Just a day before our 2nd birthday as a club we attended the 2019 English Karate Federation Kyu Grade Championships held at Leicester arena. This is the 1st time as a club that we have attended a National level competition, having only competed in less than a handful of competitions in total.
With an early start to the day, we left Leeds at 6am with our squad of 9 competitors. Travelling down to the venue we were expecting a long day, having herad that the organisers were expecting over 1000 competitors and that this was the 1st time that they had held, what used to be a 2 day competition in a single day! Having been to plenty of horribly organised competitions in the past, I was definitely expecting the worst, with our last entered division scheduled to only start at 18:10!
Pulling into the car park, and seeing a long queue outside the venue, the nerves started to hit the competitors, with a few stating ‘that this is not what they signed up for’ :-P Which wasn’t unexpected considering our two most ’experienced’ competitors are a 9 year old green belt with only 3 external competitions and a 12 year old brown belt also with only 3 competitions to her name, and our least experienced being a 9 year old yellow belt with only one competition and only 7 month training behind him!
Starting promptly at 9am with kata’s we kicked of the 1st Nationals. With 10 mats in play on the day and at any one time we had students on 3-4 mats it was a bit frantic at the start trying to ensure that we caught each students kata performance.
Emily, Elijah and Alex performed great katas in their first round but were unfortunate not to proceed losing out on a 2-1 flag decision. Daniel worked hard to progress three rounds before also unfortunately losing 2-1 to a strong competitor. All 4 showed great poise in big categories of over 20 competitors in each.
Salma and Ahmed in smaller categories both also missed out on a place in their semi-finals with 2-1 decision each, but both took bronze in the girls and boys 9-10yrs 8th kyu below divisions.
Later in the morning, O’Neill, Narjis and Layjah took to the mats in their kata categories. Narjis in the hardest division of the day against highly experienced competitors and in a division of 30+ competitors, unfortunately lost her 1st round, but performed a very strong Pinan Shodan. O’Neill also in a division with over 30 competitors also unfortunately missed out on progressing past the first round, but performed one of his best performances of Pinan Nidan yet. With another 2-1 decision against us, Layjah unfortunately also bowed out in round one.
Whilst everyone performed very well, the nerves and lack of ‘competition polish’ was evident against some more experienced competition. This being said, no one froze, or looked out of place which is really an achievement in itself at such a busy competition.
After the kata rounds we had a much shorter break than expected with the competition running well ahead of schedule. If we though the kata divisions were big, the kumite divisions showed us what big was. Elijah, Daniel and Alex’s 8-9yrs 6th Kyu below kumite had two pools held over two mats, as did Emily’s 8-9yrs girls and Narjis 11-12yrs 3rd Kyu + kumite.
It was great to see everyone take to the mat excited to fight, especially with many of the squad probably preferring kata if truth be told. Everyone’s fights were very close bouts, but lost out to some slightly more experience, faster but most notably aggressive opponents in the 1st rounds.
Towards the end of the day Layjah took to the floor in the 11-12yrs 4th kyu below kumite. Having being told she needed more aggression in her kata earlier in the day, it seemed she took on the advice and delivered it in the kumite! Usually a quiet, polite individual she was nothing less than fierce in the ring! Progressing through round one with a 3-1 victory, Layjah then faced a very quick and nimble competitor, narrowly winning 2-1 in the dying seconds. It was great to see Layjah being assertive in both these fights taking the senshu (1st to score advantage) from the get-go. Progressing to the final Layjah then faced a very experienced, very quick counter fighter. Whilst working hard to get some points on her competitor, unfortunately the bout ended 4-0. Taking Silver in a tough experienced division is no mean feat for a student with only about a year’s training, Watching the video back at home provided quite the entertainment listening to Sensei Kieron and I shouting instructions at Layjah and observations to the refs!
Throughout the day I was making notes for each competitor on areas of improvement as well as areas that they excelled in. We’ll be working on a training plan to improve the areas that stood out and polish some of the excellent performances.
We’re so proud of the way everyone handled themselves at such a big competition. We know that many of you were disappointed at not progressing further and taking home a medal, but as I’ve said before it’s the tremendous progress you’ve all made in your karate that we measure. Relatively you’ve only been training a very short time and have very little competition experience. Keep training hard, listen to what you need to work on and keep showing up and you’ll get there! As a squad we’ve now done our first year on the competition circuit. You’ve had a taste of what it it’s like and where you need to be to compete, now we train harder!
In regard to the organisation of the tournament, I’m so glad to say that I was wrong to expect the worst, as the competition under the new EKF Management was very well organised! To say it ran like clockwork would be lying, as at one point they were running 3 hours ahead of schedule! The referees, table officials and management did a superb job in coordinating a very successful day! Thank You for your hard work, we’ll be back!