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Sensha-dō is a form of martial arts that involves the use of tanks as weapons. This martial art is exclusive for women who start practicing it as early as from elementary school up to high school, university and adulthood. According to an old film called “Introduction to Sensha-dō”, the purpose of Sensha-dō is for women to grow their self-esteem, assist them in becoming professional and efficient citizens and develop the characteristics necessary to become good wives and mothers. Given the film was released in 1939 and sound more like propaganda, by the time of the events featured in the anime Sensha-dō is seen and treated more like a sport in which girls have fun and compete generally in a friendly way and where you have, like in most modern-day sports, leagues, tournaments, regulations, teams and spectators watching Sensha-dō matches in the stands or in television.
Sensha-dō is conduct like a team sport, where a group of girls drive a certain number of tanks organized into a team and fight an opposing team on a field previously chose and whose dimensions and terrain can vary from one match to another. The match works like a mock-up battle, where tanks need to shoot at the opposing ones without getting hit in return. When a tank is hit and can no longer fight is considered disabled and a white flag will pop-up from its chassis, showing to the others is out of the match. The main objective in order to win depends on the type of match, namely there are two:
- Flag battle: the most common type of match seen during the series. One team must eliminate the opposing team's flag tank in order to win the match, while at the same time preventing them from knock out its own flag tank. The flag tank is indicated by a triangular-shaped flag popping up on top of it. This type of match will give a chance for an unfavourable team to win, for they only need to eliminate the opposing team's flag tank, usually by use of superior strategies and tactics despite the odds against them.
- Elimination battle: one team must eliminate all its opposing team's tanks in order to win the match. This type of match will favour the team with superior tanks, for it is a battle of attrition. Elimination battles will be the norm for the incoming Pro League encounters.
The rules and regulations of Sensha-dō are set by the Japanese Sensha-dō Federation and there are many, covering the most various topics from the number of tanks that can be used during the matches to the compensations for private propriety’s damages. The Federation is also responsible for the participant’s safety and, among its duties, they must provide the teams with ammunitions treated specifically to have a low penetration impact when they hit a tank. They must also verify that tanks used during the matches respect the regulations of the Federation and are covered internally with special materials that offer extra protection to its occupants.
To determine if a shell would have knock out a tank or not each shell have an internal micro-chip that, when the shell hit a tank, send data to a black box located inside said tank. The black box calculate various factors such as distance, trajectory, calibre of the shell, velocity, armour thickness of the tank and so on to determine if that shot would have penetrated or not. This system works similarly to the real-life MILES technology used by many armed forces all around the globe for training.
There are two main bodies that manage the Sensha-dō activities:
- Japan Sensha-dō Federation (JFS): the chief organization for the Sensha-dō, responsible of all the official tournaments within the country. It is divided in subbranches.
- High School Sensha-dō Federation: supervise the Sensha-dō activities in the high schools.
- University Sensha-dō Federation: supervise the Sensha-dō activities in the universities.
- Pro League Sensha-dō: recently formed, it supervises the preparations for the incoming World Cup that will be hosted in Japan.
- Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT): cooperate alongside the Japan Sensha-dō Federation to strengthen Sensha-dō in the schools. It is also responsible for the maintenance of the school carrires.
Tournaments and events
Sensha-dō teams participate in several competitions and events, both official and unofficial. Among them there are:
- Sensha-dō World Cup: competition in which national teams from all over the world battle for the title of champions of the world. The next World Cup will be held in Japan.
- National High School Sensha-dō Tournament: Japanese national tournament for the high school Sensha-dō teams held every year during summer. Is a single-elimnitation tournament, with sixteen teams battling in flag matches. In the first two rounds a maximum of ten tanks per team are allowed, increasing to fifteen in the semi-finals and to twenty in the finals. The current champion is Ooarai Girls Academy.
- Winter Continuous Track Cup: a tournament created to commemorate the foundation of the Japan Sensha-dō Federation. Twenty years before the anime main events it was closed but, because of the new policy of reinforcing the Sensha-dō throughout the country for the incoming Pro League selections for the World Cup, it has been restored shortly after the 63rd High School Sensha-Dō Tournament. The tournament format works like the National High School Sensha-dō Tournament one.
- The Commemorative Cup: a tournament held after the National High School Sensha-dō Tournament, traditionally hosted in the champion’s hometown.