Monday, October 8, 2007

Tobu Taikai!

The Tobu Taikai held on Sep 30 went very smoothly. Lawrence competed and I officiated, while some 450 karate athletes did their thing. The venue was the relatively new Kuki City Public Gymnasium, which is a rectangular arena with seats and the floor area for easily 6 courts plus warm-up space.

The tournament is organized by Shiramizu dojo and I thought it was for Tobu City which is just beside Sugito City where the dojo is, which is beside Kuki.

There were 27 divisions, and it was a regular local city event for beginners to advanced students, but with everyone divided up by age and sex, not by rank. So from kindergarten to over 40, for example, divisions were simply listed as 'elementary school grade 4 boys invidual kata'. There were team kumite divisions as well, for boys 5 members and for girls 3 members.

Here are the Shiramizu winners! From kindergarten to high school level, the best 8 for each division received a certificate of achievement and the best 4 received medals. For the adult divisions, just the top 2 got a medal and certificate.

Awards were handed out in typical Japanese tournament fashion, when as soon as a division was done and the certificates were ready, the winners were called over the PA to line up in front of the head table where a line of VIPS holding the medals and certificates would get up from their seats and wait for them. Arakawa Sensei would read out the division name and then the winner's name for the division over the PA, and then all at the same time, Sensei and the VIPs would present the awards to the athlete in front of them, lined up from first to last in a best 8, or for adults top 2.

At every tournament in Japan there is a room reserved off to the side where 2 or even 3 people labor away with filling out all the date, divisions and winners names on the pre-printed form certificates using artful Japanese calligraphy. Each event has hundreds of certificates pre-printed just for that event, so they can be used every year. Only the date, division and winner's names need to be added, but also the current president of whatever organization running the tournament must be added with their big tournament hanko, or stamp.

These shodo people are normally from a shodo club if not shodo teachers, and they may also do karate. One person runs to and from the head table to drop off finished division certificates and get another division's winner's names.

At the high school where I coach, when junior high school students come to take part in club practices, register for school entrance exams or come to the actual exams, parents bring along big folders of all of these tournament certificates their child has collected from their good results at every single tournament they've attended since 1st year elementary school. This is to help impress myself and the club director in the hope we will a) want to have such a dedicated and talented new karate club member next year and b) put in a good word for them to the school's entrance selection department who reviews exam results with each student's school application.

Sometimes parents just bring one certificate if it is something very impressive like winning the junior high school National Championships. If your a national champion, like in other countries, enough said...

The registration deadline for tournaments tends to be one month prior, which different for us from Canada where the standard is one week prior or same day registration. But the reason for this early registration requirement is that big programs are printed listing everyone's name and all the draws for each division, plus sometimes there are a few pages in the back to list prevuous year's winners and many pages of dojo ads and karate equipment supplier ads. No same day registration is allowed because a deadline is a deadline.

The other thing everyone does, me too, is keep every single tournament program we ever get. When I'm coaching, I or one of my students copies down all the results for every division, especially our club's results. Most tournaments have large blown-up poster size division sheets taped to a wall and someone from the head table updates the division results all day along. A small crowd of people almost constantly forms around these posters.

Everyone normally records at least the kata performed by their dojo members and the kumite scores respectively for each round. At the very moment a division is finished with one's dojo members in it, many people at the event send text messages from the cell phones to non-attending dojo members and parents to let them know how the tournament is going. Knowing how the 'drama' of the tournament is progressing is followed closely here, not just for one's own club, but for other clubs, especially the one's with top reputations for producing winners.

The other thing that is common for example is last Saturday when I ran a multi-high school club practice at my school, another club coach brought the program for an important tournament she and her top athlete attended way up north so that I could see the results and reflect on the current quality of the current athletes, plus see how her student did of course. Several times older retired coaches visiting my school have asked to see some of the recent tournament programs, and then off they go to drink a coffee (and have a smoke, some of them) while they ponder on how each club is doing, which are still producing top athletes, which clubs are getting weaker or stronger, etc.

Being a fun city event, this event was no yosen, or eliminations to a higher event. But for sure an enjoyable day for all, and it was finished by 4:30pm!


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