it was tiring to use and did not force her to stay back. After a while of seeing her sticking so close, it occurred to me that this may have been a tactic to use up time as she was leading on ippon. I started attacking using a hiki-do and men combination hoping to break the deadlock. It was to no avail, although I was hitting her, I was not achieving ippon. She was defending her men very well and although I tried to charge through her attack after attack, I was not getting anywhere.
Finally my classic embarrassing moment arrived. My hiki-do had pushed me to the edge of the boundary. My opponent gave chase and pushed me back one more step. Suddenly I noticed my left foot was on the line and my right foot just before it in mid air. I couldn’t take a single step back, or it would be hanzoku and the shiai over. But out of ideas, I tried to hold on, with one leg. I think she understood this as suddenly my opponent found the strength from somewhere to push me and after holding on for what seemed like an eternity, I finally fell. At the time I was annoyed, because I felt she had no intention to strike, that she was trying to win rather cheaply. But then again, I have only myself to blame and in hindsight am rather grateful for the lessons learnt in this shiai. It had exposed many things I need to improve on such as striking at chika mai, hiki technique, footwork, being observant of my the boundaries and most importantly controlling my mental state. Since kendo is not just about winning or losing against an opponent but more importantly, winning against one’s own self.
(Although having said all that, I do admit that after seeing my opponent in her next round get a the first ippon via do on the younger Chan brother, HK representative, did make me feel better)
My only regret in the tournament was that our team was not allowed to shiai with the heavyweight HKKA team who were in the same group as us. But I believe there will be a next time and when that time comes, our team will be stronger.
Some feeling of the last tournament by MJ
I was not doing well during Warm-up. I did not prepare to it. And also our sensei cannot attend to the kendo tournament. I was getting more nervous. I need to learn that how to be a good leader.
We did our best at the last tournament. We were sad about our lost. I believe that every one want to be the winner in the tournament. But It is not the own target of our kendo. It doesn’t matter that we lose in the tournament because we could learn from the tournament. Like: “As a swordman, what attitude I should have when my teammate win or lose” and “how I can help my teammate?”, etc.
But I was mind to the opponent. How? After I got the first “Ippon” on the match, I was thinking about should I fight with full spirit, full energy or not. Should I show mercy to the opponent? Might be it is a dangerous thought. (May be some bodies know that what I am talking about. lol).
Anyway, It is really a good experience of us.