Thursday, March 20, 2008

9th Shiramizu Taikai!

Richard here!

The 9th Annual Shiramizu Karate Club Championships took place today at the Kuki City Comprehensive P.E. Gymnasium (Kuki-machi Sogo Taikukan). This was a dojo-only event for the 450 members, of which pretty much everyone from kindergarten to junior high school competed - there were no high school or adults divisions this year because Sensei wanted these two groups to help the kids out since there are so many of them!

Tournament time plan:
-8am gym opened
-9am official's meeting and volunteer's meeting
-10am walk-in opening ceremony (athletes lined up just off to the side and walked past the main table in groups based on their school year, like elementary 2nd grade, etc, with one person holding a placard for each group with their grade name on it)
-Some speeches
a) Suzuki Sensei (in charge of the tournament) announced the opening of the tournament
b) Arakawa Sensei spoke about it being the 9th year
c) Kikuchi Sensei (chief official) spoke about the rules
d) one junior high school student who made it onto the all-styles Saitama team gave the Sensei address, when they do a Roman salute and shout out before the front table how everyone will do their best with honour
-10:15am start
-1pm finish
-'karate man demo'
-1hr lunch
-ending speeches, including a politician, a kindergarten principal, the Saitama Karate Association president, Arakawa Sensei and Takagi Sensei
-many demos (60mins)
-award ceremony (40mins)
-done by 4pm!!!

Competition was by school grade only, with the elementary grades being co-ed, and the junior high school kids being male-only and female-only.

Everyone did one round of kata, with the winners of that round going on to finish the division with only kumite right to the final match. For kata, red and blue went at the same time, and 3 officials judged who was better. This format made the tournament go lightening fast. Of course those who like to fight knew they had to do kata well enough to get through the first round, since it was single round elimination.

For the kindergarten kids, separated in their 3 groups by age (3 year olds, 4 year olds and 5 year olds), 2 kids would go onto the mat at the same time being red and blue, then an instructor would call out basic ido kihon commands. 5 times forward jun zuki, turn with a block, 5 times back jun zuki, turn with a block, then finish. The officials would wave their flags who was better and then the next two would come up. I thought this was a great way to run kindergarten kids through the kata portion without them having to worry about remembering even a few moves.

All kumite saw the kids wearing a face helmet (meiho), kumite mitts (ken-sapo, short for fist-supporter) and a torso protector. The alloted time was 1:30min and the first person with a 4 point lead won. While some matches were over in 10 seconds, a few went up to 12-10 in pts in the junior high divisions.

Intern Lawrence preparing to ref for the first time.

Here I am successfully staying awake as a corner ref. I say this because the last time I officiated my daughter was born only days before, so I was quite sleep deprived while helping out at the Tobu City Tournament, during which I nodded off once!

There were 5 rings, with the center ring using the dojo mats. With more rings and only 3-4 officials per ring, the tournament went quickly.

This group I think is the elementary 2nd graders in the holding area just off to the side of the gym.
Some very happy kids! Several are in our intern's English conversation classes.

Kindergarten kids going through a warm-up on the side in the holding area. They did some light jumping around, then stretching, then they all practiced their ido kihon as a group so they'd be all rehearsed for their division. They have a different badge on their dogi jacket, I think it is a cute little bear kicking with Shiramizu Kid's Karate in English written on it, or something like that.

Myself, Takagi Sensei and Arakawa Sensei at the head table. Takagi Sensei's smart looking grey beard, being slightly pointy at the end, had everyone saying that he had aged. But he was still cracking jokes. and he watched everything with his steely-eyed gaze right until the very end.
During the second round of speeches when the competition was over just before lunch, Arakawa Sensei was kind enough to talk about the internship, how I had set it up, how Lawrence was the 3rd person and how soon there will be a British Wadokai couple (Carl and Amy) coming this summer. He also introduced my mom Bonita who is visiting from Canada right now, plus he pointed out my wife Rie and my daughter Ema, who he said is the new club mascot!
Takagi Sensei then went up and spoke about Arakawa Sensei being appointed to the Nippon Budokan's Budo-gakeun academy as an official karate instructor. Since this organization is at the center of the budo world here, it is quite an honour, and now Arakawa Sensei will assist Takagi Sensei every Thursday night from 5:30pm at the Budokan's dojo, which is located just to the side of the main hall.
Arakawa Sensei has asked me to come along as well as an unofficial instructor, which pleasantly surprised me.

The banner in Japanese for the 9th Annual Tournament.
Dai Kyu-kai Shiramizu Shuyo Kai Karate-do Rensei Taikai
(# 9 event Shiramizu Cultivation Association Karate-do Training Tournament)
Shiramizu Shuyo Kai is the full name for the dojo.

My daughter Ema at her first karate tournament! At 6-/12 months, she made lots of new friends and she didn't cry... until we said good-bye to Takagi Sensei at the end of the day - must have been the beard.

The medals! Now having run tournaments in Canada in the past, we would buy $4-5 medals and go through well over 100, so there is a large cost to them in a tournament budget. But these were easily 3x the weight of the medals I would buy in Canada. and engraved on the back with the tournament name, division, and 1st, 2nd, or 3rd!
Also, the top 4 of every division got a large certificate as per Japanese custom, but also every single participating member got a certificate of participation too! This is why the awards ceremony took so long as everyone came up one at a time, in a long-line, to get one.
Certificates here are printed in a huge batches with generic printing of the tournament event, and then one or two people trained in Japanese calligraphy spend the whole tournament day in a room off to the side filling out the year, the division, the person's name, their result and the current name of the current association president for that event. Actually, every tournament for all sports in Japan do this.

Just before lunch was the 'karateman' demo - which are 3 high school boys in what looks like Ultraman full-body stretch suits of different colors - red, yellow & orange. One high school girl was dressed as a manga character of some sort and at one point, one of the adults (Okano-san, the fish market salesman) dressed like a thug in sun glasses and an overcoat came out to only get beaten up by these super heros.

Here is 'blue karateman' in midst multi back flip. All the kids from 6th grade elementary learn acrobatics in the dojo and do them in all sorts of traditional and non-traditional demos.

After lunch, everyone got on the floor for a 20min tachi kihon and ido kihon workout, which was a good chance for the parents to see their kids again in action, plus for everyone to see how much the club membership has grown! Wow!

Arakawa Sensei leading the workout.
This was followed by many demos;
-kindergarten moving basics and simple acrobatics to music
-elementary school 6th grade Team Kata 'Chinto' demo, plus bunkai to music - very interesting routine created by Arakawa Sensei which this group will perform at the Wadokai World Champs this Aug in Vancouver.
-high school girls Team Kata 'Kushanku' demo - no bunkai
-all black belts Team Kata 'Seishan' demo - no bunkai
-double baseball bat break by Iwasaki Sensei - first with a dropping hammer strike, and the second as a shin break.
- there were a few other kata demos I think, like an elementary school group of 1-2-3kyu brown belts doing I think kushanku

Guseikai Honbu Dojo traditional defense demo done by the Fujimoto brothers.

'Fun karate demo' done by Lawrence and myself - this was a sport kumite-esque demo where Lawrence continues to lose which gets him more and more frustrated, much to the amusement of the kids who cheer him on not to give up. At one point I glanced at the head table to see Takagi Sensei looking stoic, but Arakawa Sensei was in the middle of a full belly laugh.
(Pictures from people there show both sensei actually laughing through the whole demo, which is just a bonus for us!)

Lawrence starts pounding his fists in frustration on the mat at this point, which was really funny.
He was hamming it up so well I was laughing too.

Even Masatoshi, Arakawa Sensei's youngest, was employed to run over with the cold spray!

During the finale with an Ogami Leap over Lawrence's head, I successfully don't wipe out in mid-air.

Awarding a top for group of winners!
This was absolutely a great dojo-only event, a real moral booster and an all round fun event both for traditional and sport budo.
Afterwards, there was an official's dinner at 5pm, followed by a dojo volunteers/staff dinner at 7pm. The official's dinner is covered by the dojo and the dojo dinner is normally a set fee of all you can eat and drink for between 3000-5000yen ($30-$50US depending on the exchange rate).
As I told Lawrence, it is important one watches how everything is run so in the future one can hold a similar event in one's own vision. And this event is so well run with a very positive vibe that there is lots to learn and pick-up. Arakawa Sensei and the other instructors really set a great tone of practical seriousness with clean fun.
I like the idea of those who only win one round of kata get to do kumite, keeping everyone motivated to improve their traditional technique, but I would modify this so everyone has to win one round of each to move on, so that everyone gets a chance at both. I'm not trying to knock this event, not at all, just saying that's how I would modify it.
Next year is the 10th, so Arakawa Sensei is planning a huge event for all ages, plus special demos and even a special commemorative training book/dvd set!
Foreign Wadokai members will be allowed to compete in this event so if anyone is planning to come to Japan next year, aim for the 3rd week of March.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Great article, and great pictures!
It makes me miss being there even more.


Mike Spain