Filipina fighting spirit shines in 13th Hong Kong Kendo Open
by Kristopher Inting March 15, 2013 5:14pm
Last March 9, 2013, the Philippine Women’s Kendo Team landed a top-eight finish in their debut appearance in the 13th Hong Kong Asian Open Kendo Championships. To make the accomplishment sweeter, team captain Loida Estanilla-Inting also walked away with a Fighting Spirit Award, a special individual award given to a few select players who had outstanding performances.
The Hong Kong Asian Open was held at the Tin Shui Wai Sports Center from March 8 to 10. The Open is an annual event that invites kendo clubs and national delegations from all over the Asia-Pacific region to compete in three events – a junior men’s event, a women’s open event, and a men’s open event.
The three events use the team format, with three representatives for the junior men’s and women’s open, and five persons for the men’s open. Team members face-off against their counterparts from the opposing team, and the winning team is the one with the most number of individual victories.
The Philippines has been sending representatives to both men’s events of the Hong Kong Open for a number of years now, but this year marked the first entry of a women’s team. This is why the women’s team members, namely Dardsie Abriol-Santos, Ejay Angeles, Lex Busto, and Estanilla-Inting, were so surprised with their top eight finish, out of a field of thirty teams.
The team started the elimination rounds by besting the Singapore A squad in a close match (0-2 loss by Busto, 2-0 and 2-1 wins by Angeles and Estanilla-Inting) and handily winning over the Shenzen A squad (1-1 draw by Busto, 2-0 and 2-0 wins by Angeles and Estanilla-Inting).
At this point though, reaching the quarterfinals was the furthest thing from Busto’s mind: “I did not expect that we’d be able to reach the quarterfinals. In every match that I had, I only thought of successfully finishing the match without getting injured. Winning did not reach my mind, I just wanted to show them all the things that I learned from Igarashi-sensei [our head teacher in IGA Kendo Club].”
After the tournament committee confirmed that their record was good enough to advance to the quarterfinals, the team went on to face the Singapore D squad. It was at this point they succumbed to the opposition (0-2 and 0-2 losses by Busto and Angeles, and 0-0 draw by Estanilla-Inting).
In spite of the loss in the quarters, they were still happy with their top-eight finish. Team alternate Abriol-Santos said, “[The] team performance, it was excellent! No one probably expected we’d reach the quarter-finals. Lex, Ejay and Loida’s performance were superb considering it was their first time to compete. Their matches were so intense, my hand was shaking while I was taking videos. I’m proud to have been part of the same team.”
They were equally surprised by Estanilla-Inting winning a Fighting Spirit Award, which was given to only eight out of nearly a hundred women competitors. For Angeles, it was one of the defining moments of the tournament for her, adding “[I was so proud] when our Taisho [Team Captain] Loida was called in front of all the competitors to receive her hard earned Fighting Spirit Award, for there were [only a] few of them who’ve been chosen to receive the award. I am inspired to do better next year if given another chance.”
Estanilla-Inting credits her individual and team success to the support given to her by her teammates and her teacher/coach, Mr. Koji Igarashi, and the training they received in their home dojo, the IGA-Kendo Club in Quezon City. She is also looking forward to the future, saying, “It was surreal…I mean, how can a first time participant get something like this without prior experience? I can only think that it was because of our normal training. I realized that with just a bit more practice we can actually go farther in the competition, even be champions some day.”
Inspiration for future competitions
The team members feel that their unexpected tournament success will serve as inspiration for future events. Abriol-Santos said, “I would love to attend again next year and actually get the chance to fight in matches. Attending the tournament was a great new experience for me. Watching was already great what more if I had gotten the chance to fight! That’s something I’m looking forward to and I’ll do my best so that I’d get selected to fight.”
On a personal level they have also found that their love for the martial art has increased. Angeles said, “It was exhilarating and an eye-opener for a kendoka like me. It was worth all the hard work and I’d really love to participate again.”
Busto added, “Seeing and experiencing different kinds of kendo is really kendo-changing. I will train harder so that next year I’ll be able to reach the finals with my team.”
Estanilla-Inting feels that the goals that she set for herself for the tournament were achieved, commenting, “I believe I did my best and was able to inspire confidence in the other members of the team. Most of all, I was able to set an example, which was what I intended to do before we left for the competition. I think that I was able to show my teammates how it is to lead the team, so that they will know how to lead their own teams when the time comes.”
She also believes that the future participation of the Philippines in the Hong Kong Open, or in any other international tournament, will be fruitful, and that it would be best to start preparing for the next one as early as now.
“The competition exposed a few points for improvement for me and my team. That is what I would like to focus on for the next year. I would also like to start adding more ladies to the training pool, because I would like to have more than one [women’s] team from the Philippines competing next year.” – AMD, GMA News