Budogu Zen is very honoured to be able to interview Ray Murao Sensei (Kyoshi 7 Dan) from Steveston Kendo Club. He is the head instructor of Steveston Kendo Club.
Q: We heard Steveston is the oldest kendo dojo in Canada. May we know the history of the Steveston Kendo Club?
A: The Steveston Dojo was started in 1914 by Mr Kenta Tsuzuki. The dojo was named "YOKIKAN" and remained until just before the war. After the war, it took a few years for the Japanese to return to Steveston. The Kendo Club was restarted around 1952.
Q: Steveston Kendo Dojo is built with a traditional appearance. May we know the history of the building you practice at?
A: The Martial Arts building was built in 1971/72 as a "Centennial" project. The traditional Japanese design is the same as the Steveston Buddhist Church which was built years earlier. It is the home of the Steveston Kendo, Judo and Karate clubs.
Q: When did you start hosting the Steveston Kendo Tournament? Any reason why the tournament initially started?
A: There were several tournaments held before the war. To my recollection, the first post-war Steveston tournament was held in 1962.The tournament brought together members of the 2 Vancouver clubs as well as members from clubs in the Seattle area.
Q: It is one of the historical and important tournaments in North America. May we know what kind of players usually participate? How many participants are usually there?
A: We have had the good fortune of having many great players from across Canada and other countries as well. Many National team members would use the tournament as a tune-up to the World Championships. The tournament would usually have between 300-350 competitors.
Q: May we know your age, occupation, how many years you’ve been doing kendo? And rank?
A: I am 68 years old, retired and have been practicing kendo for 61 years. I hold the rank of 7 Dan Kyoshi.
Q: Murao Sensei is the face of Kendo Canada in the Westcoast. What made you start kendo?
A: I started kendo because of my parents. In the late 1950's-early 1960's, the Japanese in Steveston wanted to maintain their Japanese culture and heritage and so most families got their kids to choose either Kendo or Judo.
Q: From your point of view, what is the Steveston Kendo Club like to you?
A: The Steveston Kendo Club is like my home. I have grown up there. I have watched members go from being juniors to becoming Senseis. It has been and continues to be rewarding.
Q: You’ve been contributing to the Canadian Kendo community for a long time. May we know what was challenging, what you were able to accomplish?
A: The CKF represents the kendo community across Canada. I think what was challenging in the early years was the communication across such a large country. I can't really say that I accomplished much for the CKF community. I have tried to help out where I can.
Q: Your personal goal from now?
A: There are so many skilled and knowledgeable senseis in Vancouver and across Canada. Kendo and the Kendo community has given me so much. In return, I hope I am able to help these senseis and grow kendo in Canada.
We are very honoured to be able to interview such a great sensei who has been contributing in the kendo community! The next Steveston Kendo Tournament is 60th annual tournament and it is going to be on February 24th, 2024. We are looking forward to seeing everybody competing in that tournament!