My first shot at photos of kendo, at the All Japan Kendo Championship last December. The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan ran them in their January issue.
I did Kendo for a few years when I first came to Japan, so this shoot brought back a few memories.
As usual, the annual event was held at the Budokan in Tokyo (it’s easy to forget that the Budokan was built to host martial arts tournaments, not just rock concerts). It’s open to the public, but I got my press pass and a competitor’s eye view from some friends at the excellent Kendo World magazine.
I think that the grimacing competitor in the main photo had just lost. It looks like a mixture of pain, frustration and exhaustion. The tournament is a long, gruelling day for everyone – competitors, judges and photographers alike.
I had a fairly pained expression myself after several hours sitting on a cold gymnasium floor waiting for the one winning strike in each bout.
I took a few hundred photos, mostly of ’zanshin’, the kendo name for the moment after a strike. It’s not easy to catch the decisive moment in kendo.
Perhaps video is the answer? There’s youtube video of the end of the last bout after the photos. It’s pretty dramatic.