The International Naginata Federation (INF) held its World Championship Saturday, June 28, at San Jose State University, San Jose California. This is the 3rd cycle for the Naginata World Championship. The previous Taikai were Paris in 1999 and Tokyo in 1995.
Unfortunately, the Japanese choose not to attend. The AJNF in mid May, with less than 6 weeks to go, requested that the Taikai be postponed until at least September. Their Omote reason was that they were afraid of catching SARS. The fact that there was no SARS in San Jose, and only a single reported case for all of Northern California seemed to have no effect on their decision. The INF polled its member countries and 7 of the 10 members voted to continue as scheduled. Only Brazil and New Zealand voted with Japan. Brazil was not planning to come anyway because of the weak economy in Brazil. New Zealand did send a representative. The other 7 members of the INF had teams in the Taikai. The attending countries were: Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, France, New Zealand, Netherlands, Sweden and the USA. Missing were Brazil and Japan.
The AJNF told its members not to come at all. Fortunately, there were several Shimpan who had strong ties to the USA and the INF who refused to be so ordered. The Chief Judge was Funaharu Shizue Sensei, Hanshi. She was assisted by Kyoshi: Kimura Yasuko, Ebisawa Ban, Fukuda Keiko, Sato Kouko. The General Secretary of the INF, Tamaki Katsuko Renshi, was as always extremely busy making sure everything was running correctly. The two USA Kyoshi and two USA Renshi plus help from two French Renshi completed the Shimpan panel. Tanaka Miyako, Kyoshi, was the host country representative, and Yamauchi Sachiko was the Taikai director.
The INF held a Board of Directors and General Meeting on Sunday, June 29. At that time they accepted the application from Canada as the 11th member country into the INF.
The President of the INF, Yanagawa Kakuji, has been ill for some time and resigned. A new President of the INF was voted in unanimously by all member countries present. The INF is priviledged to have as its second President Hashimoto Kumiko. She is the wife of former Japanese Prime Minister and well known Kendo-ka Hashimoto Ryutaro. While some thought it strange that Hashimoto San did not know any Naginata when she became INF President (niether did the former President), it became very clear how seriously she took her new position when on Monday morning at the INF seminar she came in hakama ready for her first lesson. It became quite impressive to watch how fast she learned. Part of it was having semi-private lessons from different members of the Shimpan. But, mostly it was her own hard work for the entire 3 days of the seminar. Practicing on her own when the instructors were busy also made a very good impression on everyone. The result was that on Wednesday afternoon the USNF promoted her to Yonkyu. Some of us thought that Sankyu was closer to the mark. I personally think she is going to make a wonderful President.
The Taikai was held on Saturday June 28th 2003 in the non-airconditioned gym of SJSU. Normally it wouldn't matter, but it was 104 on Thursday, 103 on Friday and over 100 on Saturday. Inside the gym it had to be well over 100 degrees (39 C). It was brutal, but the Taikai went on without a hitch. After the march in by the officials and contestants by country, a short but strong speech was given in English, French and Japanese by INF Vice President Kondo Tadahiko.
There was an interesting demostration of Aztec dances as the Taikai was readied to begin.
The first contest was the Engi Shiai which is a two person kata competition with two teams performing the same 3 kata before 5 judges. The final pairing for first place was Bruce Mitchell and Eric Montes from the USA. 2nd place went to Belgium's Philibert Vandersleyen & Tyl Dermine. 3rd went to France's team of Loric Delalande & Dominique Pouchard.
The Women's Individual came up next and the USA did not fare very well. First place went to a strong competitor Jana Soukupova from the Czech Rep. Second place went to Catherine Parisis of France, and Annick Henrotte of Belgium got third.
After lunch, the men's individual matches were swept by Belgium. The order of first to third were: Jonathana D'Hose, Tly Dermine and David D'Hose.
The Women's Team matches had only 3 teams entered and their order was France, Belgium and the USA.
Things looked up for the Men's Team match with the USA team of Martin Nobida Sempo, Kevin Saxton Chuken and Bob Peterson Taisho taking first place. The Belgium team came in a close second with France as third. There were also teams fron the Netherlands and Australia who gave them a rough time.
The over all trophy was awarded to a very strong and talented Belgium team. This will make it easy for them to return the trophy for the next Taikai in 2007 since they will be the host country.
While the scores were added up, there was a 5 demostration matches between Kendo and Naginata. Two of the Kendo-ka were also Naginata-ka earlier in the day. The matches were exciting with the Naginata-ka only scoring a couple points more than the Kendo-ka.
The next day was the Friendship Tournament, thankfully the temperature dropped over 20 degrees on Saturday night making the rest of the time very pleasant. The contestants were divided into four groups: Dangai men and women, Yudansha men and women. There were only trophies for first place in each group. The winners are:
I do not have a complete list of those promoted, but Ellery Engalla is a new Shodan and Ray Sosnowski is a new Sandan. Many USA Sandan's are now Yondan, including: Diana Payne from Colorado, and Kevin Saxon from Los Angeles, to mention a couple.
Congratulations to everyone!