Interview with Sho Ando, World Championship Winner Vol. 2

Ando Sho doing Kendo Keiko

At the end of persisting with his own style of kendo

Last September, you won both the individual and team games at the World Championship. Looking back now, what kind of tournament was it to you?

The result was fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for better. But if I think about whether the substance of my games were satisfactory, I don’t think it was quite there. It was a tournament in which I found many areas to reflect on.

Do you think you were unable to display your own kendo?

Yes, but my strength is to doing kendo while expressing my emotions, so I think I was able to do that. I was able to feel what my kendo is really all about.

You now have the title of “World Championship Winner”.

The moment after I won it, many people congratulated me and I was very glad, but it only lasted for a moment. I lost in the All Japan Championship, so I really think my ability is not quite up there. I am now reflecting on myself, going back to the very beginning.

All Japan Kendo national team

You came third in the All Japan Championship.

In past editions I have lost in the early stages, but perhaps because I experienced the world stage and many emotionally draining battles, I was able to play to my ability. I still lost, which means my ability is not enough. That’s how I felt.

Although you say that, I think everyone thinks you already have what it takes to win the All Japan Championship, but last piece of the puzzle just doesn’t seem to fit.

The fact that I’m losing means there must be something wrong with me, At the All Japan Championship, I become a completely different player. My thoughts are too strong. That is probably reflected in the many times I’ve lost in the early rounds. I think I’m causing myself to struggle. In the last tournament I don’t think I had that kind of heavy emotions, but… it’s difficult.

Katana Grip Shinai - Cut Like A Shinken

Any player who comes to the All Japan Championship wants to win it. Even then we feel that you exhibit that emotion more strongly than others. What is the reason for that?

It has been my dream since childhood to win the All Japan Championship, and since entering the Hokkaido Police many around me have that expectation, so that is what leads to the strong emotion. Also, I am grateful that many people value my kendo highly, but I feel irritated that I am unable to produce a result that matches that.

The mental aspect is strong, then.

I feel too strongly that ‘I don’t want to lose’, especially at the All Japan Championship, and I am unable to play my own kendo. I realize that it is a mental weakness.

Ando Sho doing Keiko at Hokkaido Police Department Dojo

It’s hard to think that someone with a mental weakness can put on such a great performance at the World Championship in a situation with utmost pressure.

I think I’ve managed to change from that World Championship. I know that if I play with that mentality, I am definitely a strong player. In the last All Japan Championship I lost to Nishimura, but my conclusion is that it was not a mental issue, but ability wise I was lacking.

How do you process the reality that Nishimura, who is almost the same age as you, has reached the no.1 Japan spot 3 times, but you are yet to get there?

To be honest it is really, really frustrating. But through the last All Japan Championship, although I felt the gap between myself and Nishimura, I also felt that I can still grow. If I can close that gap, I think I can win it.

What have you done consistently to reach your goal of being Japan no.1, or to become stronger?

What I first felt when entering the Hokkaido Police, is the difficulty in balancing work duties and practice. I have to do the kind of practice that would get me to the top in such a limited time. I’ve learned to value each practice session, and each stroke during practice.

What do you mean specifically by “valuing” each practice and each stroke?

I always imagine a real match situation. Whether it’s the basic practice, kakari practice, ji practice, I do it with the mindset that I am going to pull of all my moves. I thought the same thing during my high school and university years too, but that has become strong since joining Hokkaido Police.

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To be continued

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