Special Interview ~Takahiro Nabeyama（1）~
Part 1: “A good sense of awareness leads to strength”
〜Takahiro Nabeyama, Supervisor of the University of Tsukuba’s Men’s Kendo Club〜
（Hereafter, KENDO PARK=KP Takahiro Nabeyama＝Nabeyama）
Born in Fukuoka Prefecture.
Won the Gyokuryuki in his PL Gakuen days. Won both the individual and group Inter-High.
Advanced to the University of Tsukuba, and won the All-Japan Students’ Tournament.
Because the supervisor of the University of Tsukuba’s Men’s Kendo Club in 2002, and has brought the University to the All-Japan Students’ Tournament 4 times until the year 2016.
(As of October 2nd, 2017）
His students include the All-Japan Champion, Hidehisa Nishimura (currently working at the Kumamoto Prefectural Police), Yuya Takenouchi (currently working at the Metropolitan Police Department), among others.
Associate Professor of the University of Tsukuba’s Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences, Kendo Instructor 8-dan.
The University of Tsukuba is a powerhouse team that competes for the championship every year. Are there any special instruction methods that you use for your students?
I don’t do anything special, but I do make sure to improve upon each student’s individuality while paying close attention to the basics.
Because many of my students join the club with some solid groundwork of experience, I instruct them properly on the basics and then try to augment whatever skills they already have.
What do you think is the secret to your team’s strength?
One thing I can say for sure is that it is an advantage that we have a varied range of athletes that can face off against each other in the dojo.
Our athletes have come from all over Japan, and I think it’s greatly beneficial that they all have an opportunity to spar with many different types of players in everyday practice.
Is there anything that you are particularly aware of during your instructions?
It’s not about me, but rather the value I place in the “awareness that my students look to me to have.”
I think that a level of independency is necessary in University-level kendo, so I don’t stick to any one student and coach them from square one.
Students also vary from individual to individual with respect to kendo style and characteristics, so I am aware that my thoughts and experiences may not always apply to them.
That’s why I want my students to develop the habit of thinking for themselves and coming up with their own ideas.
I provide advice for students who come to me after they put their own effort into their thoughts and ideas; my advice isn’t limited to advice on technical skills, but also extends to physical aspects like what kinds of meals my students should eat.
Actually, we did an “awareness reform” as an entire team a few years back.
As this started to take root, I feel that the way my students approach practices as well as their performance have changed.
Tell us if there are general trends in determining what kind of players grow stronger.
This seems obvious, but “players who do not slack during practice.”
After years of experience in instructing, I’ve developed the ability to discern whether a player’s commitment level is high or not.
For example, even with respect to practice swings, there is a big discrepancy in the amount of growth that a player who merely goes through the routine undergoes as opposed to a player who approaches his practice swings with the mindset of “what these swings mean to him as a kendo player.”
Even if they do not understand the meaning behind their practices, players who nevertheless challenge themselves to ask these questions also grow quickly as athletes.
I believe that a “high sense of personal awareness” is directly connected to a player’s growth.
Do you have any standards for which players you choose to play in matches?
As a supervisor, it’s easier to choose players who don’t make unprompted mistakes.
I think one necessary element is for players not to let down their guard when the match is at stake.
In order not to make unprompted mistakes during a match, it is important to concentrate and to remain disciplined during daily practices.
So, in a sense, it’s the “players who do not slack during practice” that I mentioned before.
The University of Tsukuba doesn’t seem to change its lineup very often.
Are there any things that you are very particular about?
I wouldn’t call it a particularity, but I haven’t changed my principles of putting my “practiced players" in the back of the lineup.
In any tournament, a close match will inevitably result in crucial matches being fought in the back of the lineup.
That’s why I place my strongest players towards the back.
As I mentioned before, when I choose players, I focus on players who “do not slack during practice and do not make unprompted mistakes during matches”, so I don’t often change my lineup strategically for each tournament.
What sort of things do you pay attention to when you recruit students?
What I look to more than anything else is whether or not the player strongly “wishes to come to Tsukuba.”
It is important for players to independently desire to become stronger, so I also think that it is important to see whether or not they have these elements in them.
So, on the flipside, there are hardly any cases where I’m the one asking the students to come to us.
Have there been any changes in your students over the years?
I think this is the same in any school, but I think students now are much more earnest compared to the past.
In the past, there were students who had to repeat years because they failed to keep up with their studies. Now, I feel that students understand “what it is that they have to do.”
I can’t say for certain that I know why this is the case, but I think it may be because it is easier for people to obtain information nowadays.
It is easy to hear about the things that are going on in the world, so maybe it’s the case that students are able to discern the “necessary” things in life.
The University of Tsukuba is rigorous when it comes to its academics, which means that the students here are already aware of how to get things done.
As a result, there are hardly any students who have to repeat years.
I think this is a wonderful trend. Similarly, I’m seeing the same sort of trends in kendo: in recent years, our win records have stabilized.
The University of Tsukuba is a distinguished university that has given rise to many Japanese representative players and famous instructors.
The secret to strength, as told by Mr. Nabeyama, is “consistent effort during club activities” and “independence on the side of the players.”
On the day of this interview, there were many players who were conducting independent practices in the dojo; I was particularly struck by how they approached Mr. Nabeyama for advice.
I also heard from Mr. Nabeyama regarding more concrete technical skills and “intuitiveness with respect to others.” More on this in the next post!
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.