Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saitama Prefecture Taikai - 11th July

Peter Here!

Over 350 karateka and many more supporters filled the arenas for the Saitama Prefecture Wadokai Taikai on Sunday, July 11th. Being the Shiramizu Intern, naturally I was one of them.

The program says '5th Annual Wadokai, Saitama Prefecture Karate Tournament'

400 competitors!!!

Smaller by comparison to other tournaments in Japan, the people were queuing outside the arena from 8:00am to get inside, change and register. Having got a lift with Arakawa Sensei to the venue, I was surprised to see that there were people there even earlier than us!

At 9:30 all entrants were changed and ready for the opening ceremony. Arakawa Sensei, dressed in shirt and tie for the first time since I met him, led the proceedings and although much of the speeches was lost on me I managed to pick out the odd words of encouragement and decorum.

Kata was first on the agenda, with the kids on first, then working up through age and rank. Pinan Shodan was the required Kata; because of this it was really quite insightful to see where the differences were between people and schools, and how the timings differed- even if just slightly.

I was put in a category of 6, and was not suprised to be knocked out in the first round; Kata is not my strong point and I haven't competed in it since 2001, so a definite room for improvement there.

At later stages of the Kata rounds any Wado Kata was allowed, which is where the Shiramizu big guns really started firing. Chinto and Wanshu were the favourites (in contrast to Chinto and Seishan in the competitions I've been to in the UK), and the ranked places came flooding in for the Dojo. I only wish I had gotten photos :(.

(editors note - see a full report and pictures on Arakawa Sensei's Japanese blog)

After the lunch interval were the Kumite events, again with the lower ages and levels going first. It was refreshingly surprising to see even the lower grades compete in a clean and clear way - a far shout from 'pee-wee' fights in the west (though they are encouraging in their own way).

Some kids were feeling more than up to it!

Some adults were too!

The junior high school level was the one category I really wanted to watch (not least because I received a thrashing from one of them the weekend before in training), and I was not disappointed. My god, they're quick. The Shiramizu entrants again made their mark, with both finalists from the dojo.

My Kumite category held 8, and I won't lie- I was convinced I was going out. A bag of nerves, I tried to retain everything from the last month's drilling and training. But, against all odds and my expectations, I won 2 rounds, 5-2 and 4-1!

I had made the Final!! Not only that, I had all the little kids from the dojo and english classes in Shirayuri Kindergarten cheering for me!

The finals for senior grade Kumite events were held at the end of the day, on a central mat- my fight was to be the last one, and I was against Mori-san, a fellow black belt at Shiramizu (and who had been a gentleman in helping me out most of the day with events and warming up). He had overwhelmed his opposition, and from training with him I knew he was a great fighter.

Being last, all eyes were on us- every event finished, apart from ours. The kids were screaming support for both me and Mori-san, but the fact they were cheering me at all made me happy just to be here.

We lined up, shared a kindred grin, bowed- then set off. BANG. His right hand met my head at some velocity. Too much velocity, in fact, and he was penalised for contact. Off again, he came in, 'blitzing'- then scored with a gyaku. Ippon. Restart, and another blitz- instinct kicked in sadly and I back pedalled beyond the area. Warning to me, and on the restart i tried to use my range, he came flying in.. and met my knee with some force. Thankfully, he was able to carry on, and despite my getting one more point he emerged victorious, before crumpling over to the medical bench for treatment. I learned later that I might've broken his rib :(

After that, the closing speeches and awards took place for Kumite. The Shiramizu club had numerous honours from the lower age groups upwards.

Then it was my turn, to collect, with Mori-san.

It was a proud moment, a very happy moment- but the best part of the day? Had to be hearing the little voices cheering me on, wanting me to do well. I hope I did well enough for them!

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