The 27th European Kendo Championships (EKC) was held in Skopje, Macedonia from 1-3 April 2016, and featured 38 nations competing in the Junior, Ladies and Men, team and individual competitions.
The National Kendo Team selected to represent South Africa consisted of 5 men and 4 women. This was the first year in the history of South African Kendo that a women’s team was sent to represent their country.
Day 1 begun with the Junior Team Championship in which no South African team was represented. In the afternoon, the Ladies’ Team Championship commenced in which our 4-women strong team fought hard in their pool matches but losing unfortunately to Great Britain and the eventual bronze-medal winners, Germany. A worthy mention must go out to Wendy Vermeulen who put 1 point on the scoreboard against Great Britain with a convincing men-strike.
Day 2 started with the Junior Individual Team Championships in which again, no South Africans were represented. In the afternoon, the Men’s Team Championships took place in which the 5-man team (4 of which had represented South Africa last year at the World Kendo Championships in Tokyo, Japan) fought hard against Spain and Macedonia. The initial pool match against Spain did not go too well. However, a worthy mention is that of Anesu Shamu, who played in the 4th position, Fukusho, who managed to score a brilliant hikki-do against his Spanish counterpart. Given the Spanish eventually won the bronze-medal, the defeat was “acceptable”. The 2nd pool match against the Macedonian team was a challenging one – besides the pressure of having to beat this team in order to proceed to the knockout rounds, the Macedonian team had the full support of the spectators, volunteers and majority of the court staff rooting for them! It was a tight game, but the kote strike by the Taisho (5th person) position player, Brendon Dateling (Men’s Team Captain), made SA history by making this the first SA team to ever proceed beyond the pool matches (and crushing the host-nation’s dreams of proceeding further in the team championships)! This excitement was short-lived, as the next match in the KO rounds was against Austria, which although the initial fight by the Sempo (1st person) position player, Warren Ho, was won under a minute by scoring 2 quick kote’s, the remaining fights did not fair too well. Many rookie mistakes and unnecessary points being lost could be boiled down to a lack of international shiai experience. Regardless, SA history had been made and we can start working towards improving our performance in the next Championships to come.
Day 3 started with the Ladies’ Individual Competition. All four ladies of the women’s team participated. Both Wendy Vermeulen and Natalie Morris won a fight each in the pool rounds against Czech Republic and Great Britain, respectively. However, it was only Natalie who was able to proceed to the knock-out rounds due to losing fewer points in her pool. Natalie’s 1st KO fight was against the eventual bronze-medalist from France. Although she lost, she put up a good fight by lasting the fully allocated time of 5 mins and only conceding 1 point (men).
Later that day, the Men’s Individual Competition took place. Only 4 of the 5 men from the men’s team were able to participate due to the EKC rules. Although all fought admirably, only Matthew Price was able to win in his pool convincingly enough to proceed to the knockout rounds. In the KO rounds, he lost his match against Finland.
Although the write up above does not reflect the amount of hard work and effort the team had put in both before the championships, as well the spirited-grit by each individual at the championships themselves, the 27th EKC championships have been one of the more successful international competitions to date. With a women’s team, a men’s team that finally proceeded to the knockout rounds, and both men and women individuals who also proceeded to the knockout rounds; this can create a platform that will expedites the development and progress of kendo in SA.
Our challenges remain the same, namely the lack of funding that allows our local kendo players to take part in more international competitions and bring that much-needed skills back home. Lack of funding also limits the growth and opportunities we as the SAKF can undertake locally. Nevertheless, the SAKF will preserver in its mission to develop Kendo in South Africa and endeavor to produce more local kendo players that will give the international Kendo community a good challenge.
On that note, it should be noted that Buster Sefor (7th dan, Renshi) was asked by the European Kendo Federation (EKF) to be on the technical team for this championship. This again is testament that SA Kendo can perform on a global platform and that given the right conditions, can offer a lot to the global Kendo community.
The SAKF and the SA National Kendo Team would like to thank all the South African sensei’s who helped prepare them for the EKC, including Buster Sefor sensei (7th dan, Renshi), Tony Hughes sensei (6th dan) and Ray Fleming sensei (5th dan); as well as our German sensei’s, Uwe Kumpf sensei (7th dan, Kyoshi) and Sabrina Kumpf (5th dan), who came out to SA prior to the championships to help prepare the team.
Thanks must also go out to the Martial Arts Authority of South Africa (MASA) and the South African Sports Confederation & Olympic Committee (SASCOC) for endorsing the SA National team, and for allowing them to proudly fly the South African flag high in Macedonia.
Special mention and thanks must be made to Macedonia Kendo and Iaido Federation President, Zlatko Kesko, and the rest of his members who graciously hosted the South African team at their dojo on several occasions, knowing that they would eventually face their national team on the Shiai-jo (competition battlefield).
Lastly, the SA National Team is grateful to all those SAKF members who helped them in the months leading up to the competition by taking part in the team training sessions, and also the many supporters tuned-in via live video streaming to cheer the team on. Your support was greatly appreciated.
2017’s EKC will be in Budapest, Hungary; and thereafter, the 2018 World Kendo Championships will be held in Korea. Team squad selections for these 2 events will take place very soon, and preparation for these 2 championships will begin immediately. The SAKF has made it its prerogative to be a prominent kendo player in the global Kendo community and calls upon all its members to assist in making this a reality by consistently training hard and spreading the word of Kendo!
SAKF President & 2016 EKC27 Delegation Leader & National Team Member
A DIFFERENT VIEW….
“For a first time competing in an international Kendo championship, and the EKC no less, was a very sublime experience or me. To be able to experience and feel what European kendo is and how different it is as well as how it compares to the kendo style back home in SA was most definitely an exhilarating feeling. This was also one of my goal to achieve when heading into the tournament.
I was most definitely surprised to see that South African kendo is actually not very far behind the rest of the world in terms of skill and fighting ability. This was made evident when the woman’s team were able to have a decent fight against the German team who we thought were going to clean us out. But throughout the competition it became more and more clear (with the brilliant performance of both teams and the individual fights of each member) that as a Nation we are becoming a team that will start placing in the future. We need only a little bit more refinement and experience.
Personally I realised, from this experience, that International kendo places a lot of strain on the mind during the fights and this is where I found that I need to focus more attention. Its not just about how much stamina or endurance your body can pump out because its when the mind weakens from fatigue that you give away openings. This became very obvious to me when I i was fighting France in the knock out rounds. It was such an exciting fight but near the end and afterwards my mind was completely drained, this in turn also affected how my body reacted. It really was such an educational experience that left me in Awe.
I think the biggest and most profound finding for me, during this tournament, was that the team is everything and even if you’re competing in individuals, those friends and comrades around you are what give you the extra edge, the boost in motivation. This is not because you want to do well in front of them but because their support makes you feel like you deserve to be there and that squashes any doubts that happen to be sitting in the mind.
It has been a most wonderful adventure for me to have competed alongside the team that I did and for that I am most grateful.
2016 EKC27 National Team Member”
“Participating at the EKC was a completely different experience that was both enjoyable and nerve wrecking. The completion in terms of kendo style is very different to what I am used to here in South Africa, with shimpan mostly looking for very flamboyant Zanshin to show that you have scored your point. The points are also very soft with a short flick and then major Zanshin. The pacing of the kendo is much to my liking and it counts to get control of the pacing instead of following your opponent’s pace. The team competition mentality was more defined, for me, at the championship as one had to be quick to gauge what your team’s position looks like and what you should to change or keep things as they are (keep that one point, don’t take unnecessary risks). The individuals felt as if the entire World’s weight rested on my shoulders. Quite a lot more pressure there than anything else. Hence, I enjoyed the team comp fights a bit more than the individual fights.
Overall, it was enjoyable, especially with the help of the team managers having your back with fight logistics. Learnt a lot and luckily didn’t get caught up in the awe of the entire thing – Anesu Shamu, 2016 EKC27 National Team Member”