karate sport

1st C.I.K.A England International Championships

CIKA England blue background

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)

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Image from karatebyjesse.com

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

 

 

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An Interview with: Welsh World Champion Luke Howard

My first interview is with respected Karateka, Welsh International Luke Howard who is the current IKU Senior World Champion. Many thanks for taking the time out to speak with me.

Image of World Champion Luke Howard

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I started karate around 15 years ago at the age of 6. My parents thought it was very important to be involved in sport and had me try out various sports, but once I tried karate I seemed at home and we knew it was the sport for me! Karate has been an important part of my life as I have travelled, fought in and seen many countries around the world such as Brazil, Italy, Slovenia, Romania and Portugal to name a few. Karate has also developed and disciplined me as a person as well as an athlete and has prepared me for many aspects of everyday life.

What are your upcoming plans within the karate world?

With karate Wales being affiliated to the IKU, WUKF and now the UWK (United World Karate) we have many opportunities and events available to us over the upcoming year and future! I plan on attending many of these Events next year, especially the 1st UWK World Championships which will be held in São Paulo, Brazil and will be a big step forward for the karate World. In the future I would also like to continue my karate career into teaching and coaching karateka to enjoy the lifestyle and success that I have had myself!

You’ve recently come back from Poland, can you tell us a bit about your visit?

My visit to Poland took us to the city Szczecin for the WUKF Junior World Championships. Having turned 21 in August earlier this year, I was unable to enter the event, but still travelled out to support and help coach the squad. It was a different experience being on the coaches side of the squad, but was as rewarding helping to coach some promising young athletes to World medals and titles!

Image of Luke Howard winning  the IKU World Championship

What is your proudest moment throughout your karate career?

My proudest moment in karate so far has to be winning the IKU senior world championships earlier this year in Brazil! After winning the under 21 World Championships just 6 months earlier I thought it would be a hard feeling to beat, but after some extremely tough and challenging fights with athletes from all over the World, to come out as IKU World Champion, especially in Brazil, was a very proud moment for me! Another very proud moment was just recently in London at the IKU Junior European championships where I was coaching with karate Wales. I was honoured to present medals to many talented fighters including some friends such as European and World Champions Maddie Moore and Shauna Carroll.

You recently did a seminar with an old training friend of mine Sensei Tom Davies at his South Staffs Karate club, was that your first seminar?

Tom invited me up to South Staffs Karate to take a seminar shortly after Brazil and it was an honour to be invited up for my first seminar! There was a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the students there seeing plenty of potential showing through. I look forward to taking many more seminars and helping aspiring young karateka to achieve their goals and dreams!

Image of Luke with Stephen and Unel Wellington SenseisHow often do you train?

I train 5 nights a week at the KenBuKan Martial Arts Centre in Swansea under Welsh karate legends Stephen and Unel Wellington. In addition to this I am busy being away most weekends to compete at various events in Britain and Internationally!

 

Do you have a favourite technique?

Ura Mawashi geri is my favourite technique although I understand the necessity of being proficient in all aspects and techniques in Kumite, I’ll always have a soft spot for kicks in general but most of all hook kicks!

Image of Luke Howard performing kick

Do you have any viewpoint on karate being in the Olympics?

I think it would be great if karate achieved the Olympic dream, but with the division it faces at the moment I don’t think there is much hope for that. A great chance for unity in karate comes with the recently formed United World Karate (UWK) having been formed by 7 major World bodies working towards that Olympic dream! It would benefit karate and all karateka greatly if it achieved inclusion into the Olympics, but the only way forward is through total unity.

Do you prefer Kata or Kumite?

I only compete in Kumite at competition as fighting is my passion, but I also thoroughly enjoy kata as well. I think Kata and basics are very important in helping fighters develop. I train frequently in Kata as well as Kumite.

There will be a lot of young Karateka hoping to be the next Luke Howard, what advice can you give them?

The main advice I can give to young karateka is to train hard, compete frequently and keep challenging yourself! It’s good to practice and try out new strategies and techniques so you have a wider range of techniques to use in Kumite.

Thanks for taking some time out to give us an insight in to Luke Howard, it is much appreciated. Osu

Times change, time to adapt: From KUGB to everything else

I realise it’s been a while since my last post. In fact the whole site has unfortunately had a bit of a go slow with regards to updates and for that I apologise. It feels like I’ve hit the time again that I once remembered as a teenager entitled “Not enough hours in the day.” In the past this used to be a case of two rugby training sessions a week plus match day whilst adding in karate 3 or 4 times a week. Add to this a sprinkle of badminton training and a bit of scouts and before you know it something had to give. I wish I was in that same position; Instead I now find myself juggling not only hobbies that I love, but work commitments in order to pay the bills and a new venture in band practice. I guess with this I notice that times change in day to day life and coincidentally so has my karate.

From the age of 7 all I’ve known is Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) and whether this is due to an ignorance on my part or not feeling the necessity to have to venture further afield than within those 4 walls, I don’t know. My knowledge of anything external was unknown. People I would call as the greats consisted of the likes of Sensei Enoeda, Andy Sherry, Frank Brennan, Ronnie Christopher, Terry O’Neil to name a few. In fact I could probably have just grouped any instructor from the Red Triangle from back in the day to just one collective to save writing space. The competitions for me consisted of the Central Regions (usually held at Grantham or Chesterfield), the coveted National Championships held at the NIA in Birmingham and occasionally the student championships. In these times I had some moderate success with a few third place finishes. I was never a renowned great at karate and never will be, but I give my all and most importantly I learn from competition and any mistakes. It’s comforting to know that karate isn’t about you vs everybody else, it is you vs yourself. A personal development and acknowledging that you can only be the best that you can be.

Anyway to get back on track, the KUGB set up for me worked well, maybe it was for an ignorance that I didn’t see anything outside of this organisation. If it wasn’t for my training club’s directional change outside of the KUGB then I would still have been just as ignorant. Never had I heard of the names Wayne Otto, Junior Lefebvre or anybody else. I’d go as far as to say that my mind has a problem with change, the thought that there is something different to KUGB and to be able to accept it. I lived in a comfort zone that the KUGB was the biggest Shotokan karate organisation in the UK. I was fighting to 1 full ippon, if it’s over it’s over. Back then there were no mitts, a gum shield and a groin guard and your karate then separated the “men from the boys”.

Image of Ruach Karate club group photo at Paul Campbell's open karate competition at Ellowes Hall School in Sedgley. (Left to right: Dave Farrance, Matt Cromwell, Russell Dobbins)

Ruach Karate club group photo at Paul Campbell’s open karate competition at Ellowes Hall School in Sedgley. (Left to right: Dave Farrance, Matt Cromwell, “Not stated”)

Now I find myself almost lost in a world of karate sport.  Competitions with 3 full Ippons to decide the winner.  With this allows room for error and a completely different style of competition to what I was once used to.  Another thing I’ve noticed has been the difference in control and no longer is there any room for moderate contact.  I’ve entered two competitions so far and been disqualified from the first in the team Kumite before being beaten very fairly by Wales and European squad member Luke Howard (another unknown to me until after the event.)

Another item on the agenda?  All this equipment I’m having to carry around (borrowed at the moment).  Blue mitts, red mitts, white mitts, this colour belt, that colour belt, shin guards, foot guards.  A weight training session has definitely been ensured by just arriving to events!  I find myself questioning is it a ploy for money as these pads aren’t cheap when looking at sets of 3 different colours?  I really don’t know,  so what can I do about all these thoughts spiralling on through my head?

I guess I could moan about it.  Make excuses and put it down to a different kind of competition that’s holding me back, moan about the costs and argue the politics.  Or better still?

Embrace the change.  My old KUGB is not coming back unless I want to relocate a good 25 miles away.  This organisation to me may be gone forever, lost in to a vortex that unless I chase will be a thing of the past.  Relocating isn’t an option, leaving Ruach karate clubs isn’t either so I’ll stay here and think positive.  What have I gained?  A chance to broaden my karate horizons, learn that there are other practitioners out there that aren’t just KUGB.  A chance to pit myself against karateka of all different styles.  Longer rounds or more explosive rounds owed to more points giving an opportunity to improve my stamina further still.  The added bonus to experiment more with techniques knowing that a failed attack may not have worked, but I tried, I experienced, I learnt.  The multiple opportunities I now have to enter tens of hundreds of competitions all across the country.  A chance to build my mat experience up even further.

So, I may have lost the KUGB, but I’ve just started to appreciate that I’ve gained a lot too.

 

A bit of Shukokai when Shotokan isn’t looking!

I was speaking with a friend of mine a few weeks ago and we got talking about karate. He mentioned he trained at the same leisure centre as myself, but on a different night. “You should come down” he said.

My first reaction was a mixture of curiosity and disgust at the thought. Knowing it wouldn’t be Shotokan, I thought I’d be “cheating” on the only style I’d ever known. I pondered the idea for a couple of weeks until last week I found myself calling the instructor about popping down to have a lesson with him. This wasn’t because I was thinking of permanently leaving Shotokan for another style, but moreover I knew that work commitments this week would see my training drop and I didn’t want to end up in that position. For all my years training it was actually a little nerve racking walking to the leisure centre.  Would there be a lot of differences between the two styles? Would the instructor and students be friendly? Was my own karate good enough to hold my own with this bunch?

When I arrived any nerves were quickly put at ease as I was warmly greeted by the instructor. We had a bit of a chat about my background and training before being put through my paces with the others. We started going back to basic block and punches, something we tend to do a lot less at my normal club before moving on to punches and kicks from free style and finally testing these out on the bag.  Anybody that knows me would know that I thoroughly enjoyed this.  There’s always a sense of satisfaction hitting and kicking something as hard as you can;  Especially when one spends so much time with sparring partners exercising very good control!

I became very interested to see the differences between the two styles and to be honest from what I could find in my two hours training? There wasn’t a lot. Techniques tended to break away from the traditional Shotokan full movements with shorter techniques when doing blocks such as gedan barai and some of the kicks were more karate sport, such as the ura mawashageri where the kick stopped then came back round the other way. I’m not sure if this was specific to Shukokai or structured due to the karate sport competitions that most people fought in who study that style. Either way it felt a little awkward. The thought of stopping the leg upon touch to score a point as opposed to following through made it quite a weird feeling. I wondered afterwards whether if I’d been taught like that it would subsequently affect my power on the street if the worst were to happen. An inevitable stop on impact creating a soft move, which subsequently would defeat the point of the kick in the first place! The instructor may have had a point though when watching my ura mawashageri; Mentioning that he could see why I had been disqualified at the previous Kizuna World Championship with the follow through on my kicks!

All in all I enjoyed the session and definitely lost a few pounds from the gruelling pace. As our own club continues to enter more karate sport kind of competitions as opposed to the more traditional KUGB style tournaments, it was good to train with the Shukokai club as it gave an insight in to techniques used specifically to win these kind of WKF tournaments. Most importantly of all though it was nice to meet new people and make new friends who share a common interest.

I’ll definitely be popping back down again very soon!