In the young world of intercollegiate kendo competition, other schools will have to watch out for the rising dragon of UC Davis.
In just the third tournament appearance in program history,the Aggies took first place Apr.27 at the 12th Annual Harvard-Invitational Shoryuhai Intercollegiate Kendo Tournament, thenation’s most prestigious club kendo event.
“We trained together as a team,fought as a team and achieved our sweet victory as a team,” saidsophomoreKaren Park,club vice president.
The Shoryuhai, which means “rising dragon competition” in Japanese ,featured a23-team field from17schools.Team competition consisted of an initial round-robin format followed by aneight-team playoff bracket.Top two round-robinfinishers advanced to the quarterfinals – something new for UC Davis.
The Aggies did not make it out of the round robin part of the Shoryuhai last year,finishing third.
Teams consist of five members at five different positions: sempo, jiho, chuken, fukusho and taisho. Matches consist of five one-on-one matches,and the winning team must win three out of the five matches.
While the Shoryuhai is a relatively new experience for the program, UC Davis felt prepared at the competition,having adopted a more centered practice style to imitate what it would find inBoston,Mass.
“Since competition style is much more intense than what you see in practices… it really helped out team focus on both striking and countering,defensive techniques,” Park said.
The impact the new style had on the team was obvious,with the Aggies finishing second in their round robin bracket and thendefeatingWaterloo,4-1,in the quarterfinals.
Competition heated up in the semifinal round,with UC Davis pulling out a3-2victory overStony Brook.
From there,the Aggies advanced to the championship match against UC San Diego,a favorite to win it all.
“The competition is very fierce – UCLA and UCSD are top notch competitors,” saidJin EchizenyaYamada,club sensei and UCDavis alumnus.
“Down in[Southern California],there’s a much bigger and stronger kendo following,part of which is due to their higher Japanese population.There are a lot ofnational team members[there],” he said.
The final match started off as a dead heat,with first-yearsempoEugene Jang winning his match andfifth-year jiho Ryan Leue ending his match in a tie.Sophomorechuken Daniel Van Beek’s loss in the third match knotted the score at1-1-1.
Not content with just having made it to the final round,however,Park andjuniortaisho and club presidentMasakazu Nagatome won the final two matches.The two victories clinched the Shoryuhai for UC Davis by a3-1-1score.
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached email@example.com.XXX