Hi, guys. Wasn't sure whether to piggyback onto Eric's last post or make a new post but I thought this was distinct enough I should make a new post. Just wanted to put down in writing some of what I may have talked about with some of you at the tournament and it concerns shinpan.
I had a very good shinpan experience at this year's taikai and it made an impression on me. I think what's happened is that I have been shinpan three or four times now and seen how a shiai court is effectively run and how important that is. It has also been impressed on my that shinpan is a very important skill for the appropriate level yudansha to have, part of one's overall kendo development.
In the past, when I have been shinpan, it's always been in a kind of protected environment (usually at Family Tournament with Tagawa-sensei standing to one side saying "do this, don't do that"). At Detroit this year I was assigned a court and I attacked the task with a very different attitude. I immediately introduced myself to the head judge and the other judges, let them know how inexperienced I was and impressed upon them that I was eager to learn. I got to be shinpan on several matches, including shushen. I was very involved with each and every match and sponged up everything I could from the other shinpan. I asked questions. The sensei I worked with saw that I was eager to learn and gave me suggestions, for which I expressed my gratitude. When we were done, I thanked them. I even had to call gogi (conference) as shushen once, which I did decisively and made a firm decision as a result.
My point is that it inspired my confidence to be a better shinpan. For some time now I have realized how important shinpan is to me personally but also to kendo as a whole (in ever issue of Kendo World there are articles on "Shinpan From Scratch," for example). This past weekend just sort of confirmed that. While I was at the taikai, I went to the Eguchi retailer table and bought my own set of shinpan flags (I did not spring for the very nice carrying case but will make one, give it the ol' personal touch). This to me represents a commitment to develop myself as shinpan and I hope you will all help me.