Monday, September 29, 2008

Shinpan Seminar

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Shinpan seminar in Lexington, KY, instructed by Ariga-Sensei.

For those not in the know, a Shinpan is one of three people that judge any given Kendo match. The purpose of these seminars is to get people accustomed to all that is involved in judging a match.

When we see someone judging matches, it's easy to complain about how they score whether it be that they missed several good points, didn't give hansoku (penalty) when they should have, or just didn't seem into it. From the outside, it seems pretty simple; see a point, raise a flag. See an offense, give a hansoku. But what I quickly realized was that everything isn't as black and white as it seems.

For example, when scoring a point, it's not as simple as seeing someone strike men and raise a flag. Things to consider here are the concepts and intents behind Ki-Ken-Tai-Icchi (Spirit, Sword, Body as One), Zanshin and whether or not the person is showing spirit or just showing off. In terms of penalties, one has to differentiate between someone doing something illegal or if it's just part of a waza. You even have to think about where you are in the court since there are certain parts of the court that's your area and making sure you always have optimal view of the match.

After that, we had some matches to give the higher-ranked people to show us what they learned throughout the day. Some of the more fun ones were the ones where offenses were done on purpose, such as walking out without a tasuki, excessive pushing and holding the shinai with the wrong orientation.

I definitely learned a lot throughout the day. It gave me a whole new perspective on judging to hopefully make it less daunting when I have to go through the shinpan stuff once I reach San-Dan. Don't get me wrong, I always had respect for the judges. Heck, the sportsmanship pledge says that you agree that the judges' decisions are final. But now I have a better understanding of what goes through the minds of the shinpan within that 3-minute match. Thank God there's 3 of them.


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