Interview taka Professional Tricking Athlete
taka‑‑‑a top-level athlete in the world-famous Japanese tricking. He’s won a world title in pair and 2nd place in solo. In today’s interview, we asked taka about how he started tricking and his thoughts about it as a culture.
Tricking was what I wanted to do
──To begin with, could you tell us about your current activities?
Taka I currently compete as a professional tricking athlete. I also instruct workshops and private lessons, both on and offline. This year, I moved to Tokyo, since my Instagram followers began to grow in the area.
──Can you tell us about your background?
Taka When I was little, I loved Sonic the Hedgehog. That’s why I used to think running around the city while doing flips was a cool idea. Looking back, perhaps I should’ve done parkour. The thing that I took up as a kid instead was gymnastics, which I did until 22. The thing that eventually united my passion for Sonic the Hedgehog and my experience in gymnastics was tricking, not parkour. At first, I was looking at tricking videos to improve my twisting moves in gymnastics. Then, I gradually became drawn towards tricking itself.
──Did you receive any reaction from your surroundings when you transferred from gymnastics to tricking?
Taka A lot of people disapproved of my transition at first. But I used to reply, “This is what I want to do and this is my life, so stay back”. Even people in tricking told me that guests from gymnastics weren’t welcomed and that I was unskilled, which made me feel rebellious. So at the time, the rebellious spirit was my drive.
──So there were difficulties regarding the transition from gymnastics to tricking.
Taka Yes. A discord had existed between gymnastics and tricking since a long time before I even started tricking. People in tricking thought gymnastics athletes lacked in respect for the tricking culture. Ironically, I began tricking right when that discord was at peak. But, the tricking community eventually accepted me because I had the skills and had love for the artistic elements that were unique to tricking. The discord began to dissolve since then, so I believe that I took a part in advancing the culture.
──So you cherish your respect for the tricking culture.
Taka Of course. I began tricking because I truly thought it was cool. It’s wrong to transfer to tricking while having a belittling attitude towards it. As I mentioned earlier, tricking has artistic elements that are different from those of gymnastics. I like how tricking involves kicks and connecting moves. That’s why when I started to perform, I focused on executing moves that are unique to tricking, rather than the twists and turns that I learned in gymnastics. I became socially active in order to gain traction , which also helped me get accepted by the tricking community.
You just do what you like in tricking
──Is there anyone you’ve received influence from?
Taka A person from Finland named Peru. He’s a charismatic figure in tricking. Peru noticed me when it was about 6 months since I started tricking and he invited me to join his practice when he came to visit Hyogo in Japan. When we met, he already understood my circumstance and gave me these words. “You probably carry doubts and have struggles, since you came from gymnastics, but just do what you like in tricking. You’ve got to master what you truly like and what you’re good at.”
There’s Issei-san, a videographer who pushed me forward and encouraged me when I moved to Tokyo.
There’s Daisuke Takahashi-san, the leader of TTM(TOK¥O TRICKING MOB) who taught me tricking without any prejudice towards my background as a gymnastics athlete. He gave me a complement that I would improve.
Also, Zen Shimada-kun who largely increased the popularity of parkour in Japan. I pay attention to his actions and study what kind of actions I should take on my own.
It’s more accurate to say that I’m studying, rather than receiving influence.
──Could you share what you’ve learned from your activities.
Taka I learned that everyone can live their own way. We can all do anything we want to do. This is also something I keep in mind when I teach kids in lessons. Generally, I let the kids do whatever they want. I won’t tell them to pay attention even if they digress from the lesson because I want them to live their own way. I myself have the experience of throwing away my career and starting all over. So, I keep in mind that we can always restart and do anything we want to do.
──Do you have any interest towards culture other than tricking?
Taka Of course! Tricking is still a relatively new culture, so there are lots of things it could learn from other cultures. For example, gymnastics overcame tricking’s current problem through branding and developing a strict scoring system. Tricking probably won’t succeed if it just copies gymnastics, though. It needs to pave its own way in order to develop. I pay attention to cultures like break dance and parkour, which currently face the same problem as tricking.
Giving back tricking
──We feel that your feelings that you want to give back tricking is expressed in your activities. Have you thought about things like that?
Taka Yes I have. In fact, everything I do is an act of giving back. I never longed to become famous or rich, but there was this time of my life when I was dumped by my girlfriend and my life seemed suckish. That’s when I encountered tricking and since then, my life changed 180 degrees. I have to thank this culture for reminding me that life is fun. So, most of the times, I’m moving with the sense of responsibility that I must give back to tricking for everything it gave me.
Having such a motive made it easier for me to brand myself and develop my own business. Giving back and business are both about being useful to someone, so they’re similar. Trying to always fulfill your sense of responsibility can be exhausting at times though.
──What’s your vision for your future?
Taka I want to build numerous tricking facilities. I can create employment opportunities if I can hire instructors at those facilities. But, the largest goal I have is to become super famous in a field other than tricking. It’s a tough goal that poses a daunting reality that must be overcome, but it’s nevertheless an essential goal that someone has to accomplish in order for tricking to prosper in the future. I believe it’s important to make tricking a culture that could sustain one’s life. Otherwise, the efforts of the younger generation won’t be met with satisfying ends.
──What does it mean to be “iketeru(cool)”?
Taka It means to be a person who could act in others’ favor. People who primarily focus on their own improvement can be cool, but it’s even cooler if you can convert that energy to helping others. Doing something for someone requires more effort. By practicing it, the difference becomes visible in the standing posture and the calmness in the eyes.
──Lastly, how do you interpret the term “culture”?
Taka That’s a tough question(laughs). Well, I guess it’s not so different from religion. It’s something that a person could believe in, since it could guide you through life and provide you a place to live. I think culture creates a warmer space/community than sports.
──Thank you for your time.
Taka has faced various setbacks and disapprovals along his international journey. Amidst those hardships, his rebellious spirit and his philosophy of “giving back” never left him. It is impossible to take your eyes off from the steps he takes—to guide the tricking culture towards a brighter future.
Interviewer : Tsukasa Yorozuya
Composition : Tsukasa Yorozuya, Charlie Ohno
Photographing : Shun Kawahara, Charlie Ohno
English Translation : Ryu Nakamachi