22 members of the Ichiban Karate squad travelled across the Pennines to Warrington on Mother’s Day, 27 March 2022, to compete at the EKA Open Championships. With over 500 competitors from 45 clubs it was a busy day with an excellent standard of karate on display, and Ichiban Karate were at the forefront of clubs leading this display.
All categories across the divisions were busy with the 12 year old boys having the biggest categories of the day in both kata and kumite with at least 45 competitors inn the kumite division as an example.
The day started off with pairs and teams kata, and 6 and under kata in which we were quick to get onto the podium with the 12 and under boys team (Elijah, Alex, Reda), taking gold, their first 1st pace finish as a team!
This was shortly followed by another gold by Frank in the boys 6 and under kata. Frank performed a beautiful well executed kata, showing strength and focus well beyond his six years of age!
The kata performance continued to go well, with 3 of the 5 Ichiban boys in the 11-12 years male kata making it through to the final round of 6, with Alex and Reda taking silver and Bronze respectively, and Elijah unfortunately just missing out, finishing 4th in the division.
Since the AMA in Sheffield 3 weeks ago the team have worked very hard to add more strength and snap to their katas and this hard work certainly came through in many of the kata performances on the day!
Ariz performed a lovely Kururunfa in his final to win gold in the boy’s purple and below category. Kururunfa is a 1st dan kata! Stuart and Safa very quickly matched Ariz with his gold in their respective categories.
With the kata divisions having gone well the team morale was up and there was a very strong sense of renewed concentration and determination to win more as well as inkling of self-confidence in their abilities as the kumite and kickmaster divisions started.
Frank got the team to a winning start with a hard-fought silver in the kickmaster division. Unfortunately, in kumite, Frank drew the ultimate winner in his category in the first round, losing narrowly!
In the Boys 10 years kumite Jalal and Ahmad performed excellently. Whilst fighting very well and leading the fight, in only his second external competition (with under 6 months of training, having only last week graded from white to red), Jalal was disqualified for what was deemed excessive contact (we disagree, as did many spectators). Despite the result, Jalal fought brilliantly and showed lots of promise! Ahmad fought through 5 tough rounds to get to the final, winning at least 2 of the fights in under 30 seconds with two Ippons! Ahmad continued his fine form in the final, but was unfortunate to loose 2-1 on a referees decision after the fight ending in a draw, resulting in silver!
Aleeza has been avidly competing and training to achieve an external competition medal for a while, falling just short at a few recent competitions. Having worked on strengthening her kata and her kumite speed, Aleeza achieve bronze in both kata and kumite in the girls 7-8 categories.
5 of our boys were in the large 11-12 Boys Kumite category, probably the biggest division of the day. All 5 made it through to the second round, 4 through to the final 10, with Alex making it to the final. Having worked on more attacking aggression and speed, Alex fought well winning many of the first points in his fights allowing him to then rely on his countering game. In the final, he drew a very quick counter fighter, with the fight ending just one point in favour of the other competitor, with Alex taking second. The performance of all 5 boys has significantly improved since the last competition, all having made good progress in thinking through their fights and managing to keep came and positive when down on points.
The girls in the squad in general had a tough day out, especially the senior grade girls having only recently made the big step up to the black belt divisions, where they met some very experienced and sharp competitors both in kata and kumite. The kumite categories were especially difficult for Layjha and Safa with the category being 15-17 years open grade, both girls only recently 15 faced significantly taller and more experienced competitors. Layjha, won her first round and then faced a very quick footed Ellie Smith from our association club Dokan. Layjha managed to hold her own and saw the fight through to the buzzer, but unfortunately lost on points.
Safa and Hiba, both the relatively new to the squad are only 7th and 6th kyus and in kumite have to fight inn the open grade category, where in their age group most competitors are black belt. Neither girl embarrassed themselves in the fight and should good promise, executing the correct strategy and techniques in the situations, but being beaten on speed and experience. In time, these girls will definitely catch up and be competing for the medals.
Joining Hiba in the 13-14 category was Salma. Salma a regular competitor with the squad since the beginning performed excellently. Dominating her first fight, showing excellent aggression and skill, winning the fight 3-0. In the second round Salma again fought brilliantly, against a very experience competitor, who if truth be told, I believe Salma believed she had no chance of beating. Salma started the fight really well scoring an ippon with an excellent kick, followed by a great counter. After Salma took a heavy knock to the head, the other fighter fought hard to bring the score in line by the buzzer, leading to a first to score situation, where unfortunately Salma was just slower one the counter by a fraction. The other competitor went on to take a medal in that category. This was an excellent performance by Salma.
The final events of the day were the Team kumite categories, wherein we had 3 teams, 2 in the 11-14 boys team kumite and 1 in the girls 15-17 category. In the boy’s categories the teams were selected on their performance in their individual events. The atmosphere and support from the remaining team was excellent in the team kumite events, with everyone animatedly cheering on the fighters. In the 11-14 years category we finished with silver and bronze, with a narrow loss of the gold. A special mention to Ahmad who at 10 fought up a category and only lost the fight against 14-year-olds by a single point, showing excellent timing and skill in a tough fight.
As many of the team are preparing for the 2022 WUKF World Championships it is important for them to get as much ‘mat time’ as possible and to build their confidence in their own performances. This competition did a lot to boost this confidence and demonstrated that they are moving in the right direction, but that there is still plenty of hard work and room for improvement in the next 14 weeks ahead of the World Championships.
Well done to everyone that competed. A huge thank you to the parents, particularly the mums that chose to spend Mother’s Day at a karate competition!