It was the big day. In my dad’s car, my head was filled with worries. When I opened my eyes from the worries, I was already at where the tournament was held. I walked into the big and crowded stadium. All the other city kendo academy students were there. Our academy, the White Horse, has won at least one championship in every tournament. I met my best friend, who was in my team. I was the captain of my team, with two of my other friends. I put on my heavy armor and started warming up.
The game rules are simple. There are three referees and the player has to hit the opponent’s wrist, stomach, or head. In the adult’s game, they can also stab the neck. The player who earns 2 points first in the few minutes wins. If you go over the line, you get a warning. If you get 2 warnings, the opponent gets a point.
The game started. My first teammate won against the other team’s first opponent. My second teammate lost. If I lost here, our team was out of the tournament. I walked to the flat ring where the game was held. I bowed to the opponent and the game started. I was an aggressive player and I usually got the first point and then started defending. My opponent was bigger than me but he was slow. I waited for the perfect opportunity to strike while blocking my opponent’s hits.
Then, “bam!” I hit my opponent’s head with lightning speed. The referees pointed the flag towards me, which meant a point. After that my opponent was aggressive and “Crash!” He landed a hard hit on my head. Now, the player who gets the second point first wins. I was desperate and inside my tight helmet, I was sweating a lot. I landed savage hits on my opponent’s head and stomach, but I didn’t get any points. We were pushing each other with our swords, when my opponent went over the line. He got a warning. Soon after that, he went over the line again, and I got the final point. Our team won.
“Yahoo!” our team cheered and we waited for the next round.
It was time for the next round. This time the opponent team was strong. They beat up our first player but fortunately, my best friend who was the second player, won. Again it was up to me. The opponent team’s captain was taller than me which made me a little nervous. I clutched my bamboo sword tightly as the match started. I knew what I had to do. Make my opponent nervous. I shouted my battle-starter, which I do every time a battle starts to make my opponent scared or nervous. I striked the opponent’s head but I didn’t get a point.
Then, “Crack!” The sound of my opponent’s bamboo sword hitting my head swirled in my ear.
‘Oh no, that’s definitely a point, I’m doomed!’ I thought. Thanks to God, my opponent didn’t make the perfect move when he hit me, so he didn’t get a point.
I heard my teammates cheering for me and I knew that it was now or never. I had to use my signature move even though it was very risky. In the last tournament, I lost while doing the move. I knew that time was flying away and that my teammates were counting on me. With my adrenaline flowing through my body, I hit the opponent’s sword that was pointing towards me. That drew his attention and I struck his head fast like a black mamba. The referees pointed a flag toward me, it was a point.
‘Wow, that was some heart pounding game.’ I thought as I went back to my position. My opponent started pushing me and that made me go off the line. The referee gave a warning to me.
I screamed in my head, ‘What the heck! He was the one who pushed me.’
I thought to myself, ‘I must get revenge!’ I whacked my opponent’s head and charged forward. As I charged, my opponent fell down on the ground hard. Soon the referee blew the whistle, it was our victory. Now we were going to the champions round.
When I looked at the team game chart, I figured out that our team was fighting with our academy’s oldest enemy’s team. White Horse academy and the Dunsan academy have been enemies for years. Dunsan academy students were strong, fast, and well trained. Though in my opinion, the White Horse academy’s students are more powerful. The match started, and I started to worry when my first teammate’s game ended as a tie, and when my second teammate lost.
Luckily, my second teammate’s game score was 1 to 0, which meant if I win by 2 to 0, our team would win.
I stepped inside the ring, faced my opponent and whispered, “I can do this.” I squeezed my sword as hard as I could and pointed the tip of my sword towards my opponent. The match started and I was determined to win.
That second, my brain was divided into two sections. The first one said, “Play aggressively that way you can earn the two points faster and win in less than a minute.” The second one said, “If you play aggressively, you will be making chances for the opponent. Wait for the right time and then strike.” I looked at the opponent, he looked as if he was waiting for the perfect opportunity.
‘If that guy isn’t attacking, then I will.’ I thought, which turned out to be a huge mistake. As I lunged at my opponent, my opponent aimed his sword at a 45 degree angle and with his head lowered, lunged at me too. One second before my opponent’s sword hit me, I realized what I had done.
My sword hit nothing but air and my opponent’s sword had already whacked my stomach armor with great force. The referees pointed the flag toward my opponent.
My foolishness drove our team to an end to the championship goal. I still had little hope, if I get 2 points, the whole match would end as a tie and we would have a second chance. I tried my very best, but I lost by a savage strike to the head. After the tournament, I trained extra hard for the next championship that was coming up. I learned that every pro kendo player wins by waiting for the perfect time to strike. Next time, I think I will play aggressively on the perfect time.
About the Author
Eric Han is a fifth grader and a student of Neha Jonnalagedda. In his free time, he enjoys Kendo.