Besides training as hard as you can, the best way to improve techniques in Kendo is to watch tournaments where top kendoka spar with each other. Here are the top Kendo tournaments that you must watch to keep yourself abreast of the achievements individuals have made in the sport.
All Japan Kendo Championships
The All Japan Kendo Championships are organized by the All Japan Kendo Federation (AJKF) or the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei. The events are held annually, on November 3, which is Bunka no Hi or Culture Day for other Japanese. These championships are considered the highest quality Kendo championships.
For readers of Japanese, articles on the AJKF homepage will offer insight on which matches to follow, so they are worth keeping an eye out for. A star of these championships in the past has been Uchimura Ryoichi, with an impressive record of wins and winning streaks in over a decade of participation. In 2017, the AJKF will be hosting the 65th championships with remarkable kendoka to look out for.
All Japan Women’s Kendo Championship
The All Japan Women’s Kendo Championship is another championship to keep an eye on. In 2017, you can enjoy the excellent competition between Japan’s top female kendoka. Past competitions have been typically held in September, at the Hyogo Kenritsu Budokan in Hyogo prefecture, the Mashima Sport Arena in Nagano City and across Japan. 64 women from across 47 prefectures participate.
Kendo is particularly popular among women in martial art abroad (though Japanese women have had their problems with Kendo), largely because skill in the sport doesn’t depend on strength or physical attributes. Anyone can practice Kendo. The shinai that is meant to be used for competitions is only allocated by age, and not any other attributes. This enables women and men to compete against each other as well. There have been illustrious women in Kendo in the past as well as recent competitors like Kanagawa’s M. Matsumoto, Osaka’s M. Yamamoto and A. Tayama and others.
World Kendo Championship
This is the international competition for member nations of the FIK, held every three years. The first World Kendo Championship was held in 1970. There are 4 divisions in the competition: Women’s Individual, Men’s Individual, Women’s Team, Men’s Team. Hosts rotate through member countries. Japan has hosted four times, last in 2015. South Korea is to be the 2018 host. Japan has been generally leading the leaderboard, but participants from South Korea, US and Hungary also have earned accolades in recent years. In the Women’s Team event Brazil has also managed to come in 3rd place of the 16th championship in 2015.
Team matches at the World Kendo Championship involve individual scoring for 5 members of each team. There has been some concern that international Kendo referees may not have the understanding of Kendo to judge the championships. The FIK has placated these the voices raised by making referee seminars mandatory internationally, under the guidance of Japanese Kendo officials well qualified to offer lectures.
European Kendo Championship
The European Kendo Federation (EKF) brings together practitioners of Japanese martial arts like Kendo, Iaido and Jodo in Europe. The European Kendo Championship has been held since 1974, when it was first organized in Bletchley, Great Britain with the Men’s Individual and Team events. Since then, women’s events and junior events have also been introduced. In 2017, the championship will be held in Budapest, Hungary.
Countries to look out for include France, Italy, Germany, Czech Republic and Serbia.
All Japan Kendo 8 Dan Championships
This is the championship where masters battle it out and offer plenty of beautiful moments and learning experience for viewers. The 15th 8 Dan Taikai was held in 2017 in Nagoya. Viewers were able to watch greats like Masahiro Miyazaki and Katsuhiko Tani display their skilled ippon.
World Combat Games
The World Combat Games feature martial arts and combative sports from around the world. There are Olympic sports like judo and boxing as well as non-Olympic sports like Kendo and Wushu that feature on the roster. It started in Beijing in 2010, and kendo was on the original schedule which saw more than a thousand athletes participating from across the five continents. The second event was held in 2013. Both years saw Russia win, though the country is not a traditional martial arts country.
These newly created games are yet to have a fixed annual schedule but so far, it has been announced that the future games will be held in 2018 and 2022. The possibly host countries for the games will be Almaty (Kazakhstan), Bangkok (Thailand) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).
These are some of the biggest championships in Kendo in the world. But there are several others that may also be followed for the talent they draw. These include: