Tuesday, July 8, 2008

4th Annual All-Saitama Wadokai Tournament

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

Lawrence here. I'm in the last few days of being "the intern", but that hasn't stopped me from taking in all of the sights, sounds, and punches in the All-Saitama Prefecture Wadokai Championships.

This past Sunday (July 6th) as the Asukaru Community Centre in Satte City (about a 10 minute drive from Shiramizu), Wadokai clubs from all over Saitama prefecture gathered to duke it out amidst the steadily growing heat and humidity.

There were just over 300 competitors (with 160 of those from Shiramizu alone... talk about support!) representing 7 different clubs ranging from kindergarten/elementary only clubs (like KICK) to the Bunkyo University club. The first matches kicked off at 10am and my kata adult's men division was the last division run that morning.

My goal during this internship was to place somewhere respectable in a competition and, seeing as my kata division had 7 competitors with only 1st and 2nd places to be awarded a medal, that meant I would have to win at least two rounds to get something.

The first round went by without incident (literally, as my opponent didn't show) and I sat back down to wait for my second round. The second match was against a Bunkyo University student who was seeded through the first round and we both did Pinan Godan, the "first round" shitei kata (picture on the right). Joy of joys, I won that 5-0 and was in the final round, against another Shiramizu member (Tsubasa Oshima). Tsubasa is actually a high school student, but because there weren't enough entries for a high school division, he was put in the adult division. I didn't beat him for the gold medal but, having accomplished my year's goal, I was still grinning from ear to ear.

After lunch, it was back on the floor to get ready for my kumite match at its seemingly usual place at the very end of the day. Again I was pitted against another Bunkyo University student and though I eventually lost that match 4-2, I've been feeling more and more comfortable in the ring every time so I wasn't the least bit upset.

Nor was there any reason to be upset because the final matches between adult women's kumite, adult men's kumite (coloured belts), and adult men's kumite (black belts) were run one after another at the end of the day. As it turned out, all three matches were Shiramizu vs Bunkyo University and I'm very happy to say Shiramizu came out on top in all three of the very exciting fights in addition to, as I found out later, reaching or winning the final round in almost every other division.

To follow up such a happy day was a party at a local izakaya restaurant, doubling as Carl and Amy's welcome party. Lots of food and drink, speeches, and laughs were had all night and it was a great way to forget about the sweaty July summer and instead focus on making new friends and living new experiences.

On that note, my own experience this past weekend showed me that there's no such thing as something "not worth doing". I came to Japan intent on improving my karate and I entered everything I could sign my name on to try and do that. Though it's always nice to be able to hold up a medal at the end of the day, I had a lot of levels to pass through to do that and those experiences are just as important to me, especially since I have more "experiences" than I do medals.

Beyond that, just knowing that 160 Shiramizu members entered and seeing everyone out there trying their best to push through to their next level was a very good example of how anything can be taken seriously, but still be fun at the same time. At the end of the day, despite a few tears here and there, people had a great time and you can bet that all of us will be signing our names up again for the next tournament...

Shiramizu's Mori-san (blue gloves) en route to his 1st place finish.

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