Sunday, August 31, 2008

Former intern versus the world!

Team Canada (l to r: Richard, me, Peter) on the podium.

It's Lawrence again and though I'm not technically the intern anymore, I keep forgetting that fact. But sometimes that comes in handy, especially at the Wadokai World Championship where, aside from just being a competitor, I tried my best to return the favour to Shiramizu by helping out as much as possible.

Richard Sensei's already described the event so while I was running around a lot (the tournament week was really hectic, balancing competing seriously with seeing my friends not-seriously), I did make it out there for 4 days in a row to take in the whole event.

From a purely competitive point of view, I thought that it was great to be able to see what the rest of the world's karate was like. Having spent a year in Japan surrounded by seemingly endless numbers of champions, it's easy to forget that all over the world there are people of various levels training just as hard. Unfortunately, as Richard said, lots of matters both preventable and unpreventable kept a lot of countries from competing but, despite that, there were still some strong competitors determined to do their best.

In keeping with the competitiveness, the men's adult individual kata division was all I could think about in the days leading up to event. With the draws not being shown until the morning of, I couldn't really plan which katas I would do in which rounds. Beyond that, it seemed there was some confusion with the division ladder as well. But even so, I was extremely happy to make it to the finals for the day after!

The finals were especially great because all the action was focussed on one ring and was mixed with some very good demos by various groups. It was a great showcase for martial arts and some of my friends who went, who knew little about the sport, enjoyed having a chance to see for themselves what the intricacies of the sport are.

My final round against Furuhashi Sensei (as Richard said, 6-time Wadokai National Kata Champion) went exactly as I thought it would, but I was more than happy to walk out with a silver medal. It's always a nice feeling to finally see the fruits of your labour and this time around, because it was in Vancouver, it gave me a chance to really offer a good first impression to lots of people in the Canadian karate world. I was never that involved with that group much before, but I will be when I'm back in Vancouver, so this was a great chance to open doors and just to build relationships with people I will be working with in the near future.

The team kata event was even more fun! I had seen the girls practicing everyday leading up to the tournament so I knew what was in store, but instead of being down about the loss, I was happy for the girls for their win. What I didn't really understand was why there were no other teams. Lots of countries had shown up with lots of adults and team kata isn't some kind of impossible event. With some earnest training to get the timing in order and working out a bunkai (which is great fun in itself) and a team can be semi-competitive. And a lot of dojos had the benefit of their members being together whereas Team Canada was separated by the Pacific... but then again, we did get a gold medal for the effort we put into training and it's always nice to be recognized not just for the result but for the process.

But really, I can't thank Norma Sensei, the other organizers and the volunteers enough for helping put together the tournament. Something of this scale isn't easy to pull off and, like any major event, there were issues that had come up. But most of the people I talked to left with a good impression and I'm sure many of them got a lot out of it, as did I.

Also a lot of fun was the day out that I planned for Shiramizu the Sunday after the tournament. Though everyone was a bit tired from 3 straight days of watching or competing in the tournament, we still managed to visit the Vancouver Science World, Gastown, and Stanley Park. There was also time, of course, for shopping on Robson Street and dinner before they returned to their hotel.

How many people did it take to remove that blue collar from the dog? Let's just say it was harder than it looked...

And in the end, there were lots of smiling faces. Faces that I hope to see at the next tournament.

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