Special Interview〜 Ryo Murase 〜（1）
For this article, I interviewed Ryo Murase, the Japanese representative in the 2015 World Kendo Championships.
Ryo Murase is a world-class athlete, but I was able to sit down with him and listen to him speak in a way that should be accessible to kendo players from all around the world.
The following is Part 1 of the interview I had with him. Enjoy!
PART I “The 2 things that kendo players should practice”
~Ryo Murase, the Japanese representative in the 2015 WKC~
(From here on, KENDO PARK= KP, Ryo Murase= Murase)
You have a stellar record of winning this year’s All-Japan Student Athlete Championships, not to mention your participation in the World Championships and your win last year in the National Teaching Staff Championships.
I think it’s safe to say that you’re the top-ranking kendō player in Japan, both in name and in reality.
Looking back, it really does seem like the way opened up for me after I won the All-Japan Student Athlete Championships. I started getting invites to the All-Japan training camps, and it really just changed my world.
And after all of that, you were ultimately chosen to represent Japan in the World Championships. Even as an outsider looking in, I assume that you went through a lot of changes—not just physically, too.
I think so. When I’d just been starting out in the All-Japan training camp, my first priority was just to persist and keep at it, no matter what.
I think that the continued persistence allowed me to naturally grow stronger not only physically, but technically as well.
(Ryo Murase talked to me about a wide variety of things, from technical details to his thoughts on kendo.)
You graduated from Nippon Sport Science University, and are currently working as a coach for the Nittai Ohka High School’s kendo club. Do you think you’ve changed, ow that you’re a working member of society?
Back when I was in university, I went to morning practices every day and then practiced for at least 3 hours in the late afternoon.
Now, on top of the practices that I conduct with my students, I have the opportunity to practice in a variety of places like the local dojo, my alma mater, and with the High School Athletic Foundation. Not to mention the cardio I do to maintain my athletic abilities.
Have there been any changes in how you approach practices now?
Now that I’m in a teaching position alongside my position as a kendō player, I’ve started practicing while keeping the principle of “Riai” in mind.
How would you specifically explain the principle of “Riai”?
For me, one of my focuses is on “touching my opponent’s shinai”. I believe that there is no way to utilize a technique without touching the opponent’s shinai.
Of course, since I’m still a relatively young kendō players, I can still win some of my matches through athletic ability alone. However, I believe it’s more necessary to brush up on principles like "Riai" when facing against opponents like police officers, who have a long history of practice under their belts.
I’m also making sure that my students learn, even during their fundamental stages, to touch their opponents’ shinai first before they go for the strike.
“Touching you opponent’s shinai” is quite an easy concept to visualize. Still, do your students have a tough time putting it into practice?
In the same way that building a good sense of awareness is important, the Motodachi (receiver of the strike) becomes very important here. Ideally, “you should not be able to tell, at first glance, who made the first strike”. When I assume the role of Motodachi with my students, I try to provoke them to go for the blow.
At first, my students were not able to do this at all, but continued practice made them more and more able. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, of course, but they’ll acquire these skills as they keep practicing.
Are there any other things that working-age kendō players or international kendō players can practice for themselves?
Specifically speaking, I think it’s easier to understand if I put it this way: “moving forward 40 cm while maintaining the position of your hips.” Here are a few tips:
・Maintain the height of your hips from the floor
・Move forward in one long stride, as an extension of regular walking
What you need to note here is that raising your foot off of the ground will only land you right back in your original position. This is what you could call “Modori-ashi” (return step). Instead of doing that, make sure to visualize the process of walking forward in “one big stride”.
This is something you can start working on right away, and even at home.
Absolutely. As someone who wants to continue practicing kendo for a long time, I always pay close attention to the two points of focus that I just mentioned.
And, of course, as an active kendō players, I’m also focused on winning my matches as well.
I was privileged to listen to Ryo Murase, a world-class kendō player, who spoke to me in a way that was succinct and easy to understand.
Through proper “transfer of balance” and practicing “touching the opponent’s shinai”, Ryo Murase suggested that you would be able to acquire proper kendo skills that do not rely purely on athletic ability.
I was also able to hear from him on subjects such as “choosing Bogu (equipment)” and his “special technique”. More on that in the upcoming 2nd part of the interview!”
~Bogu and Shinai bag models
used by Japanese representative in the 2015 WKC~
Born December 8th, 1987 in Tokyo
Graduated from Keio University's Faculty of Law.
Started Kendo at 5 years old at the Tokyo-budokan (located in Ota-ku, Tokyo), and continued kendo club activities throughout Keio junior high school and Keio high school, and during Keio University Athletic Association's Kendo association, as well as Nomura Securities' Kendo association.
Started KENDO PARK services in 2017.
Major kendo accomplishments include:
・Second place in Kanagawa prefecture's high school kendo tournament
・Best 8 in Kanto students' new player tournament
・Best 16 in All-Japan Business Organization Kendo Tournament, etc.