ICUT blog










It always amazes me how much there is to take from debating. Aside from the various interdisciplinary fields that the different motions touch on, the game continues to teach me a lot more about the fundamental things in life: how to have better communication for better teamwork, what is the right attitude to have for different scenarios and challenges, how to be a better decent human being in general. As I constantly change and rewire myself in this current chapter through university, I like to remind myself every now and then about the things I’ve learned and things I should be thankful for. This is Hirokazu Matsuda, a third-year at Keio University, and I would like to write about my recent experience at the ICU tournament held earlier this year.



I still remember the day when we decided to enter the tournament, when a group of KDS members went to Hamazushi for some post-practice sushi last November. Baba was talking about how he didn’t have a partner for the upcoming ICUT, I was talking about how I didn’t have a partner for the upcoming ICUT, Baba asked me who a potential third partner would have been, I called over to Junji on the next table and asked him if he wanted to go to ICUT, he said 「行くか」 with a big smile and that was that. All concluded within the span of a minute and without much further thought.


In retrospect, our teaming eventually ended up to be ideal considering the circumstances. Following the conclusion of a busy school year, we were able to utilize the limited time we had effectively as we very familiar with each other’s debate styles and personalities, thanks to having teamed up once before. Despite the blank in debate following the winter break and the painful final exams, we were able to quickly reacquaint ourselves and settle down into a familiar rhythm that reminded me of the practices we used to hold a year earlier. We were the type of team who joked around and could relax in each other’s company, but at the same time could have high-aspiring goals, able to openly and constructively assess and criticize one another. I think that this is what really made the whole tournament and practices leading up to it enjoyable and meaningful, equally as important to the actual results of the tournament.



Looking back at the tournament rounds, I highly doubt that people would be interested in the actual arguments we made; at times we make good cases and utilize effective strategy, at others we strong-arm our way through with one-dimensional arguments or squirrel motions. Rather, I’d simply like to write about some thoughts that I had during and after key rounds in the tournament that, hopefully, could prove to be an interesting read.


Round 1 – THBT adult film stars should not be allowed to participate in mainstream media content targeted at children


Never underestimate psychological maintenance before rounds. We started the morning with a fun and wholesome debate with the tournament’s eventual champions. I can’t account for my teammates, but I failed when I let the words ‘WUDC Open-breakers’ and ‘優勝候補’ get to me long before the round even began. The lesson here was simply, to not disadvantage yourself by regarding more experienced debaters as unbeatable. Thinking back, there was a lot of simple analysis and premises that could have easily been rebutted. We placed ourselves in their world, accepting many of the premises that they laid on the table as truth and ‘common-sense’ (Whether porn was bad in the first place…). It wasn’t necessarily *that* enjoyable considering we were absolutely wrecked, but it was definitely a meaningful round, having been able to go against such experienced debaters in an earlier round that didn’t have a lot on the line.


Round 3 – THW prioritize maximizing the welfare of the entire animal population over furthering efforts to protect endangered species


Use clear examples. Being able to clearly illustrate the problems that concern animal breeding and testing, and being able to provide real solutions through better allocation of funding changes the game on levels of persuasion and was indispensable from Opposition side. What I found extremely interesting was how speakers would spout out words such as ‘habitat homogenization’, ‘monocultures’, and ‘biodiversity’, as if they were scientists who were legit experts in field. Everyone certainly spoke as if they were on the matter, and even I was bewildered at myself over the number of times I talked about the ‘effects on the ecosystem’. It goes vice versa, but the analytical reasoning using ‘big words’ wouldn’t have stood without examples that could have been easily conceptualized by the adjudicators.


Round 4 – THR the global youth’s prioritization of improving their resume at all costs


Abuse the motion. On prop, we exploited the wording ‘at all costs’ until there was nothing left to give, and then we exploited it some more. Pretty straightforward debate with plenty of exaggerated illustration and characterization grabbing.


Round 5 – Assuming there is sufficient raw data for the A.I. to learn from, THW introduce A.I. judges to the court


This was a round we really wanted to win in order to secure our break, however failed due to the lack of deeper understanding and speculation on how A.I. would function within the courts. What needed to be explained was the unique importance of supreme court cases, how they were landmark decisions that covered controversial and new ground, and how A.I. were unable to emotionally account for the importance of human values. Quite an embarrassing loss considering how we had 2 law students in our team including myself, but at least it gave us a lot to think. Nothing better to learn from than from your own mistakes.


Round 6 – THR using academic boycott as a form of protest against oppressive governments


It was only after the round that both teams became aware of the issue concerning BDS in Israel, so the round took place without the real relevant context within the current state of international affairs. It was interesting how I thought that many clashes by the debaters seemed irrelevant, yet seemed to blow out of proportion in the speeches of later speakers (signaling my tendency to be unable to think outside my own established framework). This round clarified a few ideas I had about ‘debate’ in general: 1) No matter how you personally view how the debate went, just a few sentences spoken by speakers on either team can greatly change the dynamics of the debate. 2) Often times, whether a judge takes an argument depends on the balance between the extent an argument was substantiated compared to the extent an opposing argument was substantiated. It goes without saying, but the substantiation is not about how many fancy words you say, but how much you manage to base it on realism. 3) Debate the debate that took place, not the debate that you think should have happened. Stay alert, keep track, and adjust accordingly. Sounds simple, takes a lifetime to master…


Break Night – Break night was held at a fancy place where we enjoyed a lot of drinks and alcohol, not so much of food. The good company made the wait till the break announcement worthwhile, and the actual break itself (8th!) pretty much justified everything else I already forgot to complain about. So much for being accountable.


Octofinals – THBT politicians who are of oppressed identities should actively distance themselves from their identities whilst contesting and/or holding positions in nationally elected offices


As Gov, I heard a lot of comments after the round about how we miss-vetoed the set. Our fault for not knowing how to do the ‘preferable’ motion, but still a doable motion in my humble opinion. Where we failed was the characterization of the wording ‘actively distance’ (which we lacked engagement and were called out on squirrelling), but more importantly, the message that this sent to the public, how they perceived it, and how it brought about actual change. We fell into a classic trap of our team: where we decided a case and defended it to the death. Call it stubborn or determined, the inability to be able to account for the opposition side’s arguments out of our overwhelming desire for victory was the susceptibility that our team faced time and time again. While we had clearly improved individually and as a team compared to a year back, a familiar fault coming back to bite us where it hurts was a disappointment. At the end of the day, I felt that we had given a lot of what we could give and gave the opponents a worthwhile challenge before withdrawing back and out of the spotlight.



We told ourselves that we were AT LEAST going to get into the semi-finals (evident in our line group name), and despite falling out of the tournament at the Octofinals, I could not have asked for a more satisfactory and meaningful experience. There will always be more things that could have been done, more things that could have been improved, but wherein the teamwork and mutual-improvement was there, this tournament experience will remain as one that I can cherish for a long time.


While I love BP and the chaos and wit that come along with it, I felt that this was really the first tournament where I managed to get a better understanding and appreciation for the teamwork dynamics of three versus three debating. While I often hear talks of ‘teamwork’ and ‘strategy’ from more experienced debaters, this was a tournament where I was more conscious of the little shifts of stances and nuances that occurred throughout the debate, was more keen on preparing strategies to overcome predictable hurdles, and was more integrated as a team in managing to apply them.


Another small joy I found in this tournament was where I pretty much managed to overcome my fear of delivering the leader speeches. After much thought and deliberation, it has come to my understanding that 1st speeches, while undoubtedly challenging and incredibly important in setting up the debate, relatively follow the same format and are fairly simple. When you have two other impassioned teammates who are very eager to critically offer their ideas for a winning case, the prep time goes a long way for creating a speech that is quite ‘solid’. You might find me changing my mind come BP season, but for now, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience of delivering leader speeches, irrespective for how the entire debate actually pans out.


Shoutout to my amazing teammates and good friends Junji and Baba, my fellow institution members and practice mates, as well as the sempai’s who allowed us to tag along and watch their prep and speeches on the sidelines. I can only hope to have provided the same level of positive influence that has been provided unto me.


ICU tournament results

Grand finalist (準優勝)
High Risk Low Return (mitsushi ono, sayaka nakano joint )

Semi finalist (ベスト4)
T.M. Revolution (hikari tamura joint )

Oct finalist (ベスト16)
4th Retirement (chin yi chow joint )

KDS A (kiyonobu tamai, momoka shibata, kaito suzuki )

KDS E (hirokazu matsuda, junji yamamoto, takua baba )

Speaker awards (個人賞)
6th best :mitsushi ono
7th best :takua baba

Breaking adjudicator (予選通過審査員)
hana muramatsu