INTERVIEW Kendo lessons of Harada Satoru

How to fight team Shiai



Planning: Tsuchiya Tomohiro
Photography: Nishiguchi Kunihiko
Translation: Jouke van der Woude

In the All Japan Police Team Championship last year, the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department retook the title after an eight-year hiatus. We had the opportunity to speak with head coach Harada Satoru, who led the team, about the strategy for team Shiai and the strengthening and unity of the team. He shared his experiences as a competitor during his active years and his thoughts as the head coach, including the traditional Keiko methods of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

Harada Satoru, Kyoshi 7th Dan 

Born in Fukushima Prefecture in 1973. After attending Fukushima High School, he went on to study at the University of Tsukuba and later joined the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department. He represented Tokyo in the All Japan Kendo Championship 12 times, achieving an impressive record of one title, two second-place finishes, and three third-place finishes. He has also competed in the World Kendo Championship and won the All Japan Police Team Championship, among other achievements. Currently, he serves as the chief Kendo instructor at the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department.

Instilling the soul of harmony into the team and forging the essence through Kihon repetition 

In June 2021, Harada Satoru assumed the position of head coach of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Kendo Tokuren. Currently, he is supported by two instructors, Matsuwaki Shinsuke and Uchimura Ryoichi as assistant coaches. It was a challenging time, coinciding in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, enduring circumstances were not limited to Shiai but even regular Keiko. However, after going through such times, they took the title in last year’s All Japan Police Team Championship.
“In terms of technical aspects, I entrust them to the excellent guidance of the two assistant coaches. My role is to improve the overall atmosphere of the team and boost morale. Thanks to that, talented players who have excelled in various student competitions join the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Tokuren. However, simply having talented individuals does not guarantee success in police tournaments. Particularly in team Shiai, teamwork is crucial.” Among the Tokuren members, there are naturally players ranging from young talents to veterans, with key players in each layer. It is undeniable that they are a strong team, but head coach Harada emphasizes that without effective teamwork, results cannot be achieved.
“Kendo in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police focuses on forging our essence through Keiko. The players already possess a sense of competition, so we prioritize the simplicity of Kendo, meaning we value the fundamentals and polish them. We strive to maintain a common approach while enhancing the quality. In actual Shiai, we provide guidance to ensure that the fighting style and Kendo remain disciplined. To achieve this, we believe it is crucial to instill the soul of harmony within the team. We strive to raise awareness of respecting this soul on a daily basis.”

At the beginning of this year, a meeting was held with the Tokuren members to share the mindset towards Keiko and Shiai. Let’s look at the content of that meeting.

“First and foremost is the principle that ‘Humbleness is the foundation of all virtues.’ As members of a team aiming for the top and consecutive victories in the police tournaments, we demand an attitude and behavior rooted in self-awareness. Next, we reviewed the ‘Four principles of seizing the initiative.’ The first is ‘Having foresight.’ It means looking ahead to the future and diligently managing schedules and physical condition. Second, ‘Tightening discipline’ entails being mindful daily, without complacency, and actively focusing on accident prevention and COVID-19 measures. Third is ‘tireless effort,’ which means dedicating oneself wholeheartedly without considering life or death. In the context of Kendo, it leads to the determination to ‘perform with abandon.’ Fourth, ‘Persistently pursuing a fair Shiai’ is emphasized. These points then become the pride of being a Tokyo Metropolitan Police Kendo Tokuren member.”

In team building, they adopted the phrase “Wajou Roushu”. It signifies that “the spirit of harmony brews excellent sake, and excellent sake fosters the soul of harmony.”

“In other words, the brewers join their hearts and strength under the guidance of the master brewer, harmonizing their senses with the birth of sake as they spend a winter in the brewery. Together, they brew with a unified spirit, embodying the spirit of harmony. We can compare the master brewer to the captain and the brewers to the Tokuren members. The accomplishments of making fine Sake represent winning national titles, bringing joy to the supporting families, the coaching staff, the assistant instructors, and instilling pride in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police personnel.”

Head coach Harada humbly expresses that these teachings were not originated by himself. He connects them to the traditions that have been passed down in Tokyo Metropolitan Police Kendo. His experiences as a competitor and head coach, as well as the guidance he received from the coaching staff, form the foundation of these teachings.

A good tradition of coaching in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police

During his time as a player in the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, head coach Harada served in various positions in team Shiai, from Senpo to Taisho. Reflecting on those days, he vividly remembers his debut Shiai in police tournaments, where he carried the banner of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police for the first time. Head coach Harada is a graduate of the University of Tsukuba. Although the University of Tsukuba now produces many talents for the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Tokuren, he was the first person to enter the Tokuren of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Kendo as a graduate.

“At the time I joined the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, the head coach was Ota Tadanori Sensei. The assistant coaches were Nakata Yuji Sensei, Asano Osamu Sensei, and Sato Katsunobu Sensei. As for the memories of my first competition, in the final Shiai, I experienced such nervousness that my field of vision narrowed before the Shiai. I have never had such an experience before or since.”

Head coach Harada later took the title in the All Japan Kendo Championships, but he says there was a completely different sense of tension in the All Japan Police Team Championship. “At that time, I heard the voice of Asano Sensei saying, ‘Satoru, it’s all about determination.’ That made me snap back to my senses and enabled me to concentrate and fight.”

He recalls feeling the severity of police Kendo, the size of the organization, and the weight of responsibility as a working adult. “When I was a fourth-year student at the University of Tsukuba, there was the National Sports Festival in my hometown, Fukushima. I became a candidate competitor for Fukushima Prefecture and had the opportunity to visit various police Tokuren, including that of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, as part of my training. What I felt at that time was the sincere and intense dedication to Kendo. It was a valuable learning experience that has led me to where I am today.”

And when it comes to becoming a Tokuren member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police, the ultimate mission is to become the best in Japan, which means winning national police tournament titles is the greatest goal. In the most recent event, the All Japan Police Team Championship in 2022, they took the title after an 8-year hiatus.

“In recent years, we have been distant from winning, so as a coach, I approached the tournament with a strong desire to somehow reclaim the title.” After this tournament, Hatakenaka Kosuke, who served as the captain, retired from Tokuren. “Captain Hatakenaka had strong leadership and was the type to push himself in Keiko. As the driving force of the team, we fought the Shiai with him as our Taisho, no matter what challenges we faced.”

Currently, there are 23 Tokuren members. Head coach Harada emphasizes the importance of unity with the captain at the core in building a strong team. “During my time as a coach, Uchimura Ryoichi was the captain. The team was very well united, and we were able to win at that time. The coaches were Ishii Takeshi and Onda Koji, and their coaching style has left a lasting impression on me. They focused on the team’s mindset rather than technical details. I try to approach the current Tokuren members with the same mindset.”

As mentioned in his words dedicated to the players’ future, it is also evident that the Tokyo Metropolitan Police carries on a good tradition not only in the players’ training but also in the teaching methods of the coaching staff and the team’s mindset.

Undisrupted flow in team Shiai

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