Report of the 62nd All Japan Women’s KENDO Championship


Report: Yoshinari Masahiro
Photography: Nishiguchi Kunihiko
Translation: Anne Zwart

Watanabe Tai (Kumamoto), who is currently captain of the Japan national team for the World Kendo Championships, achieved the first place title for the first time in nine years of participation.

Watanabe faced off against Senoo Maika (Fukuoka), who has reached the final three years in a row. Senoo won the championship the year before last and finished as runner-up last year. This year again, the young and intimidating Kenshi Senoo challenged Watanabe, a Kendo veteran, in her climb to the finals.

Watanabe is a thoroughly experienced Kenshi: she boasts two third-place finishes at the All Japan Women’s KENDO Championship and two team wins at the World Kendo Championships. Now, she has finally taken the top spot in Japan.

Jodan Kenshi Yokoyama Mayu (Osaka) and Kondo Mihiro (Tokyo) placed third. Yokoyama stood on the All Japan Women’s podium for the first time, whereas Kondo Mihiro (Tokyo) continued her streak from last year.

Finals – decided by a sharp cut on a raised Kote

Watanabe Tai (Kumamoto) VS Senoo Maika (Fukuoka)

At the sign of Hajime, the two participants bounce up from Seiza. Watanabe moves forward and starts pressing on the left. She puts further pressure on Senoo until Senoo raises her hands, and Watanabe strikes Kote. Watanabe’s strike only hits the fist but it was a good first move. However, it’s obvious Senoo’s defensive ability is not to be underestimated. She knows perfectly how to avoid being hit. This strong aura Senoo carries has been a problem for many Kenshi Senoo has faced in the past. As Watanabe and Senoo separate from each other again, an unyielding determination to fight for the win emanates from Senoo.

 Senoo maintains this strong presence and moves into Ma-ai. Watanabe quickly responds by moving closer as well. They must have learned more about each other’s Kendo style at the training camp for team candidates. The sound of Shinai swords combining is the only thing filling the quiet atmosphere in the tournament hall. Then, as Watanabe seemingly grasps a good Ma-ai to strike, she strikes Tobikomi-men. Her footwork shows all the signs of a good strike, but the Kensen falls just a little short of the Men. Now it’s Senoo’s turn. Senoo applies pressure and aims for a right-angled Men as Watanabe is about to enter Ma-ai again. Three minutes into the Shiai, Watanabe again closes in on Senoo and feints a Men strike. Senoo lifts her hands in response, and Watanabe strikes Kote. The strike sounded crisp, but perhaps it was a bit soft. Towards the end of the match, as Watanabe and Senoo approach each other, Watanabe skillfully folds her arms well and strikes Kote. It seems she was on target, but no flags go up. It was still a good moment. After a few more moments, the ending whistle blows.

 In Encho, Watanabe strikes a Harai-Men after she and Senoo cross blades. Senoo easily deflects Watanabe’s Shinai with her left Shinogi. Both Kenshi get back in position. As Senoo strikes Hiki-Men from a close distance, Watanabe follows Senoo and hits Men. Again, Senoo deflects without hesitation. She doesn’t seem threatened at all, her defense is ironclad.

 However, a movie moment unfolds afterwards. Senoo progresses into Ma-ai. Watanabe moves closer and closer to the Shiai border. The two Kenshi close in on each other in a mutual defensive movement; in the small moment Senoo’s hands drop, Watanabe delivers a skillful strike on Watanabe’s Kote, and quickly moves back to finish the point. Three red flags go up. This is the moment the new champion of Japanese Kendo is born. 

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