The lessons of sport are just like other lessons in life - their impact depends upon the form and reception.
For Misato and Tsuyoshi Hamanaka, the rewards from their involvement in kendo - a modern Japanese martial art form - reverberate through much of what they do.
The Port Coquitlam siblings are about to embark on a joint venture as members of the Canadian national kendo team at next week's 15 th annual World Kendo championships in Italy.
From learning from their elders, to absorbing the aspects that reflect back on their Japanese heritage, the Hamanakas believe that kendo has given them some amazing opportunities.
"Being selected to the team and having the opportunity to compete with athletes from all over the world is a very important accomplishment [for] me," wrote Misato in an e-mail interview with The NOW, "and the sacrifices I made, and currently make, for it, are definitely worth it."
The 21-year-old is a two-time Canadian team member, having participated at the last world championships in 2009. Her brother Tsuyoshi, 19, is debuting with the national team as a development prospect, and relishes the opportunity to train and compete for Canada.
"My goal for this year is to use the experience I gained from the worlds and practice hard for the next world championships," he said. "I am not sure whether I can make it to the core team next time but I would like to use the fact [that] I got selected for the development prospect as confidence and I definitely will practice hard to be on Team Canada next time."
The siblings, both Riverside Secondary alumni who attend the University of B.C., gained much of their interest and lessons in the sport from their father. Toshihiro Hamanaka took up kendo in his native Japan as a middle school student and brought that interest with him when the family arrived from Japan 20 years ago.
While work and family life limited his ability to continue training in the martial art, his children's interest in it resulted in him forming the Tozenji Kendo Club two years ago in Coquitlam.
His children came to it naturally, with Tsuyoshi taking the lead 10 years ago.
"At [that] point I think my brother was more into it and enjoyed kendo a lot more," recalls Misato. "The first steps in learning kendo is to master the basic footwork. This could get pretty boring and many people who join kendo end up quitting before they obtain their full gear. However, my father had a great influence in our learning of kendo - he would give us extra lessons and always keep us on track."
Prowess, patience, respect and resilience - all keys in kendo. The evolution of the sport, as an evolution of Japanese sword fighting, has kept fivefoot-tall Misato grounded with her birth country.
"If I hadn't started kendo, I wouldn't have had nearly as many Japanese friends," she says. "Whether they are Japanese Canadians or people visiting from Japan for a short term, connecting with them through kendo has allowed me to keep in touch with the Japanese culture."
Kendo has also resulted in her travelling abroad, with the national team last year, to train at Chukyo University in Japan.
At the 2009 worlds, Misato advanced to eighth place in individual women's division out of 104 competitors. Her fighting spirit and determination also earned her the Fighting Spirit Award.
"I clearly remember my first fight. I was really, really nervous," she recalls. "The size of the venue, the number of people in the crowd, their strict policies- it felt like everything was different.
"I had set my own expectations within me, imagining how I would beat this person... yet I came off the court feeling that I couldn't achieve it. I was very disappointed."
Despite that feeling, she still won her elimination pool and advanced to the tournament round, where the competition got tougher.
However, watching a teammate, who like her, was a rookie at the worlds, beat the captain of the Korean team bolstered her confidence.
"The nervousness, doubts... they all disappeared. Then on it felt like there was no way I was going to lose to anyone."
Buoyed by his own successes, Tsuyoshi is eager for his next competition.
"Competition motivates me to practice hard. Especially after a competition, whether the result was good or bad, I get motivated to practice harder to be better for the next competition," he said.
Tsuyoshi adds the sport has an interesting unifying element that crosses linguistic challenges.
"Even without making any verbal communication, you can understand their personality just by sparring with them in kendo. [It] is one very interesting thing about kendo. You will also learn the etiquette and manners that are very useful in your living life," Tsuyoshi says.
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