Edinburgh University Kendo Club

University Taikai 2013

The annual 2013 University Taikai was organized by UCL and took place in London on the 2nd and 3rd of March. As customary, the University of Edinburgh Kendo Club was represented by their own team of five kendoka who braved the English capital in search for glory: Ms. Joy Everett, Ms Bingxin Li, Mr. Ryoto Takeuchi, Mr. Bogomil Shtarkalev, and Mr. Håkon Winther. A tactical decision was made to travel by train this year, which was infinitely more pleasant than taking the bus as usual. A smooth trip down to London was followed by a not-so-smooth 3-hour train and car ride to Wolverton where we were graciously hosted by EUKC’s former captain Mr. Matthew Failes, his girlfriend Ms. Megan Lloyd-Staples (both former members of EUKC), and their two cats, Thor and Loki. Shopping, fish and chips, Mario Kart, and a nice little chat were all the pleasures we could squeeze in before going to bed at the exceptionally-early hour of 11 pm. On Saturday at 10am the 2013 University Taikai began with the individual competition. The kyu grades came first, so Mr. Shtarkalev and Mr. Winther were up! After a dashing start, Mr. Shtarkalev won his two pool fights with four spectacular men ippon, going through to the next stage. He proceeded to win his first knockout match, though no spectacular points were scored this time as the victory was awarded through two hansoku points made by his opponent. At the next stage Mr. Shtarkalev was sadly eliminated with a score of 2-1. Mr. Winther was a bit more successful. After a decisive victory against the only opponent in his pool, Mr. Winther proceeded to win his next 3 direct elimination fights, thus going to the semi-final. Curiously, he met his opponent from the pools again there, whom he bested once again to gain a place in the final. The kyu grade final between Mr. Winther and Mr. Van der Molen (York) was decisively won by our amazing Norwegian with two ippon, who thus emerged as the winning finalist of the kyu grade competition. The dan grade competition took place in the afternoon on the same day. Due to the fewer registered members there were no pools; everything was direct elimination, aka sudden death! Both Ms Li and Ms Everett fought valiantly against very tough, higher-graded opponents and were unfortunately eliminated in round 1. Mr. Takeuchi started off with an amazing win in round 1, but did not make it past the second round. He was inches away from scoring three do ippon (two of which were impressive gyaku do), but they failed to gain a majority by the shinpan. Showers, sauna (it was amazing!), sayonara party with Vietnamese food and beer, and a train ride to Wolverton completed this enjoyable yet tiring day. Early to bed, early to rise… On Sunday due to cancelled trains we had to drive to London. With the power of the GPS we arrived to the dojo early, giving us time to grab a coffee and transform into human beings once again. An hour later the team competition began! In round 1 EUKC was up against Strathclyde University. Our team won four of the five fights and moved on to the quarter finals of the competition. There we faced LSE’s team led by our good friend Kasper Yearwood. Their team was very strong this year, and we were eliminated with 4 losses and 1 win. LSE proceeded to the final to claim the gold medal in the 2013 University Taikai team competition. We were all satisfied with our performance and had a lot of fun in the competition. Once again happy but tired we hit the showers and the sauna (again), and later on upheld the tradition of going to the nearest McDonalds to buy ourselves and our former captain a well-deserved Big Mac and fries. It was time for goodbyes as we boarded the East Coast train to Edinburgh. I want to conclude by extending our eternal gratitude to Matthew (and Megan) for hosting us and driving us around. He put so much effort into helping us get to Wolverton by picking us up with his car from Northampton (which is not that close at all) and driving us to his house. He was kind enough to provide us with company, shelter, tea, and his Nintendo Wii system. Without him our trip to London on Sunday would have been a lot more complicated, and our sleep much shortened. It was an immense pleasure to reconnect once again, and we all look forward to seeing our good friend again soon in Edinburgh, where a portion of Big Mac and fries awaits him on St. Andrews Square. We would also like to thank Mr. Dez Whitson who, despite having travelled down with a different club, gave us much support and encouragement. I can only hope that the EUKC members who go to the annual 2014 University Taikai in Kent have as much fun as we did this year. Ganbatte!