Nakabayashi Shares His Kendo Story – Koichi Nakabayashi Interview, Part 1


Excerpts from the Nakabayashi Interview video. Interview questions and answers are rephrased and re-written. 


Koichi started Kendo in France at the age of 4. He has been training with the French Team for many years, and first started representing his country at the 2011 European Kendo Championships. His first World Kendo Championships were those held in 2012 in Novara, Italy. He attained the individual title at the European Kendo Championships held in Serbia in 2019.

Could you tell us about how and when you started Kendo?

Nakabayashi: I started Kendo at the Lycee International in Saint-Germain,near Paris. It’s a high school where we study in both Japanese and French. My sister and I were studying at this place. Fortunately, they did Kendo there. My sister started practicing Kendo there,and after seeing her do Kendo, I asked my mother if I could also do Kendo. I started practicing at 4 years old. 

Later on I joined Budo XI in Paris, where Kimura Keiko Sensei leads the practice.

Do you remember what it was like doing Kendo back then?

Nakabayashi: When I was very young, we were just doing Kendo to spend energy. There were many children. I remember that I enjoyed it a lot. But I also remember training very hard with my group of friends.

At first I was only practicing once a week. I remember that when I switched to Budo XI, my mother would always bring me to Paris by car. The traffic in Paris is terrible. It was a nightmare for her. I’m really thankful to my mother.

Do you remember what kind of things you were doing during practice?

Nakabayashi: When I was younger, we were mostly playing. However, at Budo XI the practice was very tough. We practiced from 6 to 8. It was mostly Kihon, but we also did a lot of Oikomi and Kakari-geiko. 

Do you remember when you decided that you wanted to do Kendo seriously?

Nakabayashi: That’s a good question. Actually, there were many times when I was thinking about stopping Kendo when I was young, because it was too hard. I think I really started enjoying Kendo when I started winning in competitions. It’s no fun when you lose.

I can understand the children who do not like the hard practice and end up quitting Kendo. And when you start university or start working, it is very hard to combine your life with Kendo.

I think I started to enjoy Kendo when I joined the French team as a junior. This was in 2007. My first European Championships were those in Lisbon. I enjoyed practicing hard with my friends.

What was it like going to your first EKC?

Nakabayashi: For me, it was a very big event. I got the support of many people in France, including my parents. I won the individual championship. It was also the first EKC to have a junior team category, with teams of three. We also won this category. We were very happy with the results.

What was your first EKC as a senior?

Nakabayashi: When I first joined the senior team, I just went along as a training partner. The first EKC I participated in were the 2011 championships in Poland. This tournament was a nightmare for us. It was the first time that the French team failed to get a spot on the podium. We all felt responsible for that. We were not prepared. We were not ready. So the result was not surprising. When I participated in my first EKC, I felt like the level was crazy high. I wondered how I could be as strong as those people. 

How did you use this experience to prepare for the next tournament?

Nakabayashi: The next tournament was the 2012 WKC in Novara. It was my first WKC. In preparation, our national team did something completely new. We went to Korea to practice for three weeks. We knew that we had to change something, because our team couldn’t stay like it was. So how could we become stronger? There was only one answer to this question, train with the strongest people. 

And how was your first WKC?

Nakabayashi:It was a very nice experience. I was very excited to participate. In the team category, we made it to the quarterfinals, where we faced Japan. At this moment, I was the youngest in the team, so I was the Senpo. I just thought that I would do my best to help my team. Even though we are facing Japan, we can beat them. And we believed that. We really believed that. After the previous EKC, we practiced very hard. We were very strong individually, but we also were a strong team. I think that at this level, it is important to not just go as individual fighters, but as a group. One team.

Unfortunately, in the individual tournament I lost in the group stage. I lost to a very experienced Brazilian player. But I did my best, that’s the most important thing. I don’t have any regrets. It was a very nice experience. Meeting the strongest Kenshi from Japan and Korea, I felt like I was in an amazing place.

>>Continued in Part 2

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