This year was by far the most interesting year for me as a kenshi. With my foot injured, I had to rethink how to do Jodan with less fumikomi and more suri ashi. This tournament was the first attempt at fighting like this. Well, the practice paid off and the success was great. I was able to control my aite much more effectively to the point that I beat people that have destroyed me before. I strongly believe that going back to the basics again helped. Comments at the baquent later were more then I could handle as this was the first time that my jodan was complemented and actually critized by Tagawa sensei in a good light. Damn, I must have done something right. Well, let me try to tell you all what happened...
Sandan and up went first in the whole tournament so we could shimpan. That is no big deal and I was aware of it from the beginning, the big deal was that, when I looked at the brackets, I was the first match. Always fun to be the first match of the day after sleeping on a couch. Anyway, I was first up against Okada from Chicago Kendo Dojo. His seme was very good but his defensive kamai left his kote open and I was able to score men morote kote twice. I was able to get through that round and had a small rest while the rest of the round completed. The next match saw me facing my favorite sensei in Detroit Tani sensei. Now when Tani sensei came over here I was always impressed by the cleanliness and strength of his kendo. If you have read previous posts you can see that he has beaten me in the past as well. This time, with the new stance I beat him and it was one of the highlights of my kendo career. The match was very intense, but I was able to control some of the flow of the match and managed to make him miss a couple of times. I was throwing all of my ki and seme at him knowing that I had to beat him this time. As the match progressed I was not getting tired, which is odd for me, and realized that I could control a bit more. I pushed forard and he threw tsuki. Because I had control of the maai I was able to rock back out of the distance from the tsuki and land a powerful and resonating men. The match then ran out of time and I was onto the court semis. After some time, I was up against Inoue sensei from Chicago Kendo Dojo, most known for his purple do and his shiai kendo. It was the first time I have fought him since we were kids coming up in kendo. I knew it would be a tough match and it was. I decided to play a bit more with the seme and maai that had served me well against Tani sensei. The only issue this time was that he landed three hiki do that were not scored. I felt that I had two kote and a men but to no avail. He was off balance at a point and I hit men and "threw" him into the bleachers for hansoku against him. This was a continuation of my waza so no fault was given to me. After 4 minutes we were both even with nothing socred and went to encho. Now I knew he was tired and thought that I had the match won. I went for a kote morote men and I let the shinai go at the kote, as I tried to pull it back he tapped my men. This was called ippon. I, as well as Inoue sensei, were shocked that they called that and none of the dos earlier. I lost but was extremley happy about the matches.
It was then onto the teams.
We were a mixed bunch from Eastern, Detroit and Cleveland but happy to fight. We drew Cleveland first and managed to get through. The most interesting thing was my match against a nito kenshi as taisho. Agian, jodan verse nito. The only difference this time was that it ended in hikiwake because he knew what he was doing and we had the match won already so I was pushing but also pushing for the hikiwake. This was the first nito kenshi that actullay had an idea of seme that I had fought since nationals. The next team match was against Detroit A who won the whole thing. I was up against my old friend Morita sensei, the elder, and was excited to face him again. If you do not know Morita sensei he is 6' 2" and large like I am so the match was very strong. We had lost by then so the match was just a grudge math between him and I. It was a great match and I managed to get men on him. At one point we both hit men and collided. Well, when you have two people of that size colliding, well think about it, he wound up on the floor and I wound up standing against the other side of the court. What a match.
Overall my jodan felt completely different this time and it all has to do with going back to the basics. At the banquet Tagawa sensei pulled me aside and suggested that I work on more katate attacks. A great suggestion as long as I can force people to stay in my maai and not theirs. Tani sensei, Yoshida sensei, Murakami sensei and others all made comment that my jodan was strong which left me utterly speechless and the night ended on a high. Thanks to eveyrone in Chicago, particularly Andy for giving me a couch. See you next year at our place.