Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wadokai Kanto Taikai

Carl here,

I’ve been looking forward to this competition for a while now; the last few competitions were only local events with relatively small categories, this one would be a real challenge. Also, this would be mine and Amy’s last competition during our internship in Japan. Naturally my ego wanted me to win my kumite division.

(editor's note: The Wadokai Kanto area Taikai has about 1600 Wadokai member only competitors from the 7 prefectures around and including Tokyo so it is one of the biggest tournaments of any style in the region.)

We all had an early start from Tobudobutsu-koen station to get to....

....The Komazawa Olympic Park sports arena near Shibuya for 8:30.

The venue had 13 area mats set up and most categories were big. My kumite category (none university student adult men only) had 54 people in but I was feeling confident. My category was one of the first to start, Arakawa Sensei came over to help me warm up and I was ready to go.


I won my first fight 6-0 with three punches and a head kick. It was a straight forward fight.

I had a long wait for my next fight, but just as I was about to go on the mat, one of the officials came over to tell me that I was wearing the wrong colour so I had to change. After changing colour, I walked to the edge of the mat and the same guy came back over and said he’d made a mistake and I now had the wrong colour on. So, after changing my belt and gloves again, I walked to the edge of the mat.

The fight was terrible, I fumbled my way through to a 1-0 win but I wasn’t comfortable in the fight at all. I had obviously let the fussing about at the start throw my focus. What made it worse was that the area was directly in front of were Takagi Sensei and various other important Wadokai Sensei were sat, so they had a great view of my terrible performance.

My third and last fight was even worse than the last one. I was up against a big guy who came in immediately with an unanswered body kick to my back to get 2 points. He then proceeded to pound my face a couple of times to get another 2 points and a contact warning. I didn’t really answer any of it, I kept chasing but my reverse punches were nonexistent and my lead hand was moving in a very obvious circular movement rather than a straight line to the target. Without my hand techniques to open up the opponent, my leg techniques were all but useless. To add to this, my distancing was way off! All in all, probably one of the worse performances I’ve ever had in kumite. I lost the fight 4-0 finishing I believe in the ‘best 16’.

I walked away from the area to cool off and watch my fight which Amy had recorded. Once I’d watched it a few times, I was ready for human contact and I found Arakawa Sensei to apologise for fighting so badly. He laughed and we had a talk about the way I fought and what I did wrong, we both concluded that my ‘head’ just wasn’t in the fight!

I didn’t get to see Amy fight in her kumite division because I was called for kata, she didn’t make it through her first round which she wasn’t particularly happy about.

Team Guseikai

Arakawa Sensei taking a break from his warm up

Arakawa Sensei was fighting as part of Takagi Sensei’ Guseikai Kumite Team. I’ve never seen Sensei perform in a competition so naturally I stuck around to watch, with almost everyone else in the venue including the free officials!

Guseikai did well in their first round, winning easily. Arakawa Sensei in particular was in total control of his fight. The next round wasn’t so great, they changed the fight order around and the first two guys lost and the next one after won. Arakawa Sensei was up next and despite fighting well, he ended up running out of time being one point down. The next Guseikai guy also lost, though barely.

Lunch Break

Kids in action
Photo from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

During the scheduled lunch break, all the kids were lined up and put through some basics and kata by Shiramizu’ Arakawa Sensei.

Chihiro from Shiramizu giving out presents

Then all the Shiramizu adults helped the other officials give a small present (Wadokai branded Chopsticks!) to every child competitor. Whilst this was happening there was a number of demonstrations held for the crowd.

Amy’s kata category was called up whilst I was fighting but I did see her first kata performance from across the hall. She did really well, getting all 5 flags in her first round. I didn’t get to see any of her other kata performances though. Amy ended up finishing in the top 8 of the category. This is a great result for her, especially considering her set back over the Dan grading! Also, the trophy she got is great, it’s probably one of the most stylish trophies either of us has ever won, and it was for an 8th place!

I’ll be honest, I didn’t have any hope in kata! I was fairly sure that I wasn’t going to get past the first round but I still had my objectives. The first time I competed in kata was 9 months ago and I was very nervous, my only objective for this competition was to perform with no tension and not be nervous. My Pinan Godan wasn’t perfect, but it was ok, I slipped slightly in the last move which I believe lost me the round (5 flags to 0!). I was still happy though because I wasn’t nervous during the performance and there was very little tension. Mission accomplished.

Lawrence gave a good performance of Pinan Godan but the decision went to the other guy. For the life of me I couldn’t see the difference between the two kata!

The Shiramizu squad!
Photo from the blog of Arakawa Sensei

This wasn’t the best result that Team Gaijin has achieved at a competition, but I’m really pleased for Amy and her kata placing. I don’t suppose ‘best 16’ in kumite is too bad, but it’s 15 places from where I wanted to be!

Shiramizu did well with the medal haul, I don’t have exact numbers but a large number of Shiramizu people were in the finals.

A special mention should go out to all the Shiramizu instructors, they were either helping at the competition as officials or they were competing. Iwasaki Sensei got 2nd Place in the over 40’s Kata, he smiled when he said he got zero flags for his Kushanku kata in the final. Also Yoshihara Sensei, who just so happens to be one of the nicest ladies you’ll ever meet, got two silver medals, one in Kumite and the other in Kata. I think Yamazaki Sensei would have placed in her Kata category but she was struggling with a back injury so her kata was pretty tense.

Even though I came away from the competition empty handed, I’ve still learned loads. Also, I got some great feedback from Hideo Takagi Sensei about my fighting which I very much appreciate! Also, it was great fun to hang out with friends who all love karate as much as me, make new friends, flirt with all the cute girls – the usual!

By my calculations, I have 22 weeks to train for the JKF-Wadokai Nationals in August which I’m planning to fly back to Japan for.

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