At last, the event I've been training for the entire year rolled round once again! The British Universities Taikai, affectionately known as the Uni Taikai. This year the event is held up in Edinburgh. I've always wanted to go to Scotland and what better excuse than to compete in a kendo tournament!
The UCL squad was quite upbeat for this event, we feel it's about time we win it again seeing that we're entering quite a strong team too. For the journey North, some of us took the coach, and the others took the train from London.
Straight into the competition, first up on Saturday, we breeze through the pools, and the first round for that matter. We were expecting the SOAS team (who were on the train with me) in the quarter-finals, but it turned out they were knocked out by Queen Mary, which surprised us a little. Easier task for us may be?
Or so I thought ...
we were doing ok actually, if the score stands we'd be in the Semis. All that remained was for me to go out there and either a) win b) draw or c) lose by 1 point. Sounds easy enough. The problem though was I had to fight S. Aziz, I have beaten him before but it was a challenge, and I'm expecting heavy resistance from the big man. I told the lads from the beginning to try and win it because I can't guarantee anything. As the match progresses I became less and less focused, his habit of going into, and playing it from Tsubazerai was beginning to unnerve me. I hate that! Mentally he must have had an advantage too, he goes into the match thinking, right ... he's got to win by two points, no excuses, otherwise they're out. As for me, I'm thinking, should I draw? Or go for it? This is never a good thought to have in Kendo, and I don't know why I had it. In come Aziz with a hiki-men. Right ... one down, panic time, get it back or hold out? I just genuinely couldn't make up my mind, and Aziz is not the kind of opponent that you can afford to do that against. Next thing I know he 'scored' a kote, I'm still not happy about it, but I suppose the opportunity was there and I allowed for it to happen. What happens now is a decider's match: as I walked off the court, ashamed of my performance, Anthony was already putting his Men on looking real pumped. All I could do was sit and wait, I don't know how many times I've put my team in such situations before, Mumeishi, Bowden ... normally it's poor ol' Joe who has to rectify my incompetence, and I hate it. After a long fight, Anthony looked more and more in control. It's only a matter of time now. Until out of nowhere, Aziz smacks a kote, which ... hit the tsuba, but yet again it was given. At this point, my heart sank to the bottom of my foot. That's it, my last ever UniTaikai and I've let my team down, as a Taisho. Needless to say I profusely apologised to my team mates, they were obviously gutted, but still upbeat for the individuals. I couldn't do the same until some time later, it was really, devastating. So close, yet so far ... our competition ended there, QMUL went on to the finals and lost to Edinburgh. We so should've been there.
The Sayonara party was a good de-stresser though. Flows of Scottish whiskies and continental beers later, we ended up having a rather enjoyable/boisterous night. To be fair debaucheries and kendokas are synonymous! What else did I expect.
Thank goodness the organisers were kind on us with the starting time for the individuals event. After we've registered, the Kyu grade competition was up first. Naturally, we slept ... in true UCL fashion.
I was first up in the pools, fighting Sumi and Wu? I forget his name, but he was an Edinburgh kendoka on the winning team. Anyhow, I won the match against Wu, so did Sumi. So we're both Sumi and I are through, both pretty relaxed, good set-up for a fun fight no? Of course, perfect recipe.
Off the bat I went for sho-men only to be encountered by a decisive dabana kote, why do I never learn? The nerve-wrecking fight went back and forth for quite sometime, I was running out of ideas, and I was pretty certain time was going to be up soon, only for Sumi to pull a katate-tsuki and miss, thus my opportunity, smacked his men, managed to pull a hikiwake.
(To watch the vids, try these links: Part 1 Part 2 ........... I hope they work, they're on facebook so I'm not sure about the privacy settings)
In the next round I drew Lu. I've just come to realised (when I was going through my videos when I got home in London), that I've lost to him before two years previous ... but on the day, no problem. He got the first point off me though, but I was able to hold it together and pull through with two Men cuts. I love coming from behind (you're so childish, don't even go there) to win. The moment you equalise your opponent becomes completely demoralised, and they begin to panic. It's much harder to win that way though, as you'll probably crumble yourself, but if you can do it, good on ya!
Then as I anticipated, I had Aziz in the quarter-finals once more. There was nothing more I wanted than that match on the day. It was my chance for revenge! I wanted to kill him badly. I had to at least try to get back in the race for our grudge matches. I could also prove that he's not the better kendoka, that I've improved more, the list goes on. As it turned out, that didn't happen either. He got me. Again. I guess he really was the better kendoka on the weekend. It was of course, disheartening at first, but I think it's given me a fresh motivation. With experiences like these it's no wonder kendo can really become a lifetime pursuit. Two points. Aziz moved on to play Anthony, who also lost (but only by 1). He then won the gold.
Thus ended our invasion of Scotland. Battered, the UCL troop turned round for London empty handed. (well anthony and emily did return with something, but if I'd mention that it'd be less dramatic) But the failures didn't end there. Oh no. Thanks to EastCoast rail I had to stand all the way from bloody Newcastle to London. That's fucking ages for you. So much for open return. Fuck you EastCoast! Keep running it like that and I hope you go bankrupt soon, ha ha! There. Feel a bit better about it now that I've cursed them on the world wide web.
Peace out people. Until the next blog, keep safe.