After recently joining Junior Lefevre’s C.I.K.A: The Ruach karate team gathered their competitors to make the journey from Birmingham up to Liverpool for the very first C.I.K.A England International Championships on Saturday 14th May 2016. The prospect of joining the C.I.K.A was exciting, especially being directed under the guidance of Junior Lefevre Sensei. I had read an interview that he did on the web not long before and he spoke about winning competitions in both kata and kumite. Being brought up in a rough part of town in Belgium coupled with bullying at school; he had overcome struggles in life to become successful at karate. What I particularly liked was the honesty in the interview when talking about kata. He mentioned how he was not technically the best at kata, but he always put in 100% effort and the judges could see that he was fighting in his kata with every movement. I found that inspiring and it helps to show others that you don’t always have to be naturally gifted to succeed, but continue to work harder than everyone else. The link to the full exclusive interview by Jesse Enkamp can be found here. (opens in new window)
The C.I.K.A event was made extra special for two reasons, not only was it the 1st C.I.K.A England event, but in addition Junior Lefevre Sensei was also in attendance to referee and brought with him a Belgian International team to compete along side the other competitors. It was a long day that started with us meeting at the Cocksmoor Woods Leisure Centre at 6.45am in time to arrive for an 8:30am start at the Greenbank Sports Academy in Liverpool.
We arrived in good time and I proceeded to take a look at the facilities which offered 4 tatamis in addition to a good seating area for spectators and enough room for competitors to keep warmed up awaiting their respective events. On arrival it was also nice to see that there were events for disabled karate athletes. I have followed quite closely a gentleman by the name of Ray Sweeney via Facebook who is moving mountains to include disability karate in to the mainstream and the work he is carrying out is to be honest absolutely fantastic. More information on the Disability Karate Federation (which is a registered charity and the largest karate organisation for disabled people) can be found at www.disabilitykarate.co.uk
The turnout was pretty good, especially for the first C.I.K.A England competition and there were a confirmed 350+ entries. It was nice to see that the competition had attracted a lot of attention with competitors from different countries, of which included Belgium, France and Denmark amongst others. There was also a fantastic turnout from Ireland and the clubs representing from just over the water did themselves proud. Specifically looking at our club Ruach we had a team of 10 competitors who travelled up together to take part. What I found from this event which I hadn’t quite appreciated as much in the past was the spirit of togetherness that was amongst the team. Within our group we had karateka from multiple Ruach clubs dotted all over Birmingham and the West Midlands and all of varying grades from 8th Kyu upwards. Old, young, first competition or 100th, we were all there together as one representing Ruach and it holds a nostalgic kind of feeling that I can’t quite explain.
With a lot of time before my first kumite match I found myself helping out the newer members and giving some advice about what to expect. I see myself nowadays as more of a coach than competitor and feel a great sense of fulfilment helping the newer generation, almost to the same level as taking part myself. This new responsibility bestowed on me however doesn’t come without its’ downfalls as I feel that I have an extra pressure by means of responsibility to do well within the tournament. I mean, how can I positively critique our newer, less experienced members and help them to succeed if I go out there and take a beating myself?
The below video from my individual kumite match will kind of sum up what I mean…
It can at times feel a bit embarrassing. I find myself questioning what my fellow team mates will think about the fact that I’ve been well and truly beaten. I wonder if they feel that they cannot use any advice I give as my own loss has shown that I’m no good myself perhaps. These thoughts will play on your mind, but self negativity will get you nowhere. A quick regroup with myself to gather my thoughts and I know what I can offer. You see the thing is it’s not if you get knocked down it’s how you get back up that matters. If I have to take a beating until the cows come home then so be it. I only have to prove something to myself and fortunately for me I’m not a quitter. That’s what I’ll pass on. Full credit to Pete Watson my opponent in that fight above though . He caught me with a cracking ushiro mawashi and I felt that for some days after. He went on to become silver medalist at the first C.I.K.A. event in that category. A feat that was made even more special in that he fought on with a fractured arm in the final. Another non quitter and he has my full respect. I wish you every success in the future Pete.
I need to pay tribute to a former work colleague of mine who started up karate on my advice and since then hasn’t looked back . Joining Ruach only 1 year prior he has gone at it full throttle with his son in law and full credit to them for their achievements and hard work that they’ve put in. It happened to be their first competition and not really knowing what to expect they entered both kata and kumite events. I watched with part horror and part excitement as they fought their respective kumite bouts. Not only can kumite competition be daunting at any level it is made even harder getting up there for your first competition; particularly as a 7th kyu fighting a black belt! The thing is it is totally different to training. This time you have somebody in front of you that’s looking to win and although it’s in a safe(ish) environment, it could never in my opinion be classified as safe as you would be training with fellow club members. Both Tony and Richard did themselves proud. They were beat, but more importantly they gave it a go and they didn’t back down. It shows a lot about a person’s character to just sign up and I hope this will be the beginning of many competitions for them.
On to Tony’s kata performance and he amazingly got through two rounds to reach the last four and pick up a joint third bronze medal. I watched in awe how this yellow belt got up there, did his kata and did it like he meant it. Technically both were about the same level, but Tony’s aggression and determination in his kata got him through and that served as a gentle reminder to the interview of Lefevre Sensei only days before.
In total Ruach managed to go home with approximately 5+ medals and everybody enjoyed the day thoroughly. The event finished early evening and it was great to see the Ruach family competing together and generally just enjoying themselves. One final mention must go to Jason Netherton who did a brilliant job organising and hosting the event as the face of C.I.K.A and to our Sensei Gary Beggan who works tirelessly blood, sweat and tears to teach us and motivate us to get involved in the competitions. It may seem some as just a competition, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a confidence booster, an achievement for some just to get up there and a chance to make new friends, it’s about life skills and through karate we have that in which to thank.
Until the next competition my friends…