Judging the East-West Debates
After the adrenalin rush of our first debate event had settled, Sunday afforded us the opportunity to judge at the East-West debate tournament. This was a very important event, with only the top competitors from the east and west of Japan qualifying to participate. Soon after we arrived at the tournament, Leah and I were asked to judge on a panel in the semifinal rounds. The round I watched was a great case debate with an AIDs disad. Apparently, Leah’s round was bit more complicated (the negative team ran two new counterplans in the 2nc).
We also watched the final round, which was KDS vs. WESA. Kevin, Leah and I were asked to make a grand entrance behind the seven judges, and all of the students clapped. In fact, we sat in the front of the room with the judges and the competitors, with pieces of tape across the aisle ways, separating us from the debaters in the audience. Needless to
say, this was quite different from my judging experience in the US!
After the round, as the judges were deliberating, we were asked to give some comments. Kevin and Leah talked about impact analysis and framing a story. When one coach in the audience asked if we could understand the debater’s English, we explained that we could for the most part, with the only real exception being the lack of emphasis in card reading. This prompted me to explain some of the reading drills that I do with the debaters at Pitt. When I applied for this tour, did I have any idea that someday I’d be speed-reading cards in front of fifty Japanese debaters with a pen in my mouth? No. Am I glad that I did it? Absolutely.
Once the final round was decided (4-3 for WESA), and a very amusing awards ceremony was held, we all headed off to a restaurant for dinner. We had a fabulous time with great Japanese food (including veggie tempura, pickled eggplant, tofu and salad—us vegetarians didn’t go hungry) beer, mixed drinks, and sake. We had a great time talking with the debaters. Kevin and Leah teased me (this would be the first time of many) for talking debate the whole time with a small cohort of NDT trivia lovers, while the rest of the conversation at the table had moved on to movies, music and culture. The debaters I was talking to were very interested in doing drills to improve their pronunciation, and at one point I had them doing the “pen drill” with chopsticks…what a priceless photo.
We left dinner around 11 to head back to the hotel and pack because we had an early plane to Fukuoka in the morning. We wish we could have stayed out longer, but all agreed that it had been a fantastic day. While many of our debates on the tour will be to wider audience, and thus require a demonstration event format, it was truly intriguing for us to see what competitive debate in the JDA is like. How great that debate is thriving in Japan!