The 19th World Kendo Championship will be extra special for the Philippines as it competes for the very first time on the sport’s biggest stage, sending a 15-strong national contingent to Milan, Italy who will be vying for gold and glory in the world tilt from July 4 to 7.

The national delegation, officially represented by the United Kendo Federation of the Philippines (UKFP), is composed of eight male and seven female kendokas (kendo practitioner): Denise Verastigue-Gonzales, Reida-Jade Renovilla, Fides Desacada-Tatlonghari, Loida Estanilla-Inting, Verna Chiongbian, Melduen Castillon, Xylia Alzate, Emerson Sychingiok, Michael Logarta, Matthew Arce, Paul Minoza, Steven Canete, Ralph Lee, Elvin Villarama, and Inoue Yuta.

The team is under the tutelage of head coach Akita Tomoyuki, as well as assistant coaches Shingaki Keitai and Itoh Masamichi (women’s coaches), and Esaki Yuta (men’s coach). UKFP President and delegation leader Kristopher Inting also joined the squad in Italy. 

The selection process for the national pool for the Milan, Italy games started way back in November 2022 when UKFP conducted its first ever local promotions event in the country, two years after it received accreditation from the International Kendo Federation (FIK) in 2020. 

Prior to these exams, Filipino kendo practitioners had to fly to other countries like Japan in order to formalize their rankings and conduct their promotions.

Since the sport’s momentous first in 2022, and in the lead up to the 2024 Worlds, “there were a lot of Philippine Kendo qualifying tournaments that culminated in the Philippine National Kendo Tournament (PNKT) last October 2023” shared national team member Paul Minoza of Cebu during an interview with GMA Regional TV News.

The two-day national competition in Marikina attracted Kendo artists from all across the Philippines, and saw the participation of delegates hailing from prominent regional kendo clubs such as the Cebu Kendo Club, Davao Kendo Club, Davao Kenyukai, Dumaguete Kendo Club, OISCA Negros Kendo Club, among others.

On top of the tournament-based qualifiers, athletes also had to participate in a series of practice sessions and seminars to pass the coaches’ “look test.”

“There were seminars where those who applied for the national pool are separated, parang special training for the national pool, ang culmination activity was the nationals. What the coaches were looking for were, of course, if you won, and skill level, battle experience, and maturity siyempre,” said Minoza, a 4-Dan Kendoka himself who's been a member of the Cebu Kendo Club since 2015. “Sa seminars kasi, may mini-competitions din.”

The country’s inaugural delegation at the World Kendo Championships was made possible through UKFP’s formal membership accreditation from the International Kendo Federation (FIK) which it received in 2020. 

The national governing body, in order to officially secure a Worlds berth, underwent the procedural phase of its application which included submissions of documentation and registration papers to prove interest and gain the recognition of FIK.

The 19th World Kendo Championships is the sport's much-anticipated return after a six-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last Worlds tournament was in 2018.

Held every three years, 19WKC features individual and team events for both the men’s and women’s categories, and expects the participation of more than 650 athletes from around 60 countries.

Kendo is a modern Japanese martial art that centers on the art of handling the sword. It is considered a form of fencing that makes use of a two-handed bamboo sword (shinai) and a heavy protective gear (bōgu). 

Kendo practitioners, or Kendoka, play the sport through sparring matches while wearing their full protective armors. 

There are two major categories to play at the World Kendo Championship: the Individual Competition and the Team Competition (five Kendoka per team). Each major event has a separate sub-classification for Men’s and Women’s.