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Enthusiastic commitment to Shorinji Kempo that can only be achieved by distancing myself from it

Mr. Toshihiro Watanabe

Everyone has wanted to be strong at least one time. Mr. Watanabe was no exception and started to practice Shorinji Kempo. He belonged to a Shorinji Kempo club in junior high school and the Hachioji Nishi Branch in his hometown, devoting himself to training. In spite of his commitment, he injured his back in high school, and the time he spent practising drastically reduced. "As I couldn't practice, I couldn't achieve good results," says Mr. Watanabe, showing sadness for a moment. "I felt this might be the best I could do."

"So I joined a tennis club as I wanted to do something I could start from scratch. I devoted myself to tennis, and the more I practiced, the better I played. I was a core member for a year, and I rarely did Shorinji Kempo." It seemed the link between Mr. Watanabe and Shorinji Kempo was lost, but in the summer of his senior year, there was a turning point. "I got a call from a senior of the Hachioji Nishi Branch and was asked to participate in a competition of dantai embu (group performance) in Tokyo." But you hadn't performed Shorinji Kempo for a while? "That's right. As my skill was not up to scratch, I thought about turning down the offer." But he couldn't give up. "Until then, I had always been aware of the "fear that efforts might not be rewarded," but as I distanced myself from Shorinji Kempo, I gradually started to understand the "meaning of addressing challenges whether I was successful or not." He says, through the tennins club and and other experiences, his thinking changed.

Though it was the first challenge in a long time, Mr. Watanabe made an easy advance and ranked high in the competition. In fact, he advanced through the Tokyo competition, the national competiton and finally reached second place in the international embu exchange held in Bali, Indonesia. "We had the same score as the winner. The score by the main judge was the same, too, but our score was reduced because of precision, and we lost."

So you were close to succeeding! "Dantai embu is performed by three or four sets of pairs. The precision of six or eight members was slightly behind our rival." What do you think is the most important element? "It is reality," comments Mr. Watanabe, saying that even if it is a performance, it must appear as if you are actually fighting with each other. "As there is no stopping a blow or kick just before it touches your opponent, you often get punched or kicked," laughs Mr. Watanabe. "Of course, it hurts. But during embu, you don't feel it, thanks to the adrenalin." It is surprising that the release of adrenalin is the premise. "Before starting embu, we put the palms of our hands together and bow. Many players seem to get ready when they put their palms together before their faces." Mr. Watanabe actually stretches his palms out, his eyes showing a fearless expression.

"You may think there are only violent episodes, but Shorinji Kempo is originally an educational martial art. I didn't realize this in junior high, but now fully understand the greatness of it." Do you prefer Shorinji Kempo to tennis? "Not really, tennis is a precious experience. By distancing myself from it, I have been able to understand the good points of Shorinji Kempo. Thanks to being a Waseda student, I have been able to gain this experience." Saying that he will continue to play Shorinji Kembo after starting work, Mr. Watanabe concluded the interview with his commitment to Waseda, beaming.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

His medal from the 2009 Shorinji Kempo World Taikai

Invited and performed embu at 2009 Shorinji Kempo All-Japan Student Competition. I was very impressed with Butokan! (Mr. Watanabe is second from the left in the back row.)

At the 2009 Shorinji Kempo World Taikai

Toshihiro Watanabe

Born in Los Angeles, USA, in 1986. Second year of the Graduate School of Creative Science and Engineering. Graduated from Waseda University Senior High School. He won medals in succession, starting with third place of dantai embu at the national competition held in Okayama in 2008, second place of dantai embu at the national competition in 2009, and second place in 2009 at Shorinji Kempo World Taikai in Bali, Indonesia. He has recently started to take extra care of his health and goes swimming once a week. "A healthy body is the basis of everything. I want to invest in my body and drink healthy drinks that help fat to be burned every day. When you drink one, you sweat, so I recommend it."