Kendo shiai - an object of ridicule.

Those who are applying to Kaifukan need not to read this article. If they still want to read it they should just know that I am an objector of kendo shiai or tournaments and this article is to support my philosophy.

Our Kaifukan dojo has quit participating in ‘shiai’ or tournaments many years ago as we have come to realize that ‘shiai’ blinds the real objective of kendo and hinders its achievement. Kaifukan is not the first to realize the drawbacks of making ‘shiai’ as the primary objective of kendo. The problem of ‘shiai’ in kendo has been forewarned by many kendo masters, who were forced to whistle blowing for almost a century. The administrators of the All Japan Kendo Federation, who are already blinded, and have lead all kendoka to the point of no return, never took these warnings seriously.

Kendo is a martial art, and we ‘compete’ our skills against each other when we practice. This helps us strengthen our physicality and mentality. However, the real objective of kendo must aim beyond the physical and mental strength. They are, in my opinion, honorable values such as appreciation, respect and unity. These values are achievable only through the formation of strong human relationship with the sensei and the bros & sis of the dojo.

The problem of kendo ‘shiai,’ besides degrading the real objective of the art, lies in its physical conduct. How it is conducted is extremely problematic. Take a look.


Here are a couple of samples of 'shiai' problems I am bringing to your attention in the movie clips attached below. Both ‘shiai’ took place at the most prestigious tournament, All Japan Kendo Championship, to decide who is the strongest kendoist of the year in Japan.

The contenders to the Championship every year are ordinarily ranked 5-dan, 6-dan and 7-dan. The three judges are the highest 8th-dan senseis. We expect them to carry out the fairest and the most precise judgments, and of course, I believe they would be trying their best. Nevertheless, neither the correct nor the rightful judgments were handed down in these two shiai. 

“Maybe I just happened to find the very rare cases of mistakes.” I would like to think so. But contradictory to my suspicion, these clips were just a tip of the iceberg, and they were only two out of a plenty more you can find in the YouTube.


The first one,0.009 second,” is a sample of a poor judgment. It is the final shiai of All Japan Kendo Championship in 2007. The winner won by a mere 0.009 second. 

Why do I call this a case of “poor judgment?” Because kendo is not supposed to be a sport nor a competition to judge one’s speed. Yes, speed counts. Needless to say, you must get your opponent before he gets you. Nevertheless, what we train is the perfection/mastery of “waza” and the mental strength to overwhelm your opponent’s speed.

What is wrong and why I say it is a poor judgment to give the winning point to the man who is 0.009 second faster?

I tell you why… There are two reasons for my answer.  

Reason #1) It is, indeed, wrong to pretend they could judge something they couldn’t even see with their bare human eyes, that is to say, who is faster by a mere 0.009 second. It is impossible for human eyes to see and discern who struck first. I couldn't tell no matter how closely I watched it and only until I watched it on the ultra high-speed video was I able to see the strik

However, some people may open an argument to defend those judges being able to see it because they are 8-dan, the highest masters. To support the argument they unanimously gave the point instantaneously to the same man.

It is a biased opinion based on the blind faith in the title of 8-dan. I will say it again - it is just not capable for any human beings to see the separation of 0.009 second.

Next, take a look at the second clip at this time – it is a match between Eiga & Miyazaki. Eiga, in actuality, won the game, but Miyazaki was given the winning point. In this case, it is so plain to see that Eiga was the victor; an obvious “misjudgment” by the judges that no one could deny. This match is a far easier one to judge then the first shiai, yet, the judges unanimously made the same mistake. This second clip is a collaborating evidence to prove that 8-dan senseis are all capable of making mistakes. And they must admit they are not demigods and couldn’t see the difference of 0.009 second.

How did these errors in judgment happen in both of these ‘shiai?’

In both shiai, the judges’ eyes are caught by the persons making the first move, which captivated their mind as well to pass a favorably judgment on them. This is how the man of 0.009 second won, and so did Miyazaki. The former judgment was a fluke, and the latter was a mistake. And both were wrong judgments.

Reason #2) It is because it is kendo or swordsmanship. It is absolutely irrational to make anyone a winner who is faster by a mere 0.009 second. In a real sword fight, which is the origin of kendo, the so-called winner of 0.009 second will be equally dead, killed a 0.009 second later by his opponent. Then, what is the point of giving him a victory? This is nonsense and absurd.

In my opinion, if two swordsmen mutually swing their sword on each other within a 0.5 second apart, both will be equally dead or equally injured. Therefore, in such a case in kendo shiai, how could any one be the winner and the other loser? Passing a judgment as such is only admitting that kendo is merely a sport that competes for speed.


What should be the outcome of the shiai, then?

The correct and rightful judgment in such case like this is -“Ai Uchiin Japanese, and it is “No Count!”

Today's world of kendo is in a deplorable situation, I must say. All the kendoists throughout the world are making kendo into a speed game.


The second shiai of the clip, “Eiga vs Miyazaki,” is at AJKC in 1999. In this, Miyazaki won by the obvious wrong judgment.

Just take a look. As you can see, it is obvious that Eiga won in actuality by hitting the most perfect and clean 'kaeshi-do' against the Miyazaki's 'men.' Yet Miyazaki was given the point. The camera successfully caught  the moment of the utterly flabbergasted and lost face of Eiga at the judgment.

It should have been an easy judgment for any seasoned kendo practitioners, let alone for 8-dan senseis. If this match is difficult why bother to judge at all, only to make dreadful mistakes to be laughed at ?

I have my thoughts about what happened and why they made such a terrible mistake to give Miyazaki the point. In short, it's just plain human error.

The first reason is, as I already explained above for the first clip, Miyazaki moved first and the judges’ eyes were favorably caught by this motion. Secondly, it was everyone's high expectation that Miyazaki should win, and that blinded the judges. It’s again a human weakness. Judging against Miyazaki needs enormous courage. Since it was Miyazaki who was given the point, no one questions, even if it was such an obvious, primitive and unforgivable mistake.


In my opinion

These two shiai clips are just tips of an iceberg. There are a plenty of errors in judging in shiai at the A.J.K. Championship shown on the YouTube. Have they ever officially announced their regret about their errors? I suppose they are not sorry since no one demands their accountability anyway. It is very regrettable that you entrust such incompetent people to judge your ability of kendo.

There is an argument, which very rarely but often pops up - like once every decade or two - whether or not kendo should participate in the Olympic Games. Those who are against it are absolute majority within the AJKF administration. They say that kendo is neither a sport nor a game, and judging of the shiai tournament takes more “elements” than mere ‘hit’ or ‘being hit’ that the Olympic Commission may not sympathize with. What a perfect justification they make for the ‘”elements” they hide behind and let them keep making misjudgments!

Kaifukan Maeda,
Sep 10, 2012, 6:16 PM
eiga vs
Kaifukan Maeda,
Sep 10, 2012, 6:17 PM