Special Interview ~Takahiro Nabeyama（2）~
Part 2: “Intuitiveness with respect to others is the core of kendo”
※With a commentary of himself for his match
（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), Yuuya 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.
I’m sure that kendo itself has changed vastly over the years.
Is there anything you feel is difficult when you’re instructing others?
I definitely feel that things have changed, especially considering that there are players who use moves that I’d never seen in the past.
However, the evolution of techniques is something that’s been a constant, ever since I was a student myself. It’s nothing I feel concerned about.
In actuality, I leave the issue of technique to the individuals themselves, and focus instead on instructing my students on “being intuitive with respect to others.”
This is something that should remain consistent no matter how much kendo techniques evolve, so I strive to have my students gain a proper understanding of it.
Could you describe to us what you mean by “being intuitive”?
“Being intuitive” refers to things such as:
・Being able to anticipate what will happen next after your opponent acts
・Knowing that there is a risk of getting attacked in certain positions and at certain distances.
I believe that the core of kendo matches lies in this ability to “be intuitive with respect to others.”
The hardest thing about this is that it’s not something that can be learned just by being told.
For example, when watching University championship matches, I feel that most of the players who make it to the top are those that have experience in kendo from an early age.
This is likely because players who have a wide range of past experiences and scenarios to draw from have a big advantage in the world of competition.
What should someone do to cultivate this “intuition with respect to others”?
Generally speaking, it boils down to the amount of practice you get.
Specifically, I feel that practicing with many different players with different fighting styles is vital.
However, the ability to do this relies on the kind of environment you’re in. There’s no real shortcut to acquiring experience other than routinely going to practice dojos.
Aside from that, I think it is important to get as much advice from instructors as you can.
As an instructor, I know that we look for habits and moments when students tend to be off-guard during practice.
During practice, I make sure to target these weaknesses in the hopes that students can become more aware of them.
Is there anything students should be aware of when getting instruction?
I think they should think about “why they get hit”.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s the role of the instructor to target the opponent’s weaknesses. Therefore, it is important for the students to understand where they are getting struck.
If they’re unable to discern where they’re being struck, they can, of course, ask me directly. I think it’s necessary for them to properly identify these weak spots.
For example, students at the University of Tsukuba might express something along the lines of “I tried to strike you this way, but you struck me back.” Statements like this tell me that the student still does not have an understanding of his weaknesses.
I try to provide instruction that will allow my students to understand the mechanisms behind why they were struck, so that they can express themselves along the lines of “you made me move this way, so I was hit.”
I think “intuition with respect to others” is difficult to explain. How do you go about teaching this to your students?
If my students ask for it, I teach them the procedures for winning from step 1.
When I make my explanations, I try not to be vague or use onomatopoeia; I try to teach them using proper language, as much as I can.
Let’s use one of my matches as an example.
[62nd All-Japan TOZAI-TAIKO KENDO TAIKAI, Men’s 16 Round Masami IyanagaVS Takahiro Nabeyama]
1) I demonstrated an intention to attack→ My opponent lowered his sword and retreated
2）I changed from a men motion to akote motion→ My opponent leaned back and went into a defensive stance
At this point, I was able to formulate two highly plausible theories.
・My opponent has no “preliminary attack”
・My opponent cannot afford to back down any further
Consider these two elements, I hypothesized that my opponent would “come flying at me once I let up on the pressure.”
3）I lessened the pressure on my opponent just enough to invite an attack, and then used that opportunity to go for a men.
※Video of the match:
Reference: All Japan Kendo Federation’s Official Youtube channel
In this way, I try to express what I do when I exercise my “intuition” using proper words and phrases.
Once I started teaching, I became able to express what I’d been doing instinctively into words.
Because of this, I myself have made new discoveries, and have really felt the depth of the sport of kendo.
Other than “cultivating intuition”, is there anything else that you routinely try to instruct to your students?
I use the phrase “align yourself” fairly often.
There are many variations in technique in modern kendo, so I leave individual techniques to the students’ discretion. However, I do instruct them to use practical approaches to attack their opponents.
I use the phrase “align yourself” to mean that students should be aligning their shinai in a natural position that makes sense with respect to the physical structure of their bodies.
My students are still young, and have a high level of physical capabilities.
Because of this, they’re able to use a wide variety of attacks; however, they are also prone to using attacks that are impractical. I try to correct those impracticalities.
However, I merely make corrections. I try to respect the individuals techniques that my students have cultivated for themselves.
What do you hope for from your students?
The fundamental goal in educating students at the University of Tsukuba is to cultivate future teachers and instructors.
So I hope that when some of these students become instructors themselves, they will be able to draw upon some of the things that I have said to help them in their own endeavors.
And, of course, through their experiences as a student, I hope they can cultivate the human qualities necessary to become an instructor.
From this interview, I felt that the reason why the University of Tsukuba continues to be a prestigious team is due to the precise instruction that adapts to the times.
I believe that this type of instruction, which encourages students to be independent while providing the utmost support to those who ask for it, is a prime example of front-running instruction.
I wholeheartedly hope for the University of Tsukuba’s continued success.
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.