Monday, November 5, 2007

Kita-ku? More like kita-COOL!

Seiritsu High School Team Champions with Head Coach Richard!

One of the many clubs warming up in the morning.

Sat, Nov 3rd was the 41st annual Kita-ku (North Tokyo area) Taikai. It is an open event for any club based in the north part of Tokyo. It is also one of the longest running karate tournaments in Tokyo itself (actually a local township taikai was expanded to cover with the whole district 41yrs ago, so really this event has actually been going for 50yrs as of this year!)

Suffice it to say, it drew quite a few competitors, perhaps 350-400. Due to the event's age, it also meant that it had a rather old-fashioned air to the proceedings, for example how there were no competition mats laid down on the event's Kami-Nakazato area's community centre gym floor, to the occasional barked order from anyone one of the many much older karate instructors during the set-up in the morning.

Despite that, the tournament ran extremely smoothly, with some of the 6 rings finishing all their kata divisions and starting on kumite well before lunch time. Richard Sensei's Seiritsu Gakuen high school entered 4 competitors in 3 divisions- adult men's kata (graduate was entered), high school boys individual kumite, and adult men's team kumite (high school boys entered as the main team). Richard Sensei and myself were also registered on the kumite team as support in case, for instance, both kumite divisions ran in parallel and the team was short of the 3 required.

The coolness of it though was how successful the team was. Seiritsu took the gold in all the divisions as well as the second and fourth place in the individual kumite. The Seiritsu boys happened upon some rather heavy hitters in the men's team kumite division from the numerous clubs that showed up, but held their own in some very exciting matches.

Beyond winning though, there's just something about the momentum the team gained through their matches and it culminated in an awesome 2-0 win against the opposing JKA team in the final. Pictured above are Seiritsu's Sho (aka) and Ryota (ao) squaring off for first and second place in individual boy's kumite.

With much elation, the day ended off with dinner with Richard Sensei and Shun Tanaka, a graduate of Seiritsu and multi-time Japan Paralympic karate champion. One of the places we went to was a standing oden shop in Akabane where you pick your food and eat standing up. They even provided the most eye-wateringly strong mustard to go with your food.

One key thing I learned from that day was you never know what kind of people are out there in the karate world. It's easy to stumble into a little world where some students have been training since they were 5 and are now national champions making you think that you've sort of missed the train. But, at the Kita-ku Taikai, it taught me more than any other taikai that there are people from all walks of life who have approached karate from all different angles. I can't go back in time to start karate earlier, but I can challenge myself to put in more effort, and seeing so many people give it their all further drives my motivation.

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