All Japan Kendo Championship INTERVIEW

Matsuzaki Kenshiro, Kenshi of the new generation



Translation: Anne Zwart
Photography: Sasai Takamasa

Three young Kenshi made the Japanese Kendo scene their own in 2023. In this series, we try to find out what brought them to the top of the lineup.

Matsuzaki Kenshiro

Born in 1998, Nagasaki Prefecture. After graduating from Shimabara High School he enrolled in Tsukuba University. First year master student, club coach and part-time Kendo instructor at Meikei High School, and Kendo club coach at Hiroo Gakuen Junior & Senior High School. Won the All Japan KENDO Championship once and came in second place twice. First place in Kendo at the 2023 World Combat Games. Kendo 5-Dan.

Experience connects to the next success

On November 3rd of 2023, Matsuzaki Kenshiro fought in the national finals once again. The last time he stood here was in the 2020 finals.

“When I was thinking of my Kendo goals for the future, I knew I wanted to win this year’s national championship, fight in the World KENDO Championships and win next year’s national championship as well. Figuring out how to get there has been trial and error.”

On the night of November 1st, just 4 days before the All Japan KENDO Championship, Matsuzaki returned from Saudi Arabia where he won the World Combat Games. The next 2 days he had national team meetings. Although he had some time to train in the morning, it wasn’t enough time to prepare.

“I just came back from the Combat Games, I was jet lagged and I wasn’t able to practice enough to prepare properly, so I was a little nervous about how I would do this year. I knew that I wouldn’t be in perfect shape for the national championship, but I still wanted to give the best performance I could in my condition. Everything felt a little off during the first one or two Shiai, but I managed to stay calm which I think helped me find the right direction.”

Around the third match and the quarter finals Matsuzaki was able to get back to Shiai mode. In the quarter finals he fought Hoshiko, who enrolled in Tsukuba University the same year as Matsuzaki, is the same age, and achieves similar results in Kendo. Matsuzaki says they get compared often.

“If I want to become Japan’s top Kenshi I have to go through Hoshiko. When I fought him at the World Combat Games days before the national championship, I knew the outcome of the match could change with every movement. I can’t lose my focus for a second, I didn’t even have time to force any tactics or big setups.”

In the finals, Matsuzaki fought Natsumeda Ryusuke. Natsumeda is younger than him by two years, but Matsuzaki has been watching him since his time at Tsukuba University.

“I’ve done Keiko with Natsumeda at Tsukuba University once, when he came to visit from Nippon Sports Science University. This tournament is basically the first time I’m fighting him, so I’m both excited and determined to not lose.”

Why did Matsuzaki feel like he couldn’t lose that day?

“I’m one of the people training for the national team, and I made it to the finals that day. That day I was set on achieving a complete victory.

I just feel like I focused on winning a little too much as a result. I don’t know if I’m putting it in the right words, but I think I interrupted the developing energy I had going until the semifinals by resetting myself to the energy of the very first fight of the day.”

Matsuzaki was lured into an unexpected Kote during the national championship finals. He feels frustrated about himself for retreating in response to Seme-kaeshi from the opponent, even though Matsuzaki was the one who initiated the moment. Still, at age 25 Matsuzaki has five appearances at the All Japan KENDO Championship, one win and two second place finishes under his belt: a very noteworthy track record.

“My Sensei praised me for performing at my level despite the tough schedule I had leading up to the national championship. But personally I can’t be very happy about it because for this year, I couldn’t feel accomplished until I win. How I was hit in the finals was one of the things I trained to improve on too…

But still, although I lost this tournament, I can take the experience to the WKC and next year’s national championship. I shifted my focus on that and now I’m working on my Kendo life in that way.”

How to set yourself up to win

The rest of this article is only available for Kendo Jidai International subscribers!





Register via


You Might Also Like