Every April 28 in the dojo of the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo, the All Japan High Dan Judo Tournament (Zen Nihon Kodansha Taikai) is held. All competitors must be Kodokan licensed 5th dan and above; almost 1400 Japanese and 10 of us foreigners. Having competed in the Taikai on a regular basis over the years, I am somewhat of a fixture to many of the regulars that compete.
The day got underway with the traditional taiko drum opening followed by kata demonstrations and finally the competitions! Fifth dan competitors are in the smaller dojo on the 5th floor while 6th dan and above compete in dai-dojo (main dojo – four full-sized competition areas) on the 7th floor. My buddy Keith Durrant (6 dan) and I had to wait until after lunch for our match time. Keith, from Kamakura City, and I have encouraged/coached each other for many years. Competitors are matched with an opponent of identical rank and roughly the same size and weight. Keith made short work of his opponent winning his match by ippon in just over 10 seconds. Now the goal was set for me to also make my match a short one. At the bow-in we approached each other and took kumi-kata. After a few feints to gauge his response, I felt yoko-tomoe-nage would do the trick. One more feint, in with the left yoko-tomoe and I score ippon – in just over 20 seconds! At the conclusion of the tournament, Keith was one of the small number of judoka awarded a plaque and certificate for exceptional technique; this is the 4th time Keith has received this award! An excellent ending for us in this year’s Taikai!
Early the next morning we headed to the Nippon Budokan to take in the All Japan Judo Championships! I never cease to marvel at this beautiful building built to host the judo competitions at the 1964 Olympics. Keith was able to get our group the ‘usual’ great seating with an excellent view of the competition and also allowing for great videoing opportunities with my pocket camcorder!
Right at 11 am, the taiko drum sounds the start of the action – the competitors walk into the arena and each one is introduced not only by the announcer, but also by a beat from the taiko drum! Opening remarks, the singing of the national anthem, and the judo competitions begin. This year’s winner was Takamasa Anai, 28 year old 5th dan who previously won, and who had announced his retirement from further competition just the day before the AJJC! I must say he went out in great style!
So that’s it for another year – Keith and I have plans for same place, same time, next year!
Aberdeen Judo Academy