Tag Archives: shimpan

Niji No Senshi shiai

Shimpan Theory & Practise

This weekend was the NIji No Senshi shiai and grading event in Witbank. With over 40 participants for the event, I thought that was a great turnout, especially considering it’s almost 1.5 hrs outside of Johannesburg, and that this was one of the coldest weekends we have yet to experience!

While participating and observing the competitions for the kyu and dan grades, a few issues came to mind that I felt I needed to write about:

For both the kyu and dan grade competitions, dan-graded members who were not immediately competing were asked to participate as shimpan.  It was important that those member who had participated in the previous week’s shimpan seminar with Buster Sensei, be able to put their shimpan theory skills into practise.  Important to note, in Japan, shimpan skills is part of the 6th and 7th dan examination requirements (as per the FIK guild lines for dan examinations).  Furthermore, only those members who are of sufficient dan-level and with relevant shimpan training are allowed to shimpan in various competitions.  Our challenge in South Africa, is that we currently do not have a large enough high-dan grade base that can fulfil the need for shimpans, hence we use our “mid-dan” grades to fulfil that gap.  But, in a way, this is a good thing as it give those “mid-dan” grades a head start in learning and applying their shimpan skills for their “eventual” 6th and 7th dan examinations.  Perhaps some of the conditions to be shimpan at these regional competitions is that the shimpan must be consistently training kendo, and that their shimpan theory must be at an acceptable level.

A case in point of these 2 conditions was evident this weekend during a few matches. Firstly,  when making decisions about “yuko-datotsu” (or a valid strike), a shimpan must be actively training his own kendo to ensure he/she understands and knows what a “valid strike” is. Secondly, understanding what acts are prohibited in shiai that would warrant a penalty (“hansoku”). Both are explained in article 12 and 17, respectively, of the ‘Regulations of Kendo Shiai and Shimpan’ booklet, and were thoroughly explained at the Shimpan Seminar. It should also be noted that the experience of the shimpan also plays a vital role in both these points.

An important thing to remember was also what was last mentioned in the shipman session with Uwe Kumpf sensei earlier this year: The shimpan are not the most important people in the shiai-jo – the fighters are. Therefore, it is of uttermost importance that the shimpan be able to judge correctly, fairly and objectively.  Being able to determine a valid strike is the 1st step of judging correctly.  Understanding and applying the rules of the shiai is the 2nd step of judging fairly. And the final step is that of remaining objective at all times.

There is nothing more frustrating than knowing you have scored a perfect “yuko-datotsu”, but not having it validated by the shimpan. Perhaps the only more frustrating event is having a point scored against you and you know it was not a valid strike.  Hence, the importance of having well-trained and objective shimpan.

We have a bit of a way to get there, but I believe with constant focus and effort by those members who have prioritised kendo in their lives, we can all get there together which will bode well for the future of Kendo in South Africa.


Warren Ho (SAKF President)

2016 Shimpan Seminar

1st South African Shimpan Seminar – 9 July 2016

The SAKF hosted its 1st South African Shimpan seminar on 9 July 2016, led by our 2 sensei’s, Buster Sefor and Rey Fleming. 32 kenshi of various grades came to the seminar not only to understand the theory of being a good referee, but to also understand, how as a kendo competitor, they could improve their shiai skills. Out of the 32 kenshi, 7 were 3rd dans above and also had the opportunity to put their shimpan theory into practise by being shimpan in some matches. However, considering we have 21 registered 3rd dans and higher on the EKF database, this is a mere 33% of those members who attended.

But rather than express my disappointment at those members who were not in attendance, I’d rather want to focus on the those who did attend.

Kendo, and the proliferation and continuity of Kendo in South Africa is dependent on the continual support and dedication by those members who care enough to prioritise Kendo in their life. Understandably, we all have family, friends and other social activities to attend to – some more so than others. However, if Kendo is not made a priority, it very quickly becomes the lowest priority in one’s life, and pretty soon, it becomes a “no priority”.

In earlier posts, I wrote about finding different aspects of kendo that will allow a practitioner to prolong his/her interest and practise in this dynamic martial art. Kendo offers a multitude of elements from which one can choose one all from – provided they are willing to put in the effort.

Shimpan’ing is one aspect, but to be able to do it well, you need to practising Kendo long enough so that you are at a sufficient and proficient enough level to be able to do it (shimpan).

As Buster sensei said, “You can’t be a good shimpan if you aren’t regularly practising kendo – You have to be “in it” to be able to understand it.”

To further emphasis the importance of shimpan and shiai development, the SAKF gave each dojo in attendance a set of 3 x red & white shimpanki, 1 x yellow flag, and 5 x red & white tasuki. The intention is that each dojo will in turn continue to practise and hone their shimpan skills at their own dojos. This will also imply that their members will have more exposure to shiai, and specifically, how to score a valid point.

It is planned for the near future to have each member’s shimpan skills assessed and accredited to a certain level for certain levels of competition. Based on this, only those members who have the proper accreditation will be allowed to be shimpan at their respective level of competition.

A sincere thank you must be made to Buster sensei and Ray sensei for taking the time to conduct this seminar, as well as to the team of Yentl Krugel, Frances Deyers and Anika Solanki who hand-made all the shimpan items that were gifted to the dojo’s.


Warren Ho (SAKF President)