Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tobu Taikai Competition

CARL here, aka the ENGLISH Intern...

The 5th Tobu Taikai competition, or the ‘Sainokuni east friendship competition’ was held on Monday 15th September at the Asukaru Sports Centre. Apparently the motto for this comp is taken from Dragonball (a really cool, world famous Japanese cartoon series).

Arakawa Sensei even went so far as to warn everyone in his opening speech that ‘even though the comp motto is taken from Dragonball, you can’t use the Kameameah! And the referee’s will give you a warning if you do!’

I’d even made a deal with Lawrence to replace the last junzuki in Chinto for a Kameameah, however I was too nervous to remember! This is probably for the best because my kata was terrible anyway.

Opening ceremony picture from Arakawa Sensei's blog.

After the customary team warm-up, where Shiramizu took up a full quarter of the huge hall, we had the opening ceremony. There were a few speeches, and some of the senior sensei introduced themselves. Then followed the typical roman salute from a young Japanese kid, I laughed to myself at this part because it reminded me of the Gladiator movie with Russell Crow, in particular the part in the coliseum where the gladiators shout to the emperor ‘we who are about to die, salute you!’ It’s the same sort of thing (almost!), the kid made an oath to Arakawa sensei on behalf of all the competitors that they would do their best.

I was well up for my kumite and feeling pretty confident despite this being my first fight wearing a Japanese style head guard (just think storm trooper!), despite this I still lost my first fight and crashed out in round 1.

Lawrence did well, he was seeded to 3rd to start with, and drew up against Ueno-san also from Shiramizu. It was a really good fight, and Lawrence did what any seasoned fighter would do against a taller opponent, he took the fight straight to him. It was very close, and the fight could have easily gone the other way. Ueno was just that bit quicker on the final punch and won at time up with 2points to Lawrence’ 1 point.

Two kids competing, from Sensei's blog.

Ueno went onto the finals against the guy that beat me. The little Japanese guy was too quick and nimble for Ueno to counter but he put up a good fight, despite this being his first tournament as a dan grade.

Kumite analysis
I figure that I did three things wrong, which lost me my fight:

1. I underestimated my opponent, he looked very meek and I self-assuredly said to myself that ‘I could take him!’ a fatal and basic mistake!

2. I didn’t switch on; I knew that the smaller opponent would come straight in with tobikomizuki every time. That’s exactly what he did, I just didn’t react. I let him get too close and then my reach advantage meant nothing.

3. I misjudged the time of the bout. I thought I still had 30 seconds remaining when the referee stopped the fight for the last time. That would have been more than enough time to rescue the fight and my pride with it.

Kata, ha! Only Lawrence and I were in the category (and turned up) which automatically made it the final. So, you could say that I got 2nd place in only my second ever kata competition and in Japan of all places. Yes, obviously Lawrence beat me lol! I’m still working on controlling my nerves in my competition kata and didn’t really have a hope in hell against a Wadokai World Team Kata Champion (and individual World Wadokai Kata silver medallist).

Here’s a theory!
I have figured out why my kata is so bad in competitions. Fear! I was always taught to imagine that you’re fighting someone when performing kata. Now in competition kata, you’re effectively fighting yourself, your shadow even. So I’m only scared of myself and my own fighting abilities. Okay, maybe not! The funny thing is though; I never get so nervous in kumite that it actually affects my performance.

Competition summary
The Competition overran by a bit, but I think this could have been due to all the extra high school fighters. There were some really good bouts, the teams really got into it and they’re all heavy hitters. So much so that the collective punches actually took me away from my sleepy state (with IPod plugged in) because I thought there was a thunderstorm (no really!). I quickly realised that it was the collective noise of 3 areas running high school team kumite with everyone’s favourite technique being gyakuzuki.

It was a good day, and it was fun. The demonstrations at the end were good, this consisted of a good display of Unsu from a shotokan team, then the Shiramizu ladies (and Wadokai World Kata Champions) re-enacted their winning performance of Wanshu with bunkai. Due to the time constraints, the second group of Shiramizu kids had to miss their chance to show their demo which was shame because it’s my favourite. Two young Shiramizu girls smoke three Shiramizu boys, it’s very good. Both Shiramizu demo’s can be seen on this blog.

I was again disappointed with the lack of senior competitors in particular my kata event (2 entries!).

Tournament setup
This competition was organised and run by Arakawa sensei, with the Tatami chief being Uehara Sensei. We set up the competition the night before; Arakawa sensei had amassed a group of 40 volunteers which made the whole process very quick.

There were 6 areas, one area with jigsaw mats and the rest marked out on the floor in tape. As per custom, the Japanese were meticulous in making sure that the areas were exactly 8m by 8m, and that they were perfectly square. Even the red and blue strip of tape that marks were each competitor will stand was exactly the same length on every area!

I particularly liked the way they had organised the area equipment, the red and blue tags; flags, bells and whistles etc... They were all pre-sorted into clear plastic bags and sealed. This meant that all the equipment was at hand immediately. When they packed up the competition at the end of the day, they re-packed everything into clear bags again thus making the next event that bit easier. I thought this was a very simple but good idea.

The After Party
Party afterwards, we were late because of a misunderstanding about the start time, oh, and then we got lost!. When we finally arrived, most people were already merry but the food was delicious, and their was lots more drinking and speeches still to be made.

Yet again, the dragonball influence!
Picture courtesy of Arakawa Sensei' blog

I was particularly pleased with my (rather limited) speech which was entirely in Japanese! When I stood up to start I took a piece of paper out of my pocket as though I had prepared a speech. I quickly put that away and just winged it though. I said something along the lines of hello/thanks for letting me talk then I moved to say that my kumite was terrible and my kata was worse. I then asked Arakawa sensei to keep on teaching me (which I thought was a nice touch ) I finished by saying that the Tobu Takai competition was fun. See, easy when you know how.
I did have to look up the word for terrible – hidoi!

Amy couldn’t attend the competition because she was working, yes on a Japanese holiday! (The company she works for is run by English/Americans). All she ended up saying was ‘I was at work, I’m sure the competition was great, Kampai’ Lawrence kindly translated this into Japanese as Amy ran off.

You’ll notice that there are no cool action photos for this competition because of the fact that Amy was working. She is a professional photographer with a first class honours degree and was quickly designated the ‘official’ Shiramizu event photographer. I promise my readers some better photo’s from the next competition.

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