The Road Less Traveled Part II Realizing a Dream
I didn’t realize how challenging it would be, how much time and energy it would take to start our Plano Kendo Dojo. I also didn’t know how much faith and courage would be required to take that initial step. Almost a year and a half has passed since Plano Kendo Dojo opened in June 2018, but realizing my dream to start a dojo in Texas started many, many years before.
April 28, 2014. That was the day I opened the news to see an article entitled “Bad news coming from Toyota in Torrance on Monday.” I read further to learn that my company, Toyota North America, would be moving its entire North American headquarters from my hometown of Torrance, California to Plano, Texas within the next three years. “Where is Plano, Texas?!?!” Yes, that was the same reaction I had. I remember going on Google Maps and searching ‘Plano, TX’ to figure out where exactly that was, and then, going on Google Street Maps to try to get a sense of what this new place was like. I was born and raised in Torrance, California, and outside of a few years in Washington DC for school, I had always considered Torrance my home. I bought a house minutes away from where I grew up, and I practiced kendo at Torrance Kendo Dojo, the dojo where I started kendo over 30 years ago. I never wanted to leave Torrance, in fact, the thought of leaving never even crossed my mind.
While we had three years to mentally prepare for our move to Texas, those three years went by like a flash. It was three years of uncertainty and anxiety – not knowing where we would live, where our son would go to school, and how our lives would change by having to uproot everything we had in Torrance and moving to a new, foreign location. And through it all, in the back of my mind, I was always worried about kendo. I was worried about how I could maintain my own kendo, how I could teach my son kendo, and how I could recreate the amazing kendo environment we had in Torrance Dojo and in Southern California, which has over 20 dojos and probably the biggest kendo population in the United States.
In June 2017, our family finally made the move to Dallas, Texas, a big city right next to Toyota’s headquarters in Plano, Texas. While the population of the huge Dallas/Forth Worth region, which includes Dallas, Plano, and many other cities is over 6.8 million people, at the time there was only one dojo located in the entire region. Nevertheless, before we made our move to Texas, I had never thought that I would open a new dojo on my own. As such, shortly after our move I visited this dojo located near Dallas, and fully anticipated that I would join this dojo and continue my kendo there.
Everyone at this dojo was very warm, very welcoming, and very kind to my family. However, after over thirty years of practicing at Torrance Dojo, a dojo I could call home, everything felt different to me. The warmup menu was different, the practice times were different, even the floor was different!! Some may think “of course it is!”, but for some reason it had a huge impact on my motivation and passion for kendo. I found myself going to practice less and less – at first I went twice a week, then once a week, and then, by the end of 2017, I was not going at all. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel the desire to practice kendo. I knew something had to change.
Christopher E.J Yang
Christopher Yang was born in Torrance, California (USA) in 1978. Started kendo at Torrance Kendo Dojo in the US at 8 years old. Attended University of Tsukuba in 1998-1999 and joined the Tsukuba Kendo Team. Graduated from UC Berkeley (2000) and Georgetown University Law Center (2003). After graduation, worked at the international law firm of Latham & Watkins, and currently Vice President of Toyota Motor North America and General Counsel of Toyota Connected North America. Represented the USA in the World Kendo Championships from 1997-2015 (7 times), placing Second Place twice (2006 and 2009), Third Place three times (2003, 2012, 2015) in the Team Championships, and Top 8 in the Individual Championships twice (2000 and 2003). Received Fighting Spirit (Kantosho) Award at the World Kendo Championships 7 times. Kendo 7-Dan Kyoshi.