COLUMN Kendo stories

Taking the Leap of Faith (Christopher Yang)


Many told me that kendo would never be popular in Texas.  Many told me that they tried to start dojos in Texas, but that members would not join or continue for very long.  In the entire state of Texas, there were less than 150 people who practiced kendo, notwithstanding that Texas (the second most populous state in the US) has a population of over 29 million people.  To be honest, I was also worried about the perception others would have about me starting my own dojo.  I wanted to prove that I could work within the community I lived in, that I could integrate into any local dojo and practice within that environment without having to lead or have it “my way” all the time.

I thought of countless reasons why I should not start my own dojo in Texas.  I didn’t have the time.  I didn’t have the energy.  I didn’t want to shoulder the responsibility of a new dojo.  I didn’t know anyone in the area and didn’t know if anyone wanted to learn kendo.  I didn’t have a place to practice.  These reasons acted as a justification for my inaction, and looking back now, I think these reasons were just ways I tried to dissuade myself from doing what I really wanted to do. 

The inspiration for Plano Kendo Dojo came unexpectedly in the beginning of 2018.  I was in a meeting with Chris Reynolds, the Executive Vice President of Toyota, who also is my mentor and 恩師 .  Much like kendo, I have been lucky enough to have mentors in my career, and my desire to continue to learn from him was a main reason why I moved to Texas.  I was in my regular weekly meeting with Mr. Reynolds when he asked me, “Are you happy in Texas?  Is everything going ok?”  Being the kenshi that I am, I expected to give my standard answer of “HAI!!”, but for some reason, in that moment, I said what first came to mind.  
“Everything in Texas is fine….except…I don’t have the same kendo environment I had in Torrance with my own dojo,” I replied.  Mr. Reynolds had always supported my Team USA and dojo activities, and knew that kendo made up a huge part of my life.   “Well then, I think we need to get you a dojo here in Plano,” he said.  He then picked up his phone and called his friend, the Mayor of the City of Plano, and asked him to please consider creating a new kendo dojo within the City of Plano.  Within 48 hours, I had the City of Plano asking when, where and how I wanted to create a kendo dojo within the Plano Parks & Recreation program and…as they say, the rest is history.  

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.

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