All Japan Kendo Championship INTERVIEW

Kenshi of the New Generation (Hoshiko Keita)



Translation: Pepijn Boomgaard
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.

Hoshiko Keita (Kendo 5th Dan)

Boen in Aira, Kagoshima prefecture in 1998. He learned Kendo at Shigetomi Kendo Junior Youth Club and Yoshino Kendo Sports Youth Club, after which he went to Kyushu Gakuin High School and the University of Tsukuba. After graduation, he joined the Metropolitan Police Department. His achievements include winning the World Championship team title, winning the All Japan Championship once and placing 3rd twice, winning the All Japan Police team title twice and winning the individual tournament once.

The challenges of 2023

2022 was the year Hoshiko entered the world of police Kendo. He contributed to a complete victory at the Police Championships and was unexpectedly eliminated in the first round of the All Japan Championship. He said that he learned a lot in 2022. What was 2023 like for him?

“Although the same goes for other competitions as well, my main goal was to win the Combat Games, the All Japan Police Tournament and the All Japan Championship. I spent the whole year focussed on that.” The Combat Games are a multi-disciplinary competition organized by the General Association of International Sports Federations. With the games being scheduled in Saudi Arabia for 31 October, the All Japan Police Tournament on 24 October, and the All Japan Championship on 3 November, he knew it would be a challenge to perform well at all three events.

“I wasn’t worried about losing my motivation until after the All Japan Championship. However, I was worried about my physical fitness, as the schedule was quite packed.”

In September, the All Japan qualifiers and other events such as the Kokutai were held. With so many tournaments coming up, he was thinking about what kind of adjustments to make.

“First of all, I wanted to be in perfect shape by August. I didn’t have many uncertainties, so I was able to qualify for the All Japan Championships.”

In his first Tokyo qualifiers, he placed 2nd, securing a spot at the All Japan Championship. He was also a key player in getting his team to the finals of the Kokutai, held on 10 October.

“I think losing in the finals of the Kokutai was a good experience for me. Throughout the year, I felt that whenever I lost, it was because I was too aggressive. I realized this at the Kokutai and told myself to stop attacking so much. At the All Japan Police Tournament, matches last 8 minutes (5 minutes with 3 minutes overtime), so I took that into account when thinking about how to fight.” At the All Japan Police Tournament, Hoshiko contributed to his team winning the title for the second year in a row. He mainly played as Jiho and his victories helped the team get into the flow of the match.

Two days after achieving this amazing result, Hoshiko flew out to Saudi Arabia to participate in the Combat Games. He made it to the finals together with fellow Japanese player Matsuzaki Kenshiro. “As Japanese team members, we completed our initial goal of two of us making it to the finals. However, it was disappointing for me to finish 2nd. I didn’t fight a bad match, so I wondered why the match ended this way.”

After the match, he immediately returned to Japan to compete in the All Japan Championship. Although he wasn’t able to practice as much as he’d liked, he felt in good shape. “I don’t think I was able to give it my all at the 2022 All Japan Championship. In 2023, I was able to win a bit more at the police tournaments and qualifiers, which probably gave me confidence. Also, because I had participated in so many tournaments, I was able to keep my focus and fight without hesitation.”

Although it was a tiresome period, Hoshiko said that from the first round, his body moved well when it needed to. In the third round, he overcame a strong opponent in Kosumi, someone he had also faced in the police tournament.

In the semi-finals, Hoshiko faced Matsuzaki. He feels that there are issues to be addressed regarding the points that were scored on him, especially the first Men.

“I think I was rushing too much. I’ve been in that situation before, and looking back, it feels like I’m always doing the same thing. Perhaps what I thought was Seme was not really Seme. I was just moving forward. It is only Seme if the opponent feels pressured. Also, I didn’t find the right Maai.”

Hoshiko feels like he is still lacking in some departments.

“I have too many things to work on. It’s hard to narrow it down to a single thing, but the common denominator is how I use my left foot. If I can deepen my understanding of things such as Maai and Seme, I can solve many of my issues.”

Training at the Metropolitan Police 

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