Thursday, January 18, 2018

Nabeyama sensei at the Gyokuryuki


Coming up in March is a seminar in Sydney and Melbourne with Nabeyama sensei, head instructor of Tsukuba University Kendo Dept. Here are some highlights of his Kendo when he was back in high school, fighting for the famous PL Gakuen of Osaka. Date is sometime in the late 80s I think.

The competition this video comes from is the Gyokuryuki Taikai, which is held every July in Fukuoka. According to All Japan Budogu, it is the largest high school tournament in Japan with 900 schools competition over 5 days. Like most HS shiai in Japan, the crowd noise and the barracking is much louder than the All Japans or the 8-dan Championship! This is also because it uses the 'kachinuki" format which often makes for a more volatile competition. Teams are still of five, with the various designation of team places (e.g. Senpo, Jiho, Chuken, Fukusho, Taisho) but if you win, you stay "in". If you lose or draw the next member of your team has to step up. So in theory one person can defeat the whole opposing team. This means that teams that only have one really good player can go much further than in a normal teams event.

From watching this video of Nabeyama it certainly looks like he has an attitude of "win quickly"! You can also see how the person who wins through can develop a momentum that is difficult for their opponents to resist: they are not just warmed-up, they are running hot.

Nabeyama sensei's Kendo here is interesting to watch. His posture is that of a young man: flexible, a bit stooped, lacking the 'spine' that he will develop later. All his Kendo is about speed and readiness. But he shows an amazing ability to find opportunities when his opponents are resting or just beginning their movement. He is also very relaxed in his cuts, which shows the speed of his mental processing: he is not getting ippon because his reactions are fast, he wins because he has very quickly seen (or anticipated) what his opponent is going to do. He looks like he's fighting less-experienced people in ordinary jigeiko, not the best in Japan at a major tournament!

Thanks to Tom of MUKEN for introducing me to this video.

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