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Good morning from Japan! ^_^

 

In addition to being a huge fan of Hanyu-senshu, I'm also very active in men's rhythmic gymnastics (男子新体操) fan community here. MRG started in Japan 70 years ago and fans of figure skating may also enjoy this beautiful sport!  It is graceful, emotional and athletic, and the competition outfits gymnasts wear are very similar to men's figure skating (some are even custom made by Chacott).

 

I'm trying to introduce more fans to the sport by writing several English-language newspaper articles about some of Japan's top gymnasts and teams. Videos from top MRG high school and college teams (Ibara HS, Aomori, Hanazono, Kokushikan) have been viewed more than 30 million times on social media.

 

Last month, i visited Kokushikan University RG Team, one of the top teams in Japan. I had the chance to interview Coach Yamada, individual gymnast Yuhei Ishikawa, and many members of the team.

 

My first newspaper article about MRG was published yesterday in Metropolis Magazine: http://metropolisjapan.com/yuhei-ishikawa/

 

Yuhei's beautiful stick routine: 

 

Yuhei has been performing MRG since he was 12, he is currently a freshman and will be competing at All-Japan Inter-College next month in Morioka. I'm hoping he makes it to All-Japan RG championships in October...

 

I will also be writing an article focusing on team MRG for a different newspaper.

 

My friends run several great MRG fansites in English, a good starting point is:

http://english.men-rg.com/about.html

 

Please help me in supporting this sport and growing our fanbase overseas! MRG competitions are only held in Japan and the sport is not currently recognized by FIG or the Olympics...let's give these talented gymnasts the chance to shine on the world stage.

 

Please feel free to ask questions and start a conversation about MRG! :-)

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Ibara High School's RG team routines have been viewed more than 22 million times online!! Here is my favorite, this won them first place over Aomori Yamada HS at last year's Inter-High:

 

 

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Thank you so much for these videos! I thought it strange how I've never really heard much about Men's Rhythmic Gymnastics despite being a fan of gymnastics, but then realized in that site you linked to that the last Worlds Championship for this discipline was in 2005! MRG doesn't really seem to have a reach outside of Japan, which definitely accounts for how it's not very well known as a competitive sport. I see that the individual numbers are definitely within Rhythmic Gymnastics parameters and I actually am curious to see more videos on their various apparatus, but the group numbers seem somewhat similar to Acrobatic Gymnastics, which is actually a more well known international discipline. Is there crossover in both disciplines for these men? Do some of these groups participate in both MRG and Acrobatic Gymnastics competitions?

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I'm with xeyra, thanks a lot for sharing, and to be honest, I'd never heard of MRG before in my life. For some reason I've always just assumed it was strictly a ladies-only thing. Now I'll have to watch some more videos, because this is brilliant!

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Xeyra, yes, exactly! Even here in Japan, the sport has faced some hurdles and compared to other popular team sports like soccer, baseball, etc., enrollment is low.

 

I feel a large part of the problem is that VERY few MRG coaches and athletes (and this is also true for Japanese gymnastics associations in general) are fluent in English; this has hampered efforts in networking and exporting the sport as well, although some of the top university teams like Aomori, Hanazono, and Kokushikan are frequently invited to perform at rhythmic gymnastics competitions overseas. I'm working with some of the athletes to try and increase their listening and speaking ability in English. Nearly all official information and fansites are only available in Japanese. This also makes it incredibly difficult to look up individual performers and competition videos unless you know their name kanji, as all video uploads are also in Japanese only at present. I'm trying to work with the MRG community to make it more inclusive for English speakers, as most European fans would be able to follow in English!

 

A few of the Japanese college gymnasts choose to coach in North America (there are MRG gyms in Vancouver and Boston), but by and large, most competitive gymnasts hang up their competition outfits after graduation (gymnasts who graduated from school (including grad students) cannot take part in インカレ, but they still have a chance to perform at All Japan if they meet certain qualifications, such as winning at Shakaijin competition).

 

Others choose to perform with Cirque du Soleil; I know of several top gymnasts who went that route. There is a team of 5 Japanese MRG performers with CdS's Varekai (they added a synchro tumbling routine) and others with CdS Michael Jackson One.:

 

In Japan, MRG athletes generally  only compete in MRG competitions (men's and women's RG competitions are frequently held in the same venue, with separate floors for the women's and men's teams since MRG requires a 13 x 13 spring floor, not the thinner mat used for women's RG). There are several large All-Japan MRG competitions throughout the year, next month will see All-Japan Inter-College in Morioka (Iwate), and October is the annual All-Japan RG championships in Chiba (I am going to try and attend the Saturday and Sunday performances to support my friends at Kokushikan). 

 

For individual gymnasts, there are four apparatus: clubs, rope, double rings, and stick. Points are based a 10-point scale that measures the difficulty of the tumbling and 10 points for apparatus handling for a possible total of 20 points. Individual performances clock in at a brief 1:15 - 1:30, while team RG performances run at 2:45 - 3:00 and do not use apparatus. Team RG routines are also scored on a scale of 20 possible points, 10 points for difficulty and 10 for execution. For men’s RG, tumbling is performed on a spring floor.

 

I will share some of my favorite individual gymnasts, my top pick is Naoya Nagai, a senior at Aomori University: 

 

Here is his clubs routine: 


Kyohei Oshita、All-Japan Individual Champion (Aomori University) (he currently performs with BLUE TOKYO MRG Performance Group) 

 

Kohei Ogawa, rope (2016 Inter College, 2nd place):

 

Kohei Ogawa, double rings, 2016 Inter-College (Hanazono University): 

 

Team MRG is more popular / better known overseas; there was a Japanese TV drama "Tumbling" that dramatized a high school MRG team that has a lot of overseas fans. I think for commercial appeal, synchronized MRG is more marketable. Individual MRG is more about expressing emotion and fluid, beautiful movements. 

 

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23 hours ago, Winnie_20 said:

I'm with xeyra, thanks a lot for sharing, and to be honest, I'd never heard of MRG before in my life. For some reason I've always just assumed it was strictly a ladies-only thing. Now I'll have to watch some more videos, because this is brilliant!

 

Winnie, welcome to MRG!! ^_^  I'm so happy to welcome new fans! :-) I am writing a second English-language newspaper article here in Japan that focuses on the history, format, and team routines, I will share a link as soon as it's online. Also, several in the MRG community updated / expanded the English Wikipedia entry to be much more accurate / detailed, you can read here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhythmic_gymnastics#Men.27s_rhythmic_gymnastics

 

Here is a very good documentary in English about the format and grueling training required for high-level competitions, it focuses on top-ranked Aomori Yamada High School RG team and Coach Sakae Arakawa, who not only started the MRG program at Aomori in 2001, but also started MRG performing group BLUE TOKYO (www.bluetokyo.jp/en) as a creative outlet for post-college gymnasts to continue performing MRG.

 

 

If you can read Japanese, I highly recommend following the excellent RG website GymLove, they have two outstanding female sportswriters / photographers that cover all the events (Ayako Shimizu and Keiko Shiina). http://gymlove.net/rgl/

 

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Thank you for sharing! This is very interesting. I did once wonder why there was only a ladies' RG event at the Olympics. I couldn't think of any other sport that only had a ladies' discipline. But I figured men's RG must not be very popular because men are a lot less flexible than women. Thanks for the videos!

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9 hours ago, yuzuangel said:

. I couldn't think of any other sport that only had a ladies' discipline. 

Synchronized swimming comes to mind, although I don't know if that's exactly true? I think with synchronized figure skating men can also participate, so maybe with swimming, too? Other than that, I cannot think of any, either.

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Wow, this is amazing! I wasn't aware this sport even existed, and if it did, that they use other apparatuses than the ladies. I was expecting to see ribbons and hoops when I first glanced at the video links here, lol. Thanks for sharing these observations and links, I've just checked out Ogawa's rope routine and it's impressive. If this was on TV, I'd totally watch.

@winnie - I think there's a mixed discipline for synchronized swimming, but I'm not sure there's a separate one for men.

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1 hour ago, Winnie_20 said:

Synchronized swimming comes to mind, although I don't know if that's exactly true? 

 

As surimi said, there is a mixed discipline for synchronised swimming, and two events (technical and free duets) were introduced for the first time at the 2015 Aquatics World Championships. If you're interested, the mixed free duets final at this year's Worlds is on Saturday.  I'm going to watch it!

 

There is not a separate discpline for men only, though.

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So that's what this amazing video is, then?! The title was so vague I didn't know how to find more of it. 

 

 

I had a techer who went to the Olympics as a rhythmic gymnast so we were made to do it in PE. All us kids found it really silly and though anything done at that level is impressive, I could never get into it. (Didn't help that I was a tomboy... who did ballet, though, so that can't be it.)

 

But I love this team stuff! Why couldn't they have taught us that instead?! (Or let us wear pants!)

 

Edit: I now notice this is the Aomori University team mentioned above!

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1 hour ago, SparkleSalad said:

So that's what this amazing video is, then?! The title was so vague I didn't know how to find more of it. 

 

 

I had a techer who went to the Olympics as a rhythmic gymnast so we were made to do it in PE. All us kids found it really silly and though anything done at that level is impressive, I could never get into it. (Didn't help that I was a tomboy... who did ballet, though, so that can't be it.)

 

But I love this team stuff! Why couldn't they have taught us that instead?! (Or let us wear pants!)

 

Edit: I now notice this is the Aomori University team mentioned above!

SparkleSalad, yes!!

 

It's actually a very sad story… This performance was in honor of one of their teammates who died from a brain tumor at 27. Unlike normal competition performances where the audience is quite loud and cheering, people were very quiet and respectful in honor of the deceased teammate. 

 

"Aomori University at 2009 All Japan RG Championships

This performance never fails to make whoever watches this to tears, even if they don't know the story behind this performance. Actually, this performance was dedicated to the deceased teammate, who died from brain cancer at his 20s. Usually, at MRG competitions, crowds cheer for their teammate shouting "Gamba!" (means "Do your best!") or "Faito!" (means not "fight", but "Go for it."). But in this performance, no such loud voice was heard. They silently watched the six gymnasts move on the mat, with spontaneous and intermittent clapping. Gymnasts as well as their teammate wanted to show respect and condolence for their dead friend." (Source: http://english.men-rg.com/group.html)

 

 As I mentioned in my post above, one of the biggest issues in recruiting overseas fans for the sport is that nearly none of the videos have English titles, or if they do, it's something very vague like "Japanese men."  I'm Working with fans here in Japan and some of the coaches of top teams to encourage them to make more of an effort to upload videos and blog posts in English. 

 

Very interesting to hear about your former teacher in having you do RG in school;  that's actually how MRG started in Japan, by combining calisthenics and Swedish, danish, and German gymnastics as a compulsory routine in schools. We have something called radio taisou (radio calisthenics)  that is performed every morning in Japanese schools and companies,  many of these moves can be found in MRG.

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 Here are some of my favorite group routines: 

 

Hanazono University: 

 

 

Kanzaki Seimei HS:

 

Komyo HS:

 

Kokushikan RG:

 

Aomori:

 

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9 minutes ago, vcq17 said:

SparkleSalad, yes!!

 

It's actually a very sad story… This performance was in honor of one of their teammates who died from a brain tumor at 27. Unlike normal competition performances where the audience is quite loud and cheering, people were very quiet and respectful in honor of the deceased teammate. 

 

"Aomori University at 2009 All Japan RG Championships

This performance never fails to make whoever watches this to tears, even if they don't know the story behind this performance. Actually, this performance was dedicated to the deceased teammate, who died from brain cancer at his 20s. Usually, at MRG competitions, crowds cheer for their teammate shouting "Gamba!" (means "Do your best!") or "Faito!" (means not "fight", but "Go for it."). But in this performance, no such loud voice was heard. They silently watched the six gymnasts move on the mat, with spontaneous and intermittent clapping. Gymnasts as well as their teammate wanted to show respect and condolence for their dead friend."

 

 As I mentioned in my post above, one of the biggest issues in recruiting overseas fans for the sport is that nearly none of the videos have English titles, or if they do, it's something very vague like "Japanese men."  I'm Working with fans here in Japan and some of the coaches of top teams to encourage them to make more of an effort to upload videos and blog posts in English. 

 

Very interesting to hear about your former teacher in having you do RG in school;  that's actually how MRG started in Japan, by combining calisthenics and Swedish, danish, and German gymnastics as a compulsory routine in schools. We have something called radio taisou (radio calisthenics)  that is performed every morning in Japanese schools and companies,  many of these moves can be found in MRG.

 

That's terrible that whoever uploaded that video didn't explain the story behind it. Thank you so much for sharing it, it's incredibly moving. No wonder they could achieve such a level of beauty and perfection with those intentions. I only found it after it came up under sugestions on YouTube. Perhaps a lot of skating fans also like it because every other recommendation was, of course, Hanyu related.

 

I did notice the rajio taisou moves and music in one of the videos you posted above. :)

 

I also found footage of the Issey Miyaki concert. The lighting is fantastic!

 

 

 

 

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