My First Look at Kendo: Masters Tournament in Kyoto
Vanquished or Victor? With kendo , you can't really tell -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 116mm — 1/250 sec, f/3.2, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
Vanquished or Victor?
With kendo, you can't really tell

The other day I attended some very high level kendo (Japanese fencing) bouts, my first real exposure to it other than having seen a bit six years ago during a visit to a Japanese high school.

Last week I posted a couple of lone photos here and here, but finally I'll actually write a bit about the event.

Registration Table at the Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿), the oldest martial-arts arena in Japan Kyoto, Japan -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/2500 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100 — map & image datanearby photos
Registration Table
at the Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿), the oldest martial-arts arena in Japan
Kyoto, Japan

The sign says something along the line that it's the 110th All Japan Kendo Martial-Arts Exhibition.

I live a short stroll from this place, so it's a shame that it's taken me 10 years to make a visit. I had no idea what to expect, so I went in gingerly and observed how others acted to determine what I could do.

Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos

There seemed to be two bouts going simultaneously, each with two practitioners facing off against each other and three judges in suits.

Single Bout two fighters, three judges -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/80 sec, f/3.2, ISO 1800 — map & image datanearby photos
Single Bout
two fighters, three judges

Court-side are tatami areas for upcoming participants to get ready... kendo has quite the impressive uniform.

Getting Ready -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 102mm — 1/25 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Getting Ready
Face Off -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 6400 — map & image datanearby photos
Face Off

The armor flap in front shows their city and name.

The bougu protective uniform is quite impressive, with 100+ years of martial-arts tradition built on top of thousands of years of samurai-warrior tradition. There's meaning in every little bit, as illustrated by the length of this introductory description. Later I noticed some stalls outside the venue selling sets of the armor part of the uniform at prices ranging from $700 for a set, to $10,000. I'm sure that's just the tip of the iceberg.

As for the sport itself, apparently they get points for making a strike to certain areas of the other's armor, but only if done with sufficient control so as to never let themselves be open to counterattack.

Attack -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
Attack

Bouts last just a few minutes, and have a slow highly-choreographed look for the most part, except that it's punctuated at moments by short ferociously-quick bursts of energy of movement.

Everyone I saw was at a sufficiently high rank to be considered a master of masters, yet some were still so surprised and caught off guard by the sudden burst of energy from their opponent that their feet couldn't keep up with their body's retreat, leaving them sprawled on the ground.

Even to someone like me who knew nothing, this was amazing to see.

Next Up -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/80 sec, f/1.8, ISO 500 — map & image datanearby photos
Next Up

Not only couldn't I tell who won each bout, I truly couldn't tell whether there was a winner at all. According to the Wikipedia page on Kendo the referees have colored flags to match colored ribbons on the back of the fencers, but this was not the case here.

I checked out the nameboard to find a hint, but after a match both names got an unceremoniously final red X, and then they were slid off the end and removed from the display....

Upcoming Bouts -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
Upcoming Bouts

An interesting tidbit from the photo above is that the bout just completed is numbered 429. It was a busy tournament.

Also of note is that the referees are listed, each name given with the honorific reserved for the highest kendo rank. If one devoted oneself to kendo from childhood and advanced at the fastest rate possible, this highest rank could be achieved no earlier than 54 years old. So we know that all the referees are older than 54, and are the highest masters of kendo.

desktop background image of kendo masters in a bout in Kyoto, Japan (剣道) -- Bouts in Progress -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/80 sec, f/8, ISO 5000 — map & image datanearby photos
Bouts in Progress
Desktop-Background Versions
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Changing of the Guard so to speak -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM — 1/80 sec, f/1.4, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Changing of the Guard
so to speak

Reasonable color balance was a challenge due to the wildly-different nature of the gymnasium artificial lighting from the shade flooding in from the huge entrances in each wall. The color in the shot two above is probably more realistic than that of the shot immediately above, which is balanced more for the guy in the foreground.

Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/40 sec, f/2.8, ISO 900 — map & image datanearby photos
Wielding Two Swords apparently is okay -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 140mm — 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO 720 — map & image datanearby photos
Wielding Two Swords
apparently is okay
Chair and Vice Chair of this year's exhibition -- Kyubutokuden (旧武徳殿) -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/ -- This photo is licensed to the public under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ (non-commercial use is freely allowed if proper attribution is given, including a link back to this page on http://regex.info/ when used online)
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/400 sec, f/2.8, ISO 2000 — map & image datanearby photos
Chair and Vice Chair
of this year's exhibition

They had quite the good seats, but lucky for me they didn't occupy them most of the time I was in a position to get nice shots.

Continued here...


All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

Glad you are posting again!

Always nice to see your insights on Japanese culture.

— comment by Alvin on May 19th, 2014 at 5:43am JST (3 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink

I know it’s a completely different thing, but didn’t you just sort of hope that one of the competitors would suddenly yell: ” Hallo! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!”

Sadly, no, it didn’t come to mind. —Jeffy

— comment by Marcina on May 19th, 2014 at 1:10pm JST (3 years, 2 months ago) comment permalink
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