JKS

JKS England Championships: 1st November 2015 Wildcats Arena, Nottingham

Logo Image for JKS England

The JKS Championships were held this year on Sunday 1st November at the Wildcats Arena in Nottingham and a few of us from Ruach karate club took the journey up from Birmingham to take part.  I was particularly looking forward to this tournament as it was the first since our Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) days that I had entered using Shobu Ippon rules.

For those that aren’t aware: Shobu Ippon is whereby a competitor must score one full point (ippon) in order to be declared the winner.  For less decisive strikes, half a point known as a wazari may be scored and two of these will combine to make ippon.

I don’t know about you, but I love this rule.  I personally think it’s much better than the three or four ippons to win that you see predominantly in sport karate.  I can’t tell you exactly why this is but I have a few possible ideas.

Maybe because it’s what  I was brought up with from the KUGB.

Maybe it’s the extra realism that projects through, the age old vision of one killer blow to finish off your opponent.

Maybe I’m just getting old and going through 3 or 4 ippons for the win will put me in recovery for about 12 months!

The Ruach clan left from Cocksmoor Woods Leisure Centre around 7:15am made up of around 7 of us and headed up to the Wildcats Arena on what turned out to be a very foggy Sunday morning.  After arriving at approximately 9am, the juniors got changed and ready to get going whilst took a sneak peak at the venue.

I was pretty impressed with the venue at the Wildcats arena.  It boasted a nice modern hall with enough seating on one side to fit all the spectators.  The arena consisted of 5 tatamis and boasted electronic scoring systems and time keeping to add an extra quality feel to the event.

Image of the Wildcats arena

What I really enjoyed about this location though was the large room situated adjacent to the competitor area that gave ample space to warm up and prepare.  Other events I’ve attended have unfortunately lacked proper warm up space and has put a hindrance on performance.  Another added bonus of a segregated training area allows karateka to warm up without impeding the view of spectators watching the event.  I remember an event fairly recently and it was a big pity that the facilities made it near impossible to prepare and gave me a sensation of a couped up chicken, definitely not free range!

Ruach group image after arriving in Nottingham

With a lot of events before taking part myself; I utilised the time taking a look around at some of the kata events and managed to see Lloyd Birt who looked on form with some crisp performances.  It was also a time for me to be passing on some advice to the younger participants that had travelled down to make up the Ruach team.  It reminded me of times when I was at that age just starting out taking part in KUGB central and National competitions and reminded me of the sense of anticipation before the event.  20 years on and I find myself passing on bits of knowledge that I’ve picked up from my various Sensei and so the teachings are passed down.

Of the Ruach team that participated all did really well with a lot of medals in proportion to the amount of competitors we had.  I didn’t manage to catch all the events due to competing myself, but I must give special mention to two of our team that did fantastically well.

Dan Tuohey took gold in his kumite category after a cracking ura mawashi geri in the final for Ippon.  He competed last year where he took silver, but managed to better it this year and claim the top spot.  What is so special about Dan’s situation he’s extremely new to karate having taken up the art around 18 months ago.  Dan is still young though, mid teens so technically in my opinion what I’d classify as a late starter.  He has a lot of raw talent, a natural ability that you either have or you don’t and to top it off he works hard in training.  To win his final match he needed not only a technical ability, but to use his head and work well under pressure which he managed to deliver and for that kind of mind set on such young shoulders I’m confident he will go very far in the karate world.

My other mention goes to Danny Wild.  He’s a young lad who battled through a very large group of competitors to take 3rd place.  All in all he fought 4 hard rounds and thoroughly deserved his 3rd place finish with some good combinations.  For such a young competitor he also had some moments whereby his mental strength needed to push through beyond his years.  He unfortunately had to retire through injury, but there was nothing in my mind that suggested he could not go on to win the competition.  You can see one of Dan’s fights below.

 

For myself I entered the individual and team kumite and found myself getting a bye in the first round before being knocked out (not literally) in the 2nd for the individual kumite.  In the team event we had problems from the start.  Unfortunately one of our lads was injured a week prior to the competition and Chris stepped in at short notice to make the team of 3 along with myself and Artur.  The problems didn’t end there and Artur had an accident on the way up to the event and couldn’t make it either.  Thankfully he wasn’t hurt.  Our team of three was  reduced to two and after some conversations with the referees we were allowed to enter as a 2 man team hoping to win both bouts and to progress with a 2-1 victory.

I decided to put our bye as the 1st man before stepping up to fight coincidentally the same lad I had fought in the individual kumite.  I felt as though I fought better in the team event than the individual, but didn’t manage to beat my opponent at the second time of asking missing out on an ippon with a foiled follow up from my ashi sweep.  My opponent fought well.  He was quick and sharp and proved that with his 3rd place finish in the earlier individual event.  The defeat meant that there was no way of progressing and Chris didn’t get to fight.  My team kumite fight can be seen below.

 

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this event and look forward to taking  next year.  The event was well run and a good time was had by all from Ruach and from what I could see the spectators.

I continue to test myself against new competitors whilst looking to give back to the younger generation as I was helped so many years previously.

Until next time…

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Karate Squad Training with Julian Cunningham Sensei: Sunday 4th October 2015

In preparation for the JKS England Karate Championships on Sunday 1st November, Ruach Karate had a special guest in 3rd Dan Julian Cunningham Sensei to come join us for our session at Tudor Grange Sports Centre, Solihull.

Sensei Cunningham is a man that doesn’t need introduction if you’re familiar with the Karate Union of Great Britain organisation (KUGB), but if not his achievements within the World of Shotokan Karate are as follows:

  • European Team Champion
  • JKA Team Silver Medalist
  • WSKA Team Bronze Medalist
  • x 5 Senior KUGB National Kumite Champion
  • Shotokan Cup Champion
  • Junior European Team Champion
  • Junior European Individual Bronze Medalist
  • Junior Shotokan Cup Champion

Biography

Sensei Cunningham began his Shotokan karate training at Benson SKC trained by Sid Gordon Sensei at the age of 12 and found a natural aptitude for kumite.    After winning his first tournament in the over 5ft 3, 12- 15 years category at an open event the very year he began karate gave him the competing bug in which the Shotokan journey started.

Whilst taking his 1st Kyu at 15 he was noticed by Andy Sherry Sensei who invited him along to the Shotokan Cup with a view to a possible spot in the Junior England team.  This time aged 15 Julian Sensei again fought in the same category that saw him gain success at an open competition aged 12.  After making it through to the semi finals he was well on his way to impressing to gain a spot on the Junior England Squad.  It was in this round that he found himself fighting one of Sherry Sensei’s students and during this fight found himself disqualified for excessive contact to the face.  For now his England ambitions would have to be put on hold as he heard nothing after.

Undeterred, Sensei Cunningham kept his head down and remained diligent in his karate efforts and just over a year later was noticed by the late Enoeda Sensei who invited him on to the England Squad.  It wasn’t long after when Sensei Cunningham represented England at Junior level and was successful in the team kumite event taking home gold.  From here the success continued to follow.

Image of Julian Cunningham Sensei Group Photo

Personal Memories

I remember Julian fighting during his days at Kaizen in the West Midlands and he was a pleasure to watch at Central and National tournaments boasting his strong, powerful kumite technique.  Anybody that would face Julian would very well have ha a sense of anticipation due to the sheer presence of this fighter.  I personally never fought Julian during a tournament.  The closest I got was during a Team Kumite event at the Central Regions where our team Ruach comprising of 2015 Silver World medalist Greg Hegarty, Harry Kavanagh and myself faced Kaizen made up of Julian Cunningham, Austin Shields and one other for a spot in to the finals.  I remember Greg deciding the order at the beginning.  Greg was confident Julian would be going up first and I asked him to put me against him.  Not thinking I had a chance of winning, more so hoping to use myself as cannon fodder, let Greg hopefully take out Austin and let Harry fight the remaining fighter for Kaizen.

It wasn’t meant to be.  Greg wanted to fight Julian and that was that.  I don’t blame him.  If I was at the top of my game then I’d want to be fighting the best too.  A chance to test myself against one of the best fighters in the country.  Back then I was only thinking of tactics and progression to the final.  Putting my body on the line against a better fighter to help the team push through to the next round.  From what I remember we lost that semi final 2-1 with Harry winning and myself along with Greg succumbing to defeat.  Austin gave me a good mawashi geri chudan kick in that match that I felt for a good day or so after!  Fast forward around 12 years and now Julian had come to help out Ruach.  Kaizen had since shut down and reopened fairly recently in the last few years under the guidance of Rahela Gordon and Junior Laing Sensei.

Sensei’s lesson overview

The lesson focused around speed reaction and multiple attacks.  It was also worth noting that Julian emphasized on feinting with the opponent.  The idea of drawing an opponent’s guard away from the target area with a feint before delivering one, two or more attacks in an unguarded area.  From my own perspective the lesson was reaffirming information that we are taught with Ruach, which in turn is comforting to know that we are on the right lines with regards to the emphasis we put in to our Kumite training.  I’d almost go as far as to say it was going back to basics, even with little things such as attacking when an opponent is on the back foot as opposed to coming forward.  It seems obvious when I think about it now, but it’s funny how these seemingly minute elements help to create the difference between winning and losing.  To take it further the difference between a possible black eye or not in the outside World.  We train week in week out and sometimes forget the fundamentals and without these we have no solid base in which to progress.

Image of Julian Cunningham Sensei Gyakutsuki

The 2 hours spent with Julian Cunningham were extremely hard work pushing our stamina levels and mindsets to the limit.  Anybody that has taken part in a Kumite event will know that bouncing around on your toes for 90 seconds may not sound a lot, but when incorporated in with techniques and reaction times for attack and defenses it can really start to take its toll.  Doing this for a couple of hours had multiple benefits as our karate is only as good as the delivery of our technique and determination to succeed.  Julian Sensei is a firm believer in being the best you can be and this is something I agree with totally.  As the stamina levels drop and the technique starts to fade, the mental side kicks in.  You come to a cross roads and at that moment have to decide whether to push through the pain barrier and “fight” on or give up.  This lesson definitely tested me for that very reason and I’d like to thank Sensei for pushing me with the lesson he had planned.

People ask me if karate is good for fitness as a beginner.  It’s a tricky question to answer, but let me try to explain.  If we look at the syllabus for a newcomer, in essence it could be one block, one punch, one step.  It doesn’t sound a lot and technically speaking it isn’t, but I tell them that it’s how you move and the determination you put in to succeed and move fast.  Karate can be as relaxed or as tough (fitness wise) as you make it, although the first tends not to be in my dictionary!  Although our lesson with Sensei was specifically for higher grades I mention the above as it is important to remember that just because the basics may come across as boring or unexciting, they are inevitably an extremely important part of our karate and it is my opinion that you should put 100% in to everything you do.  With regards to any sport or karate we then have an added bonus that if we lose then we know that we could have done no more, our heads can be held up high.  Julian Sensei thanked me for taking the warm up prior to his arrival, which he did not need to do, but to me displays an extra element of a down to Earth humble guy to add to his repertoire in addition to his Kumite skills.

Image of Julian Cunningham Sensei Mawashi geri

Advise for karateka entering competition

Sensei Cunningham has kindly given advice to all karateka who are currently entering or are thinking of entering competition:

” Be totally ready on the day you not only train in club sessions but train at home/in a park/a room/wherever by yourself and with other motivated people as training in this way enables you to work on things that you especially want to work on and you will see great improvement. I also advise that you have your routine on competition day to get in the zone so warm up, practise some drills with a partner etc, get the body warm, the rhythm going and the mind right to get rid of the first fight jitters. The biggest battle when competing can be against yourself so as well as what I have said remember to relax and enjoy yourself to compete at your full potential.”

Thank you Sensei on behalf of myself and other karateka for the words of wisdom!

The morning after!

The next day was a 2nd battle I had not expected;  Stiffness in the joints which preceded to go from bad to worse as the day went on.  Whilst working in the GP Surgery I found myself getting to a stage whereby patients were asking if I was alright, the hobbling showing signs of a beating or another age related problem 😉  As they say however, no pain no gain and from this lesson I definitely gained so thank you again Sensei Cunningham.  It was great to see you and hopefully we get to do another session in the not so distant future.

Forever

When Sensei Cunningham isn’t doing karate, he promotes his range of Forever products which are aloe inspired.  In his own words:

” I offer a range of natural products to help people get more out of their training, these products are used by people at all sports levels from Amateur to Professionals, also an increasing amount of our products are HFL Sports Science Approved. This is the link to my webshop –
www.julian.myforever.biz/store. Should anyone want any further information on the products then please feel free to contact me on 07581 076 265″