Kendo fighters strike back

WARRIOR SPORT: Christchurch kendo fighters Blake Bennett, left front, and Akiyo Yamaguchi Ellin, spar as Ramon Palmer, left, David Wong and Alicia Cavan watch after the five were selected for the New Zealand team.
WARRIOR SPORT: Christchurch kendo fighters Blake Bennett, left front, and Akiyo Yamaguchi Ellin, spar as Ramon Palmer, left, David Wong and Alicia Cavan watch after the five were selected for the New Zealand team.

They have battled earthquakes and now five Christchurch kendo experts are to take on the Australians.

The Canterbury Kendo Club lost two members, Yuko Hirabayashi, 28, and Yuki Hamasaki, 23, and their Lichfield St dojo in the February 22 earthquake.

The Japanese nationals died in the CTV building.

Despite the tragedy, Alicia Cavan, Blake Bennett, Akiyo Yamaguchi Ellin, David Wong and Ramon Palmer battled on to be selected as part of the New Zealand team for the world championships.

Next weekend they will compete in an inaugural Trans-Tasman competition in Auckland, which will prepare the fighters for the 15th World Kendo Championships in Italy this year.

"The main problem was finding somewhere suitable to train," Cavan said. "You need nice wooden floors."

Kendo had helped her cope with the earthquakes, she said.

"Everyone on the team looks after each other. With all the disruption, being able to still have that team atmosphere really helped. Having the world championships to look forward to kept us going."

Wong said the club members did not want to lose sight of the team selections for the world championships. That had kept them going.

New Zealand team coach Alex Bennett, a former Christchurch resident who lives in Kyoto in Japan, took a mortgage to buy the Canterbury Kendo Club a new dojo.

His friends and colleagues in Japan helped to buy a wooden floor for the space.

The club's members had been busy putting in the floors and new changing rooms in the dojo, Cavan said.

Bennett was optimistic about New Zealand's chances in the trans-Tasman competition.

"The Aussies have done pretty well in previous world matches, but we are not far behind. Having a chance to compete at this level is a chance to improve our technique and experience before taking on other countries in the world championships in May," he said.

Kendo is a Japanese form of fencing in which practitioners wear eight kilograms of armour while fighting with bamboo swords.

The Press