Monday, March 31, 2008

Kita-Katsushika-Gun Taikai

Lawrence again, just finishing up a whirlwind week and a half of events with the Kita-Katsushika-Gun Tournament being the last at the Asukaru Community Centre in Satte City on March 30th. Kita-Katsushika-Gun is an area within the Saitama Prefecture that includes the towns of Kurihashi, Matsubushi, Washimiya, and, of course, Sugito.

Unlike last week's Wadokai Kanto Tournament, this was open to any dojo of any style and it was a great chance to see some old faces as well as meet some new ones. Like many tournaments, it opened at 9am, the competition started at 10 and, despite being a local tournament, lots of competitors showed up to take part.

My morning started with kata, which didn't see me advance past my Goju opponent. After a quick lunch, I was in the warm-up area stretching when, I'm sorry to say, I witnessed quite an unfortunate scene...

I was watching an instructor (who was also competing that day) practice some kumite drills with two students of his. I realise that, by nature, kumite can be rough and there are certain conditions of power and control that need to be met to score a point in competition. I realise too that training within the realm of those conditions is important because what happens in the ring should be instinctive. But when one of the two students was crying in her helmet because every jodan kizame the instructor threw at her had enough force to snap her head all the way back, I think some sort of line has been crossed. That she looked about 10 or 12 years old and was subjected to rather demoralising words from the instructor doesn't help.

I really think even an older student strong and motivated enough to take a shot like that from their instructor shouldn't have to continuously be subjected to it while bearing the brunt of those harsh words. I don't even particularly mind someone who is strong if they have a sense of what is required at the moment and the control to do so. Most unfortunate, though, is that these things do happen. Which made me wonder what keeps those students returning. I can't imagine being that young and wanting to train at one specific dojo so badly that I'd be happy to return. Or being a parent and being ok with that. Being strong enough to win shouldn't overshadow the fact that this should also be something fun, especially for kids.

I don't want to come across as thinking I'm high and mighty, but I have my beliefs about how things should be done and I thought this was one example of how it shouldn't be. As a bit of poetic justice, said instructor lost his match against the lone white belt (in the black belt division because there weren't any other kyu-ranked adult male competitors) because he piled on the warnings for lack of control.

(Richard here... I have also seen this abusive behaviour, not just in Japan, but in other places as well. At the Kanto High School Championships in January I saw a father wildy hit his son for losing the finals for his team kumite division. Arakawa Sensei and I have discussed this in detail, and he is absolutely against any abusive style of disciplining/coaching/motivating. Which is why I support Arakawa Sensei's positive way of teaching karate, and it obviously pays off for him with so many students staying with him. For sure nowadays karate in Japan is seen as safe and for the most part it is. Maeda Sensei, the former national coach, said the confusion between proper discipline and corporeal violence was blurred in the past, but this is pretty much gone from karate and it only lingers now in some parts of sumo. Arakawa Sensei also confronts other instructors when they're out of line even if it has nothing to do with Shiramizu because he hates the unnecessary macho aspects of budo.)

That aside though, it was a fun day which, especially in a local tournament, should be the focus. I didn't do very well, but at least I had a good time and I am motivated to do better the next time out.

Shiramizu kids geared up and ready to go.

Warming up in the holding area.

Shiramizu after the tournament (Picture courtesy of Arakawa Sensei's blog).

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