Langara student Wesley “Cannonball” Lee defeated competitors from kendo clubs all around North America, taking first place in the Steveston Kendo Tournament’s beginner bracket last weekend.
The Steveston Kendo Tournament is the largest kendo tournament in North America. This year, the tournament was host to competitors from Quebec all the way to Hawaii.
Lee, a general studies student, said he was “overjoyed and humbled” to have claimed the victory in the “0-4 kyu,” equivalent to a beginner level, for the Langara club, which was established in fall 2012.
“Ki Ken Tai Ichi”
He believes good execution of the concept of ki ken tai ichi which translates to “spirit, sword, and body as one,” was an important factor in his win, as well as the support of his friends, peers, instructors, and “maybe a bit of luck.”
Having only practiced the Japanese martial art for about a year, Lee focused his training on “repetition of the basics.” The Steveston tournament was the third tournament that he participated in his kendo career and he admits he had no expectations of winning or losing.
His instructors and peers are proud of his victory.
“Lee is an energetic young man eager to show what he has learned in class. He works hard in practice but like all beginners, he still has a long way to go,” said Ray Murao, who is a 7-dan, the second-highest rank achievable in kendo. Murao is the head instructor at the Steveston Kendo Club and tournament coordinator. He also assists with teaching at the Langara Kendo Club.
Langara’s Own Kendo Crew
Vicky Wang, president of the Langara Kendo Club, was enthusiastic about Lee’s win and the club’s future.
“We are becoming stronger competitors,” said Wang. “I believe that after a few years, Langara will have its own Kendo crew.”
She hopes members of the club will continue to call the Langara club home, even after they graduate. This may give them the fighting chance they need to compete against older, more established clubs.
“We all have a home club as the important place where we started Kendo. Even though we may not be Langara students in the future, we will still categorize ourselves as Langara Kendo.” Wang added.
Steveston Kendo Club
The Steveston Kendo Club was established in the 1900s and continued all the way through the end of WWII after many interned Japanese settled in Steveston. Parents wanted a way to pass on an important piece of traditional Japanese culture by the way of kendo and judo training. The tournament has a 52-year history, and was established as a way to test the skills of Steveston Kendo Club members, and has steadily grown to encompass competitors from all over the continent.
See the original version of this article, as printed in The Voice here.