President’s Report 2015 (By Warren Ho)

This first year of my presidency has been an exciting but challenging one. Exciting because there had been so much happening this past year ranging from 7 grade examinations, 6 national shiai’s, 5 seminars, 5 kendo demonstrations, 3 new dojo’s, 1 international competition, to 1 fundraising function. Challenging because of the limited resources we had to accomplish all these events. Nevertheless, each initiative was successful thanks to the combined efforts of all the SAKF members!

The first half of the year was dominated by preparations for the 16th World Kendo Championships (16WKC) that was scheduled to happen in May 2015 in Tokyo, Japan.

A National Kendo Team of 5 men and 1 woman was selected at the open trials in late January, followed by an intensified team training schedule that included the invitation and subsequent month-long visit by Ishimaru sensei to help prepare the team for the upcoming 16WKC.

At the 16WKC, although the men’s team and individual fighters performed amicably, they failed to progress past the preliminary rounds. However, it was our one female fighter, Carle Joubert, who was able to making it through the pool rounds, as well as to the 2nd stage of the Knock-Out rounds, putting her in the top 32 Kendo Female players in the world– A South African first! So impressive was her performance, the Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), decided to feature her and part of her fights in a kendo documentary that was screened on national TV a few days later!
It was also at this WKC that our ex-president of the SAKF, Buster Sefor, had challenged and successfully passed his 7th dan grading, making him the 1st South African to accomplish such an accolade.

Besides the hype of the 16WKC, SAKF members were also treated to 5 other shiai’s throughout the year – The Open Championships and Interdojo shiai’s hosted by Mushin, Rivonia Kendo Club, Niji No Senshi, Ken Yu Kai and San Kawa. With each event, different competition types kept it interesting for everyone, ranging from beginners’, kyu-grade, dan-grade, individuals, 3-person teams and women-only competition.

There were also 5 seminars held during the year that included the Summer Seminar in February; Seminar with Ishimaru Sensei in April; The Western Province Seminar in August; A women’s only Seminar with Yuri Aoki sensei in September; and our annual SAKF seminar with our high-ranking sensei’s from Japan and Europe – Chiba Sensei, Irii sensei, Ishimaru sensei, Tsherter sensei and Kumpf sensei. On a sad note, it was said that this would be the last visit by some of our Japanese sensei as they felt they have done all they could for South African kendo. We are grateful for their support and instruction and hope that the knowledge they imparted onto our members will be put to good use and continue to guide our kendo for years to come.

It was also a busy year of demonstrations – 6 in total. One in particular to mention was the demonstration at the Japanese Embassy in Pretoria on Japan National Day in December. Kendo, was 1 of only 2 martial arts that were invited to perform by H.E. Shigeyuki Hiroki (Ambassador of Japan) and his guests.

The SAKF hosted 7 gradings this year which includes the 2 gradings that were hosted by the dojo’s (and endorsed by the SAKF). In total, an impressive 171 kyu grades were successfully passed. Furthermore, 8 x new 1st Dan were initiated into the “black belt” fraternity. More impressive yet was the successful gradings of 6 x 2nd, Dans, 4 x 3rd Dans, 3 x 4th Dans and 1 x 5th Dan. With the successful grading of the 5th Dan by Mitchel Kyle, the SAKF is now able to grade up to 3rd Dan. This is huge milestone for South African kendo, as in the past, anyone wishing to grade to 3rd dan would have to travel overseas.

4 new dojo’s joined the SAKF this year, 3 of which were new Kendo dojo’s, namely the Rivonia Kendo Club based in Rivonia Johannesburg; the Kenshin Dojo in Durbaville, Cape Town; and Shishigashira Dojo in Cape Town.

It should be noted that the Kendo Kids program was also piloted at the Rivonia Kendo Club and has been successful to date. The intention is to later role out this program to all the dojo’s, thereby, allowing them to target younger kendo players whom we can groom to be great kendo players both in the local and international kendo arena in the future.

Garden Dojo, an affiliated dojo in New Castle, was an existing karate dojo that intended to include Iaido into their curriculum and hence join under the SAKF banner, however, they have subsequently decided to part from the SAKF due to various reasons.

The SAKF held one fundraising event in the form of hosting a movie screening – Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The event was successful in that it both raised a small amount of money for the SAKF, as well provide a relaxing social event to end the year off.

More fundraising events will be planned for 2016.

We continue our membership of MASA, the Martial Arts Association of South Africa, who in turn belong to SASCOC, the governing sports body in South Africa. Several meetings with MASA were held this year due to the planned Arnold Classic event in May 2016.

The SAKF also tried to implement some new membership and attendance processes that used the online platform, “Best Attendance”. Unfortunately, it did not work out as well as we had hoped and have reverted back to the old methods of submitting spreadsheets on members and attendance.

However, there has still been an insanely amount of administration processes and tasks that were accomplished this year which has prompted the need for deputy positions that will be proposed and voted on at the next AGM.

2016 is going to be an even busier year than 2015! At the time of writing, the scheduled events this year include a 9-day visit by Uwe Kumpf sensei (7th Dan, Kyoshi) and his daughter, Sabrina Kumpf (5th dan); the 27th European Kendo Championships in Skopje, Macedonia; the Arnold Classic Sports Festival, an annual multisport event celebrating numerous sporting codes (including Kendo) and is named after the legendary professional body-builder, Arnold Schwarzenegger; the Foreign Leaders Summer Kendo Camp in Kitamoto, Japan; more national shiai’s, gradings, seminars and demonstrations.

The SAKF is pushing harder than ever to make Kendo a more prominent martial art in the South African landscape. Besides all the events scheduled for our existing members, there will be a renewed focus on increasing the number of members in 2016. Another of the SAKF’s objective is to develop our members’ Shiai skills. The last objective is to increase dojo’s assistance through administration guidance, providing sufficient training, and providing coaching and mentoring to dojo leaders.

Many initiatives will be put in place to accomplish these goals and the SAKF will require you to volunteer your time and skills from time to time. A development committee will also be formed to meet these objectives. The committee will also be tasked to help raise much-needed funds for the SAKF to carry out these initiatives.

Furthermore, as mentioned briefly, the need for tighter administration management and control is needed in order to gear the SAKF to be able to service a greater community in the years to come.

It is my personal belief that Kendo in South Africa is on the verge of a massive break-through and once breeched, there will be a massive influx of new members interested in training in this dynamic martial art. The SAKF, its affiliated dojos and all its current members, must be sufficiently prepared for this influx as it will change the landscape of how we currently conduct Kendo in South Africa.

Finally, I’d like to thank the members of the SAKF EXCO who have endured my hours-long EXCO meetings, hundreds of emails, late-night whatsapp messages and constant nagging this year; and had gotten all that needed to be done in a timeous and efficient manner. But, be warned, 2016 is going to be an even busier one!

Let us all make 2016 a year worth remembering due to our commitment to hard, vigorous Kendo training.

Ganbatte (“do your best”)!

Yours sincerely
Warren Ho
President: South African Kendo Federation (SAKF)
Written on 14 February 2016