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Learn about the attractiveness of a free and creative "martial art," Spochan!

Mr. Kenta Ishii/Ms. Satsuki Nomura/Mr. Shunsuke Kurauchi

Bogu (protective gear) used during a match

Sports Chanbara is known as Spochan! Upon hearing the name, you may just vaguely imagine what type of sport it is and think it is a so-called minor sport. However, it has a history of 40 years, with 400,000 people participating in 40 countries. Not only the land of its origin, Japan, but also Russia and Italy are strong, and many people from overseas are starting to play the sport, adoring "samurai."

It was in 2005 when a sports Chanbara club, Kenshukai, was founded at WASEDA. Though its history is short, the club has won many championships. Shunsuke Kurauchi had experience playing sports Chanbara and belonged to a kendo team in high school. Kenta Ishii was a rugby player. As it is a minor sport, most of the players are novices, but once they seriously start to brush up their skills, they improve very rapidly. "Compared to other sports, you can get results comparatively early on, so it becomes more and more interesting," Shunsuke says talking about his love of sports Chanbara. "You'll also find there is a lot more to it than you'd think."

The weapon used in sports Chanbara is an "air soft ken" into which air is pumped like an inflatable ring. It doesn't hurt to be hit with it. There are different types of air soft kens, including Tanto, Kodachi, Choken, and Yari, and such categories as ishu (mixed weapons) and nito (using two weapons) are available. You can enjoy not only one-on-one matches but also ten-on-ten kassen and other diverse matches. It is fun to watch a match as players jump to avoid a trick of an opponent or jump and run around their opponent to make a surprise attack. Even a one-year-old child can enter a match, while veterans of kendo and fencing come to display their mastery of swords. The sport is also popular among university students.

Under such circumstances, Satsuki Nomura, the world champion who started spochan at the age of one joined Kenshukai in 2011. "Miss Nomura is a heroine in the world of spochan," Kenta and Shunsuke both say. "We were happy but also nervous." Though Satsuki is only 151cm (5 feet) she has beaten a player of 220cm (7.2 feet). She grew up in a spochan family. "When I was off guard, my mom would suddenly try to hit me with her bare hand, and if I couldn't avoid it, I was scolded," she says, laughing. "Thanks to that, I have developed quick reflexes." Her career is like a spochan version of "Kyojin no Hoshi" (Star of the Giants; a sports-hero comic once popular in Japan).

The rules of spochan are not so strict as other martial arts and are flexible enough to allow for the invention of your own techniques. "In junior high school, I tried Amakakeru Ryu no Hirameki (a technique in Rurouni Kenshin comic), but gave up," Shunsuke says. Kenta says he was once attacked with Kaitengiri. Kaitengiri is a technique where the swordsman turns around and then attacks you. The genuine joy of Kaitengiri is that a sudden spin will surprise the opponent, enabling you to take advantage of a momentary lapse. "For a moment I was daunted by the attack, but when using Kaitengiri, you also give a momentary chance to the opponent while turning, so I took advantage and won!" There are many laughable stories in the sport. "You need to rack your brain to divine a strategy and use your creativity, so I think it fits the temperament of WASEDA," Kenta added.

This is the Choken or sword. There are seven swords including Tanto, Kodachi, Choken, Jhou, Bou, and Yari.

Once you are hooked on the fun, you develop a "spochan brain," always thinking about spochan even in daily life. "Among a crowd, you might find yourself considering what would happen if this was a place for kassen, and like this, you link everything with spochan," Kenta says. "When I walk home at night after training, I imagine what skill I would use if I were attacked by a thug. But what actually happens is that I am taken for a junior high kid and about to be admonished," says Satsuki, laughing.

Their target is to become world champions at the same time. Novices can rarely start a sport in an environment with a world champion. If you love martial arts and want to compete on a world level, you could devote your student life to spochan.

Spochan-taste "W"

A scene from a match with a sense of energy. The moves are so fast that the swords cannot be seen!

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)

Mr. Kenta Ishii (right)

Born in Osaka in 1989. Graduated from Osaka Meisei High School. Fourth year in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. The (first) Rookie of the Year at the 2008 All Japan University Students Championship in Japan. 3rd place in Choken category of the 2009 All Japan University Students Championship. Champion of the 2010 Kanto University Students Championship. His fond memory of his university days is philosophical discussions over coffee at the milk hall. His (unexpected) interest is cooking. "I used to bake chiffon cake every day, so I must be good at it."

Ms. Satsuki Nomura

Born in Kochi in 1992. Graduated from Tosa Women's High School. First year in the School of Sport Sciences. Champion of the kihondosa category of the 2010 the world Championship. Winner of the Nidan category (Kihondosa) of the 2011 All Japan Championship. "I will do my best to win the World Championship for five consecutive years." Recently she has been hooked on watching soccer. "I was so excited during the WASEDA-Keio match."

Shunsuke Kurauchi (left)

Born in Tokyo in 1991. Graduated from Sugamo High School. Second year in the School of Education. 2nd place in the Shodan category (kodachi) of the 2011 All Japan Championship. "At the next World Championship, I will be the grand champion in the Datotsu category!" His favorite food is sweets in general. "I would like to try Kenta's chiffon cake!"