Tuesday, March 25, 2008

27th Wadokai Kanto Taikai

The 'Intern Lawrence' here again, and fresh off the Shiramizu Tournament was the Kanto area Wadokai tournament on March 23rd. Within the Kanto region are the prefectures of Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Saitama, Tokyo, Chiba, and Kanagawa. As might be expected with such a large turn-out from so many different places (some divisions had over 100 competitors), the level was quite high.

The day started with 6:30am bus ride taking all the Shiramizu competitors (about 60 of them) to Komazaya, just west of Shibuya in the SW corner of Tokyo. The tournament took place at the Tokyo Komazawa Olympic Park in the Komazawa Gymanasium which was built as part of the 1964 Summer Olympics. The doors opened at 9am and the first matches started at 10.

With 13 rings, there was lots of activity all day long. My men's individual kumite division started right at 10am and the competition was tougher than any other I've been in. Or seen, even, since the Wadokai Nationals last August. I didn't make it past my first round match, but there was a lot to learn from just watching as well, even if it was just from the sheer number of matches available to watch (116 competitors in the division, single elimination, no repecharge).

After taking an early lunch, I headed back to prepare for my kata division. In the men's individual kata division (41 competitors, seperated into two courts), the first two kata rounds were pre-determined to be Pinan Godan (or first kata, if one was seeded through the first round), with any kata available as a choice from there on afterwards, as long as no performer did the same kata twice. Unfortunately, I didn't make it past that first round either, but I did feel, and get some feedback that, the gap between my abilities is closing with some of the competitors. I do realize there's a ways to go, but I'm also happy that at least I feel I've made some progress.

With my matches finished though, I could focus on taking in the sights and sounds of the tournament. There were lots of competitors and lots of Shiramizu competitors who did quite well.

Richard Sensei also competed in individual men's kata and in team kumite under Toshiaki Maeda Sensei's Meiku-giijuku Dojo. He made Best 8 in the kata division, but in the second team kumite round, the team was pitted against the eventual winners from Tokyo Nogyo University Karate Club (Tokyo Agricultural University, which is were the January Wadokai Camp was held). Picture above is Richard Sensei midst-Chinto.

After that, it was over to another ring to watch Arakawa Sensei and the Guseikai Takagi Dojo team in their matches. The team made it to their third round with some very exciting matches. Below is Arakawa Sensei and Team Guseikai in their second match up against the Meiji University Team B. Guseikai won this round, but then lost to Tokyo Nogyo as well.

Most nail-bitingly, however, was the junior high school boys individual kumite division. With a huge division and only one ring running, it was still going strong at 5pm while pretty much the rest of the arena was cleaned up. Of course, we all stayed to watch because there were quite a few Shiramizu boys in the division, particularly one Okamura Sunao who went on to take first place amongst some very very strong competitors.

All in all, it was an excellent day out with a great turn out. Regardless of result, there's a lot to learn from being in the ring and doing competing as well as simply watching. Obviously the concept of a large tournament is exciting being able to bring out so many strong athletes from different areas, as the Kanto tournament proved, but I think smaller tournaments are equally important for developing competition ability, especially for someone like me with little sport karate experience.

Final Shiramizu Team Picture with Takagi Sensei, from Arakawa Sensei's blog.

And, lo and behold, next week is the Kita-Katsushika-Gun tournament, which houses many different smaller towns, such as Sugito where Shiramizu is. We'll see if I'm right about feeling like I've closed the gap...

Richard here! Here's some statistics for the Wadokai Kanto Taikai ;
- first held October 12th, 1980, with 238 competitors
- at last year's 26th annual event on March 23rd, 2007, there were 1615 competitors
- at this year's event, over 1500 competitors were expected

Arakawa Sensei switched from Gojukai to Wadokai around 1990.
From 1997, all the top 8 winners in this Kanto tournament had their names printed in this year's thick tournament program so here are Arakawa Sensei's past results (although before 1997 he had more in this event as well);

1997 1st individual men's kata division (he was 30yrs old then)
1997 1st Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai Takagi Dojo Team)
1997 Best 8 individual men's kumite & his last year of individual kumite
1998 1st individual men's kata
1998 2nd Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai)
1999 1st individual men's kata
1999 1st Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai)
2000 2nd Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai)
2000 1st individual men's kata
2001 1st individual men's kata
2002 best 8 Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai)
2003 1st individual men's kata
2003 3rd Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai)
2004 2nd individual men's kata (beaten by Mas Takagi, Takagi Sensei's son) & his last year for kata competition, from here he only competes in team kumite
2005 best 8 Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai)
2006 best 8 Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai)
2008 3rd Men's Team Kumite (Guseikai) (age 40)

Arakawa Sensei says he doesn't enjoy individual kumite anymore ('kind of lonely just on your own'), but he loves team kumite, the energized atmosphere of it, so he said he won't stop yet. Also with Shiramizu growing so much he has to cut back on his own competition to take care of his many competing students.

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