Athlete of the week

Tomoya Okawa Interview

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How did you get started in Wushu?

My mother wanted to learn Tai chi for her health when I was 10 years old. She took me to wushu club, however, I feel tai chi is very boring because the movements are too slow. But my coach recommended me to practice long fist and I liked it. I felt long fist looks cool.

How long have you been training wushu?

I have been training wushu for seventeen years. I started to practice straight sword and spear since September 2012.

How do you maintain training during a pandemic?

I got ACL injury at the end of last year so I could not practice wushu for 5 months. I could only can do basic muscle training or physical therapy with exercise bike. Now my muscles are getting stronger. As for me, I realize this pandemic has been beneficial for me to recover my injuries.

Do you have any interests or hobbies outside wushu?

I’m very interested in many things like books, movies, performances. So staying at home I can also learn a lot.

How did it feel to represent your country at the World level?

Honestly, I have nothing special emotion. Of course I really appreciate my parents, my federation, coaches and supporters, but my feelings for competition is just having fun. I think that’s why I don’t feel nervous during competitions. I like wushu for fun.

As someone who has also trained in additional sports, do you feel that there is any carryover of skills from that sport to wushu?

I think every sports have something in common, especially in movements of body. So we can get many skills from other sports. Wushu has nandu-difficulty movements.  We can learn jumps, steps and many techniques from other sports. Other sports are very helpful, but there are things to keep in mind. Wushu is a performance and expression sport. Olympic motto is “faster,higher,stronger”, but Wushu also has to be beautiful, the ability to act, and to convey emotion. Just like the sports of figure skating, gymnastics, dance and so on. Competitors have to consider what others look.

Is there any resource you think would be helpful in wushu?

I think it would be helpful to study Chinese, Chinese culture, arts, to read books, to watch movies.

Who is your favorite Wushu athlete? Why?

Zhao Qing Jian because I love Beijing style. A model of wushu. My Japanese head coach is from Beijing, he has been teaching for 30 years in japan. Japanese athletes and judges like Beijing style.

What was the biggest challenge you faced at this competition? Why?

World championships 2017 in Kazan. I got injured, I tore my hamstring before completion. A month passed but really pain and I tore it again. I took painkillers and pain block injections then medical professionals put a cast on my leg. But that worked a little, however, the feeling is too painful. So I decided to withdraw from my long fist event and focus on straight sword and spear. I couldn’t do split landing, so we applied to change the difficulty movements. They accepted and I succeeded in straight sword event, but the software “Just Tool” did not work. I don’t know why I had no choice, but tried to do my best in my spear event. After all, I qualified for World Cup 2018 in Myanmar. I’m very proud of myself.

What was your favorite/strongest moment at the competition? Why?

2013 Japan national games. This competition was first time to perform straight sword and spear. I got 3rd place and qualified for World Wushu Championships. This was also my first international competition was for World Wushu Championships in Malaysia. I have never represented team japan before. I never forgot that feeling of “I finally got here from scratch!”

What is your response to the criticism that modern Wushu has separated forms and fighting?

I think modern wushu is not real martial arts, but this is based on traditional one. The sport of modern wushu is one of the contenders for the Olympics. But we can learn from traditional wushu and another from the modern sports. So both modern wushu and traditional also has good parts. We can communicate with each other and have many different point of views. I think this is a really nice crossover. Modern wushu is like a hybrid sport. Very special.

If you could change one thing about Wushu, what would it be?

Judging system. I think it has to be over 10 points. In order for it to be over 10 points, C score must be more higher. I’m not saying difficulty movements has to be more rotations or jumps, just more complicated. So how do we increase the C score of nandu? Some athletes stop one second before jumps because it’s easier to do the set up. So my suggestion is making combinations + jumps like fei jiao + lotus kick, to do more difficulty movements. This will help the sport become more close to real traditional wushu. Not like gymnastics.

What are your future plans for Wushu?

My dream is to spread wushu to create a friendship between Japan and china.'

Justine is a National USA Wushu Taolu Judge and was on the 2017 U.S.A. Traditional Wushu Team. Justine works full time as a Systems Analyst. With her extra time, Justine currently travels to domestic and international wushu tournaments.