What do you value and what are your thoughts on aspiring in Kendo?
What I value in pursuing Kendo is the desire to become strong. This includes not only technical improvement in Kendo but also becoming a strong individual in every sense. I may not know what it means to be strong, but I strive to become closer to my ideal self. I believe that not forgetting this aspiration is the most crucial. It might seem simple but I consider it extremely challenging. Becoming mentally strong doesn't manifest visibly, so I find it very difficult. What I am working on is reading to expose myself to different ways of thinking and the daily practice of doing the same thing. This applies to Kendo training as well. Kendo training tends to follow similar patterns from elementary school to higher-level practitioners. However, I think what's important is how you can take what seems boring or tedious and turn it into a positive for yourself. I believe that by doing this, you can transform mentally and not just in training. So, I think that continuing something you've decided on every day, not just in training but in life, can make you mentally stronger.
What childhood experiences do you look back on and feel are influencing you today?
One experience I can feel is influencing me today is the process of setting goals and preparing for them. Since my early childhood, under the guidance of my parents, I have been setting various goals. I believe that these experiences are providing me with the mental support I need for my current competitions. When I started Kendo, my parents told me that if I was going to do it, I should aim to be the best in Japan. So, from the beginning, I had the goal of becoming the best in Japan. Setting the goal of becoming the best in Japan was the biggest goal of my childhood. When I thought about what I needed to do to achieve that, I realized I had to win the prefectural tournament to compete in the national tournament. To win the prefectural tournament, I needed to win the city tournament, and to do that, I had to set detailed goals and work hard.
What kind of physical training did you do during your childhood?
Well, around my family's house, there were a lot of hilly roads, so my main training was hill sprints. Additionally, my parents came up with a method to improve the speed of my left foot's withdrawal, and I used rubber tubes on my legs during elementary school practices for extra resistance.
How do you deal with slumps or times when you don't feel any progress?
I've never experienced a slump. Slumps only happen to top-level athletes. Of course, there are times when I don't perform as well as I'd like, but I wouldn't call it a slump. There are only times when I don't feel progress. On the contrary, I believe feeling progress can be dangerous. The state of experiencing a slump or not feeling progress means that your ideal is higher than reality, so I consider it a good thing.
What are your hobbies or non-negotiable preferences in daily life?
In terms of daily life, I try to do everything I can, like making my own bento (lunchbox) and taking it to work. I also love juices and dining out, but I maintain a professional attitude for the sake of my body. One thing I'm conscious of is ensuring an adequate amount of protein and carbohydrates while being careful about fat intake. I'm good at making "鶏そぼろ丼" (chicken soboro donburi); I don't consume a lot of fat. I also prioritize stretching; it's important to me. I do daily massages and stretching to reduce the risk of injury and prevent muscle tension. My body is still quite stiff, but I'm taking action with the future in mind. I also like to travel for good food. In fact, I'd like to visit Hokkaido and Hokuriku for delicious food."
What are your preferences when it comes to Kendo equipment?
Yes, when it comes to the shinai (bamboo sword), I find that using one made from very hard bamboo doesn't quite suit me. So, I although use a shinai made from Madake bamboo, I look for Shinai which has a bit more flexibility. As for the Tsuka (handle), I think it's a bit thinner than what an average person might use.
Can you share any experiences of setbacks or bitter memories from your Kendo journey so far?
Well, I haven't experienced any major setbacks, but there's one unforgettable experience from my third year of high school during the All-Japan Student Team Championship finals. We lost the match, and it was my fault. Individual failures can often be overcome because they are your own responsibility, but in team matches, not being able to achieve the goal of becoming Japanese champions, which my seniors had aimed for, due to my mistake, is an experience I will never forget.
How do you overcome bitter memories and experiences?
When you go through tough or bitter experiences, I believe it's essential not to forget those experiences. As human beings, we tend to forget over time, but I take measures to ensure that I don't forget. I place reminders or symbols related to those experiences where I can see them regularly. Also, when faced with choices, I tend to pick the more challenging or less favorable option for myself. I remind myself not to give up until I succeed, and that's how I've overcome challenges in my life.
Finally, could you please share a message for the next generation of aspiring kendo practitioners who have dreams?
When I look back on the times I felt myself getting stronger, it was often because I met teachers or leaders I respected, those who inspired new ways of thinking and challenged my own ideas. They not only influenced my technical skills but also encouraged me to question my own thought processes. I think it's crucial to approach your own way of thinking with curiosity, not just focusing on your technique. Achieving your dreams is not easy; it's often quite challenging. However, I believe that even in those difficult times, if you can find joy in the challenge, that's what kendo means to me. I, too, feel that I have a long way to go to reach my dreams, and I'll continue to face hardships. But during those times, I want to be able to step back, look at myself objectively, and find enjoyment even in the toughest moments. No matter how tough it gets, I believe that good things are waiting ahead. Let's enjoy the journey of kendo together!
Kendo 4th Dan
Police Officer, Tokyo Metropolitan Police
Born in Kagoshima Prefecture