Kris Kimura, Ryoku's founder, got his first exposure to the Olympic lifts as a high school athlete, however, it wasn't until he crossed paths with World and Olympic champion Tommy Kono in the 1990's that his life would change forever. Kono was more than a coach to Kimura, he was a mentor, and a model of uncompromising character. Each training session was not only a lesson in improving in the sport of Olympic weightlifting, but how to live life: seeing things as opportunities and not obstacles, being grateful regardless of the circumstance, to believe in oneself, and to always strive to be better.
Ryoku began as an idea to make better. How can we make the best possible weightlifting equipment? What will we be able to stand behind proudly and put our name on it? Kimura was destined to spend every day with the commitment to better what was accomplished yesterday. And as a result of thinking to make better, in 1997 the first prototype of the Ryoku Lifting Strap was born.
During that year Kimura spent some time coaching at the United States Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid, New York. He introduced the benefits of using lifting straps in certain exercises to several bobsledders, speed skaters, and ski jumpers. Because of the issues he had with the current straps out on the market, he gave several strips of webbing to each athlete and showed them how a single strip could be placed around the wrist and wrapped around the bar to secure one's grip. This practice, of using a single piece of webbing or leather strap as a means of securing a grip on the bar, was common for Olympic weightlifters, however, the finger dexterity of the user made the use of these straps difficult for those who did not use them on a daily basis.
Many weightlifting straps commercially available at the time were also primarily made of cotton. They lacked the durability and its long length was not conducive for use with the Olympic lifts. There were other lifting straps constructed with different material, but the material wasn't as comfortable on the skin and the design of the strap often made it uncomfortable to wear due to it cinching down on the wrist. The straps also didn't account for differences in contour for the right and left hand.
Then came the solution: fold over the single piece of webbing in half and stitch together the ends so the strap would stay together when securing it around the barbell. Since Kimura was now making the straps, he made sure to address the other issues he had with the straps out on the market. Different webbing was used to add in the durability of the strap and comfort against the skin, the fixed loop took care of the excessive tightening on the wrists, and the way the ends were attached would make each strap specifically contour to the differences of each hand. This right- and left-hand specific design, and fixed loop, was the first of its kind for lifting straps.
For the next few years, Kimura would repeatedly buy the webbing material in Southern California and send them to his mother back in Hawaii to be sewn into lifting straps whenever he needed more to outfit the lifters he was coaching at the time or to sell a few to some friends. Kimura often gave away his straps to many of his lifters who were college students without any sort of income of their own.
Eventually word spread, and soon his mother couldn't keep up with the orders, so in 2010, Kimura took a leap of faith and began having his lifting straps commercially made in a sewing mill in Southern California. The rest is history. Ryoku Lifting Straps are currently sold all over the United States, Canada, UK, Germany, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and many other locations worldwide.