Last weekend on the 4th and 5th of March, the annual UK Kendo University Championships took place in Cambridge, where Imperial College took home several awards, including winning the kyu grade team competition.

Kendo is a Japanese martial art, similar to European fencing, where the objective in competitions is to score points by striking the opponent on one of several predetermined target areas with a shinai (bamboo sword), which represents a real Japanese katana. Kendo is a relatively recent descendant of earlier Japanese sword schools, which emerged due to a need to practice without the danger of real or wooden swords.

The University Championships are divided into six categories, with four individual events: the men and women’s kyu for players with less than two years’ experience; the men and women’s open for players with more than two years’ experience or with a dan grade; as well as two team events: the kyu and open team competitions, where competitors fight in teams of five with similar experience restrictions as seen in the individual competitions.

Our competitors left for Cambridge on Friday evening, staying overnight ready for an early start on Saturday morning for the individual competitions. On Saturday, the championship began simultaneously with the men and women’s kyu grade individual events, where a total of sixteen of our members competed.

In the men’s kyu category, most of our members were knocked out in the pool stages, but one of our members, Spencer Cheung, made it to the semi-finals, winning joint third place. In the women’s kyu, three Imperial players competed, with one making it to the quarter finals. Both the men and women’s kyu were eventually won by players from Cardiff Metropolitan University. On Saturday afternoon, after the kyu grade events, the men and women’s open competitions took place. No members from Imperial took part in the women’s open, and both competitors from Imperial in the men’s open were unfortunately eliminated in the pool stages. These were eventually won by players from York and Bradford respectively.

The championship adjourned here for the day, and after a short free practice session with competitors from other universities and senior kendo players, our members retired for dinner and early rest in preparation for the team competitions on Sunday.

On Sunday morning, the highly anticipated kyu team competition took place, followed by the open team competition. Two teams from Imperial took part in the kyu category: Imperial B was knocked out by University of Kent A in the first round, but Imperial A decisively won their first-round match against York, to face the strong Denshinkan A team in the second round. Against Denshinkan, Imperial A were not off to a great start, with the first two fights going to Denshinkan by two points each. The third fight, fought by Sup Song from Imperial, needed to be won, and Sup delivered with an impressive win of two points. Imperial’s Liam Yasin was in fourth position, and won by one point, leaving the score at two fights each, Denshinkan with more points, leaving it to the fifth fight to decide the match.

Our fifth and final player, Spencer Cheung, was up against one of the strongest players in the kyu category, who had won the individual event the day before. A victory being necessary to continue; Spencer delivered with a decisive two-point win against the player from Denshinkan. Thus, Imperial A emerged victorious against Denshinkan A, three fights to two.

Imperial A, with further wins against Lancaster and the joint Glasgow/Strathclyde team, proceeded to the final against the team from Oxford University. With Oxford winning the first and third fights, and Imperial winning the second and fourth, it was again going to be decided by the fifth fight. Spencer won the fight crushingly by two points, giving Imperial A first place in the kyu teams category for the first time in many years.

Unfortunately, the Imperial team competing in the open category lost in the first round to King’s College London, and was knocked out of the competition. This category was eventually won by Oxford University after an exciting final between Oxford and York, culminating in a representative match between the first and second place winners of the men’s open the previous day.

Many congratulations go to the members of Imperial A (Ze Rong Lum, Jaime Rodriguez, Byung Sup Song, Liam Yasin and Spencer Cheung) for winning the kyu teams competition, and Spencer Cheung for placing third in the men’s kyu individuals. Many thanks also go to our coach, Emiko Yoshikawa, who has spent many years coaching Imperial students in the art of Kendo, for her dedication and support to the club.

The 2017-18 University Championships will be hosted by Glasgow University.