Bright spotlight, tense atmosphere, amazed audience and skeptical judges. Two little shiny yo yos are flying lively in the air, making loops, zigzags and twists. The little quirky objects, masterfully manipulated by a contestant, are holding the audience’s attention tightly. In a moment the judges’ decision is ready – a world champion is named.
On Nov, 2, AAU students could witness this exciting mastery at Roxy club – performed by a fellow student. Kentaro Kimura, a Business Administration student at AAU and an easy-going and likable fellow, at the young age of mid-twenties fulfilled his most courageous dreams. A four-time champion of World and National contests, Kentaro Kimura is a real proof that dreams come true – only hand in hand with strict discipline and hard work.
“Yo yo is like second nature to me,” says Kentaro. “Even if I lost my arms, I would continue working with yo yo in some way.”
Yo yo is a simple toy – a spool with long string attached. The first-impression of simplicity vanishes when you see a professional performance. Rapidly intertwining and twisting the string with fingers creates a fast-paced lively dance of the spool in the air. At contests, participants have only 1 to 3 minutes to show their mastery. Yet the fast-paced virtuosic motion of yo yo often makes those several minutes saturated with amaze.
Back in 1997-1998 a popular Japanese comic book “Coro Coro” started advertising yo yos. This comic book often set game trends for kids through advertisements. The Hawaiian players on the ads, looking cool, quirky and masterful, impressed a 12-year old Kentaro and this is how passion for yo yo was born.
At that time Kentaro shared this passion with many age mates. “It was a huge boom in Japan,” he says. “Many kids brought it to school.” While for some it was left behind as a children’s game, for Kentaro it eventually became destiny.
One day in 2002 Kentaro found that a World Contest was being held in Florida. “There was no deep reason or thought. I just suddenly felt the urge – I need to go,” Kentaro says. It was the first real contest that he went to and which started the long and demanding path to championship.
Feeling nervous and uncomfortable in a new competitive environment, Kentaro didn’t achieve much success at first. What he did achieve in the beginning was a firm determination: “I need to become a champion.”
For years and years Kentaro practiced. Yet there was a challenge he couldn’t overcome: nervousness. While he did the tricks perfectly at home and very often won at regional contests, national and world contests were pressuring and nerve-racking. “I put so much effort, but my nervousness spoiled my tricks,” he says.
Yet Kentaro didn’t give up. There were times when he practiced 10 hours a day for months. “I always told myself “you did a lot of practice, you need to win, to have a real result for all this effort,” Kentaro says.
“At times I even hated yo yo, didn’t want to see it,” says Kentaro. Yet the image of championship was strongly set before his eyes.
Then the big victory came. 2006, US national contest – the dream of championship came true. Hard years of practice played their role. Looking back, Kentaro realizes that it was “letting go” that made the victory possible. He also supposes that “practice needs a while to get to your brain”– this is how mastery is eventually achieved.
Then, finally, came the biggest prize – World Championship in 2009. “When I did the first trick, I suddenly had a feeling ‘I will win,’ ” Kentaro says. In the World Championship contest he got twice as many points as the second prize winner.
Kentaro conquered US once more in 2007 and Asia in 2010.
The path to championship taught him to be disciplined and dedicated to hard work. In a way, though, it came naturally: “We Japanese like to torture ourselves with hard work. It’s in our culture.”
Another lesson was, when the competition is on – let go; don’t let the pressure and nervousness win. Just focus on the task and take it easy.
But contests and competitions weren’t the only ways Kentaro worked. Graduating from College in Georgia, US, he went to work as a designer at Yo Yo Nation, an opportunity offered by a friend, the owner. Eventually, Kentaro created his own business Turning Point, which cooperates with one Chinese and one Japanese factory. The yo yo designed by Kentaro and tested by world masters is sold in around 10 countries – including US, Japan, China, UK and Czech Republic. These yo yos are especially designed for each market.