The 14th Hong Kong Kendo Open: IGA-Ken Surpasses Expectations Yet Again!

Photo and Video Credits to: Igarashi-Sensei, Lex, Gek, Alain, Ice, Dardsie and Dane

UPDATE: Match video links fixed and completed.

This year, the 14th Hong Kong Asian Kendo Open Championships was held in the Tin Shui Wai Sports Centre in the New Territories in Hong Kong. From February 28 to March 2, participants and clubs from 16 different countries and territories in the Asia-Pacific region competed to showcase the strength of their Kendo. We are proud to say that, in only our second year to join this competition, the name IGA-Kendo Club was placed among the strongest of these clubs.

Team IGA-Ken! From left: Igarashi-Sensei, Lex, Dardsie, Rikki, Gek, Kayo, Dane, Shinmei, Josh, Lyndon, Jomar, Kutch, Ice & Loida.

This year our Taikai started with the Dan-Exam. This year we sent 7 candidates, and it was our hope to better our record from the previous year, where 10 out of 11 candidates passed. Though a perfect run was an admirable goal, it was not to be as we had one casualty among the nidan candidates. However we are really proud of the effort of all our students, and we still had three new shodan (Josh, Ice & Lyndon) and three new nidan (Dardsie, Rikki & Lex) to boast about. Congratulations you guys!

Our new nidan students! From left: Rikki, Lex & Dardsie

The second day of the event started with the Women’s Open Tournament. We had two teams competing, Team A composed of Shinmei (at senpo), Kayo (at chuken) and Loida (at taisho), and Team B composed of Ice (at senpo), Dardsie (at chuken) and Lex (at taisho). Before the tournament, Lex made the solemn vow that Teams A & B would meet in the finals. It was now time to test that prediction.

Women’s Team Members! From left: Dardsie, Ice, Shinmei, Loida, Lex and Kayo

Team B was the first to compete and the first to draw blood. They romped through their first opponents, a team from China, with a perfect scoreline of 2-0, 2-0 & 2-0. 

(Note: Team IGA-Ken Women’s B is with the white ribbons.)

 After dominating their first opponents, it looked like Team B had a good chance to break into the quarterfinals of their bracket. It was not to be, however, as they got eliminated by another Chinese team in their second match, with a score of 0-2, 0-2 & 2-0. Great effort though ladies! Hopefully Team B does even better next time!

(Note: Team IGA-Ken Women’s B is with the red ribbons.)

Now it was Team A’s turn. We had high expectations for Team A to at least match our Women’s Team outing from the previous year, where they got into the quarterfinals only to lose against Singapore. And match it they did, romping through Macau and Hong Kong D in the process.

(Note: Team IGA-Ken Women’s A is with the white ribbons.)

(Note: Team IGA-Ken Women’s A is with the red ribbons.)

Moving into the quarterfinals, IGA-Ken Team A found themselves facing a familiar foe…Singapore! And this match turned into a nail-biter as the scoreline was tied after all the individual matches finished: 2-0, 0-0 and 0-2. This would have to be settled via daihyosen, or sudden death overtime, and Shinmei was chosen to represent Team A. After 5 plus minutes of intense maneuvering and attacking, Shinmei finally got the point, catapulting Team A into the semifinals.

(Note: Team IGA-Ken Women’s A is with the white ribbons.)

The semifinal match was against Hong Kong B, and it was almost anti-climactic by comparison. IGA-Ken Team A easily won this match on a 2-0, 1-1, 2-0 scoreline. This set them up on a date to face Team All-Japan Budogu in the finals of the Women’s Open Tournament.

(Note: Team IGA-Ken Women’s A is with the red ribbons.)

Finally it was time to face Team All-Japan Budogu. Even before the tournament started, they were labelled as the team to beat. Captained by Ms. Mai Kourogi, the 2nd placer in the 2012 All Japan Women’s Championship. And prior to the finals, they dominated the competition, winning on straight 2-0 scorelines all throughout. So did IGA-Ken Team A have it in them to take down this powerhouse? Unfortunately, the answer was no, as Team All-Japan Budogu dominated yet again with another perfect 2-0 scoreline.

(Note: Team IGA-Ken Women’s A is with the red ribbons.)

Still, this was a hard earned 2nd place that IGA-Ken Team A fought for, and they considered themselves honored to have faced such high caliber competition. Shinmei was also awarded a Fighting Spirit Award for her excellent performance throughout the shiai. We are certainly very proud of all of the Ladies’ achievements!

IGA-Ken Women’s Team A receiving their 2nd place trophy from Raymond Lai-Sensei, the president of the Hong Kong Kendo Association.

Later in the 2nd day it was the turn of the Men’s 3Dan and Under Team to show their stuff. This team was composed of Josh (senpo), Jomar (chuken) and Rikki (taisho), with Lyndon waiting at the side in case of an injury.

IGA-Ken Men’s 3Dan and Under Team hamming it up with the Women’s Team A. Upper row from left: Shinmei, Kayo, Loida & Rikki. Lower row from left: Josh, Lyndon & Jomar.

The Team felt that they had a lot to prove, as their outing in the previous year was a bit of a disaster. Everyone watched them start their first match with some tension, but it turned out to be unwarranted. Against their Chinese opponents, the IGA-Ken 3Dan and Under Team dominated, winning on a 2-1, 2-0 and 2-0 scoreline.

(Note: IGA-Ken Men’s 3Dan and Under Team with the white ribbons.)

At this point, the Team had already achieved their goal for the Tournament. All they wanted to do was at least score. In winning their first match, they had more than surpassed this! So it was without pressure that they faced their second opponent, another team from China. Though this match proved to be more difficult, they still pulled out a win with a 2-1, 0-2 and 1-0 scoreline. It took a moment for the importance of winning this match to sink in, but when the realization hit everyone was elated! They were through to the round of 16!

(Note: IGA-Ken Men’s 3Dan and Under Team with the red ribbons.)

The round of 16 saw the 3Dan and Under Team face off against a determined Vietnam Team. As this was the IGA-Ken Team’s first time to be placed in this position, there was some pressure felt. Winning this match would mean breaking into the quarterfinals, and the potential for going into the medal rounds after. Team IGA-Ken members girded up and went into the match with high hopes. It was not to be however, as Vietnam beat them back with a scoreline of 1-2, 0-2 and 0-0. Again though, this was a vast improvement over the previous year. Team IGA-Ken had again something to be proud of!

(Note: IGA-Ken Men’s 3Dan and Under Team with the red ribbons.)

The 3rd day of the competition was solely reserved for the Men’s Open Tournament. It was the time of the “big guns” of IGA-Ken to strut their stuff. Some of IGA-Ken’s strongest kendoka formed this team: Alain (senpo), Nakagane-San (jiho), Matsumoto-Sensei (chuken), and Igarashi-Sensei (taisho). In addition, they were reinforced by Kawabe-Sensei (at fukusho), a member of the All-Japan Budogu squad, who had previously visited IGA-Ken before and specifically requested the chance to join the Team for Hong Kong. In spite of all this Kendo firepower however, the Men’s Open Team also felt that they had something to prove, as the previous year’s foray in this tournament proved to be less than competitive.

IGA-Ken Men’s Open Team. From left: Kawabe-Sensei, Nakagane-San, Matsumoto-Sensei, Alain & Igarashi-Sensei.

Their first match was against Thailand B. In a match up of club sensei vs club sensei, things were very close. After senpo to fukusho were finished, the team wins were even at a score line of 0-2, 2-1, 0-2 & 2-0. In the end, it was up to the taisho to settle things. Igarashi-Sensei gamely tried to match his more physical opponent, but fell (at one point literally fell) with a score of 0-2. Thailand wins the match.

(Note: IGA-Ken Men’s Open Team with the white ribbons.)

Unfortunately, the loss meant that Team IGA-Ken would no longer advance to the round of 16, as Thailand B had already swept their matches in the bracket. Still, they had to face one more opponent in the CKOU Team B from China. So in spite of some feeling of disappointment, they girded up to face their second opponents. Once again, it was a close match, with the score line from senpo to fukusho reading at 0-2, 0-2, 2-0 & 2-0. This meant it was up to Igarashi-Sensei once more to win the match for Team IGA-Ken. At first it seemed the Team was destined for another loss, as the first point was taken by the CKOU taisho. But Igarashi-Sensei dug deep, and in an impressive display took back the point and scored one final one to seal the victory for Team IGA-Ken.

(Note: IGA-Ken Men’s Open Team with the red ribbons.)

Even though this could not affect the final outcome of our Team’s standing in the Men’s Open Tournament, the entire IGA-Ken delegation converged on Igarashi-Sensei at the sidelines, just as if the Team had just won the finals. Everyone felt so good that the Team could end on a winning note, which was through the personal effort of Igarashi-Sensei. And the mission to prove the IGA-Ken Men’s Open Team could be competitive was definitely successful!

By the end of the Taikai, the IGA-Ken Delegation had more than achieved the goals they had set. It was more than just the tournament or shinsa success however. Our success was also shown in how other people were talking and interacting with us. From new found friends, to new fans, to the various sensei who came over (on their own) to praise our achievements. The name IGA-Kendo Club was certainly mentioned with respect. As Rikki would say, we have made our mark in the tournament. While this would admittedly put pressure on us for next year, it is certainly a good feeling that in only our 2nd year to compete in this tournament, the IGA-Kendo Club has made a name for itself as a strong club with good Kendo. So congratulations to each and every member of the delegation. You have made your club, your teachers, and, indeed, the Philippines proud!

See you in Hong Kong next year!

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