Kata

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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Seminar: Matt Price Sunday 3rd August hosted by Tipton Shotokan Karate Club

Image of Matt Price (6th Dan) Seminar Poster

Last Sunday saw me attend my first Shotokan karate training seminar in a long time with no other than Matt Price Sensei (6th Dan).  Sensei Price has previously been a big name in the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) organisation and has an impressive honour’s list of:

  • KUGB Grand Champion
  • 9x KUGB National Champion
  • 16x Grand Slam Kumite Champion
  • European Champion
  • World Team Champion
  • 2x Voted Competitor of the Year

After watching Sensei Price at the KUGB Nationals for a few years the thing I remember the most in fact was this menacing mohican style haircut and goatee beard.  Add this to a bloke that seemed to destroy opponents for fun and the making of a champion was plain for all to see.  Back  then I was in a younger age category, which to this day I’m pretty thankful for!  After hearing of Sensei’s visit to Coseley hosted by Tipton SKC, I knew that this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.  I confirmed my attendance and greatly anticipated the date to arrive.  Apart from a couple of brief facebook chats and some kindly donated uploads for the site, I’d never actually spoken to Sensei in real life.

Image of Louis, Sensei Matt Price and I

The days drew nearer and I started to ponder over what Sensei would be like as a person, what the training would entail and if he was as scary as I remembered all those years ago.  Back then watching Sensei at the nationals with that mohican, goatee beard and demonic eyes; it seriously brought a sense of fear.  Obviously I was just a kid back then, but the thoughts have remained to this day.  I can only think of one reoccurring karate event in my life that has brought the same kind of fear to me and that involved the Thursday night Cocksmoor Woods training lineups of around 15 blackbelts.  These guys would be baying for blood, any one attack and believe me these guys were seriously out to get you.  Not only did it push you to the very edge of your physical fitness, but also it would mentally beat you to within an inch of your existence.  Absolutely knackered at the end after being swept left right and centre; you’d have the “privilege” of facing Greg Hegarty and Ronnie Christopher just to finish you off for good measure (before doing it all over again!)  Now I’m not complaining, it’s training like this which helps to determine your mental character and proud that I was studying karate at a time where this was more acceptable with less worry of all the health and safety rules that are in place today.

Image of Matt Price Sensei giving some words of wisdom

After jumping on the train with postcode set on Google Maps, I arrived at 12:30 in preparation.  I was warmly greeted by the instructors of Tipton Shotokan Karate Club and given a tour of the facilities.  After quickly setting up the camcorder I got changed and began to warm up.  Slowly but surely, others began to arrive and all stretched off getting ready to start the 3 hour session.  I’d turned up on my own not knowing anybody there and pretty much kept myself to myself.  As more and more karateka arrived, I started to recognise a few faces from the Kizuna World Championships that I’d taken part in back in May, which was nice to see.  A fellow karateka approached me before the beginning of the session and introduced himself as Barry, a member of the Tipton Karate Club.  He said he’d seen that I was on my own and thought he’d say hello.  He might not realise it, but that was to me personally a really nice thing.  It epitomized the essence of a true karateka showing a sense of care and a thought for others.

Image of all Matt Price Sensei seminar attendees

Sensei Price arrived not long after and after a slightly nervous wait we lined up, 35 participants strong originating from both Shotokan and Shukokai styles.  And so it began!  Any apprehension or nerves previously running through my mind were soon blown away as Matt Price Sensei actually turned out to be not just a genuinely nice bloke, but a bit of a comedian!  The 3 hour class was broken in to 3 hourly sections incorporating kihon, followed by kata then lastly some kumite techniques.  Now there was one main factor that I realised after the lesson that cropped up in the kihon section.  No matter how simple the technique is (or appears to be); with a lack of concentration it can seriously go belly up!  Here we had what you would presume as some  relatively simple combinations being taught in the kihon section.   This drill incorporated gedan barai in kiba-dachi, then in to shutouke and gyakuzuki reverse punch.  Three simple forward steps then going backwards utilising good preparation at the halfway point and same leg leading both forwards and back.  Simple yes?  Well, it should have been, but for some reason there was a bit of struggling at the beginning and by more than one of us!  At the end of the drill everybody was pretty comfortable with it, but it served as a gentle reminder that even the most fundamental steps learnt from the beginning of karate can get a little muddled to say the least and re-emphasized the importance of practicing different Kihon combinations to get the mind warmed up.  Without strong kihon, what can we expect our kata or kumite to be like?

 

Sensei Price moved on and demonstrated through various techniques the need for utilising the hips, transferring the body weight and the art of relaxation in order to focus the transfer of energy from one technique to the next.  Now I’m not an expert on it, but it was a reassuring feeling that the lessons he was teaching us were being taught week in week out at my local Ruach Karate club under Gary Beggan Sensei.  During a reverse leg maegeri, step back gyaku tsuki, I felt comfortable and relaxed in the technique and this aided speed and strength from a good hip rotation.  With this relaxation and good hip rotation in mind it was time to partner up.  Barry who’d introduced himself to me before the seminar partnered myself and we looked at a gyaku tsuki punch with the other side being a target.  The purpose was to use the hips, but ensure that the punch was maximising complete transfer through the body core so as to not lose strength (all whilst remaining relaxed).  Sensei Price gave us some free range and basically gave us the all clear to put some power in to it.  I must say, you don’t have to ask me twice!  Having the opportunity of using a little force with your partner in a controlled setting personally serves me two purposes.  1,  Are my attacks strong enough to hold their own in a real life situation?  And 2, Can I take the punch to the stomach that I’m about to receive?

 

When focusing on kata; Sensei pondered what to look at and decided upon a kata that almost nobody knew.  A good way to put us all on the same playing field!  The kata entitled Junro Shodan is one of 5 additional katas created by the late Asai sensei, founder of the JKS.  According to York Karate Website (opens in new window), Asai Sensei “believed that there were gaps in the original 26 Shotokan kata and so filled those gaps with the Junro series. The Junro series also helps to prepare the student for the more advanced Shotokan kata that follow the earlier ones. The Junro kata are assessed at Shodan level and beyond.”  Now we went through this kata fast!  It was originally broken down in to sections before adding the extra parts to the original section learnt.  It’s amazing when you think you’ve learnt the first part to only find how quickly it evades you when you comprehend the task of putting it all together!  Needless to say we had a go and it was interesting to see a new kata that to me at least was unheard of in my karate education.  Below you can see what it “should have looked like.”  Our variation on the other hand was a little different to say the least!

 

The course inevitably drew to a close and the time flew by extremely fast.  Given half a chance I’d have probably done another 3 hours on top.  Saying that I should probably be careful for what I wish for as I might be seen as not having worked hard enough in the first 3 hours!  Sensei Price finished off with a question and answer session and participants were eager to know in particular about mentality towards competition, training regimes and lifestyle exercises and diet to peak them in preparation.  The final question particularly stuck with me, “How do you set aside doubt in competition?”  The answer will not only help me personally, but also made me laugh.  The response?

“There are two mes. When I see this guy off the mat I’m like he’s good, I know he’s good,  There’s no way I can beat him. When I step on the mat I’m like he’s good, I’ll destroy him, you’re on my mat now!”

When I think about all we went through during the seminar in addition to the time Sensei took with us to answer questions (not to mention his time for autographs and photos), I cannot praise him enough.  Sensei was a funny, down to Earth guy and in particular he was approachable.

So on Sunday 3rd August I could have gone down the pub and had 4 pints.  I didn’t.  What did I get instead?  3 hours with a world champion, extra karate knowledge that will stay with me forever, a chance to meet a personal hero and dozens of new friends that I look forward to seeing again.  Would I swap it for a trip to the local?  Nah!