AMA National Championships. The Best Ever?
Harvey Hadden Sport Centre, Nottingham 11th July 2004. This weekend Manchester hosted the selections for athletics for the British Olympic squad. The amateur ideal was waved goodbye long ago, and the professionally-funded full-time athletes at the top of their game gave their all in the hope of bringing honour to their club and country. At the same time, a hundred miles away, in a less fashionable discipline, true amateur athletes gave their all for nothing more than honour for the successful, and pride in an earnest effort for those who didn’t take home silverware. Nevertheless the quality of performance was in my opinion world class, and it can surely only be a matter of time before the IOC recognises the Corinthian merit in the international sport of pretending to hit each other.
Although the AMA is the largest martial arts organisation in the UK this year’s Nationals was somewhat less well attended than previous years. In spite of the slightly lower numbers (still almost 200 entrants) some outstanding performances were seen this weekend.
In the team kata Steve Scott’s NWKA team, fresh from their gold in the Budo Nord World Cup in Eslov, Sweden, met Toh-Kon in the final. To be honest Toh-Kon’s Gojushiho Sho looked sharper and crisper on the day, but someone forgot to tell them the WKF rules require bunkai in the finals - which they had failed to prepare. NWKA, on the other hand redeemed their merely adequate performance of Chatanyara Kushanku with a spectacular bunkai exhibition of throws, leaps and tumbles for a deserved title.
The Weapons kata saw AMA veteran Steve Hunt -winner for the last three years- disappointed. Having had his bo nicked, he turned up looking like an international arms dealer with spear, sai, knives, and, who knows what else (did you have a Kalashnikov in your bag Steve?). Unfortunately, metal weapons were prohibited from the competition for safety reasons, and Steve, with a somewhat moderated performance had to settle for bronze. The title went to USKA’s Craig Smith, with a self-invented nunchaku form. This was particularly satisfying for young Craig as he beat his coach, Alex Mason in the final.
In the Men’s kata another AMA stalwart was to settle for quarter final defeat. Jaga Singh, who won gold the previous week in Eslov in the Masters’ Kata, bronze in the Masters’ kumite and team gold in the Senior kumite couldn’t take any silverware back to Middlesbrough this time. This appeared to be a recurring theme this year as your reporter, a finalist two years ago, went out in the first round of the Men’s U65kg kumite. As the results show though, this is less about the demise of the oldies and more a glowing testament to the talent of the newcomers, and up-coming youngsters in the AMA squad today. Some spectacular quality kumite was to come.
Prior to the senior kumite, as is the custom, the day’s proceedings were interrupted by the Annual General Meeting of the AMA. AMA team Manager Pete Allen announced the 32nd anniversary of the formation of the AKA, as it was called in 1972, and called upon the membership to acknowledge the contribution of the founder, Tom Hibbert, MBE, now the AMA’s Chief Executive. Tom reviewed the minutes of the previous day’s Executive Meeting and called upon the membership to ratify the day’s business. He proudly noted the association’s membership now exceeded 68000.
Peter Allen presented Tom with a specially embroidered tee shirt to commemorate Tom’s 32 years with the AMA, and 79 years on this planet. Pete himself was also honoured. He, and fellow AMA senior Peter Kennedy were awarded Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt) by the AMA executive in recognition of their contribution to karate over the years.
At the AMA AGM, three new “byelaws” were passed:
• Anyone teaching children is advised by the AMA to get CRB clearance
• All tournaments to have a paramedic (as well as the usual first-aiders) in attendance
• All instructors advised to take a recognised coaching qualification
Darren Snell was appointed AMA assistant team manager for karate. Darren has been with the AMA for twenty years and has won many honours for the AMA and AMA Great Britain. His appointment leaves Peter Allen a little more time to attend his many administrative responsibilities for the AMA and EKGB.
The afternoon’s kumite produced some excellent competition, in the seniors and the juniors. One of the day’s stand-out performances was from 15 year-old Ross Tyldesley. Ross has taken many titles in his 9 years of karate training at Pete Allen’s USKA dojo, including Gold in the boys’ kumite in Eslov last week. The kumite title today was his fourth AMA National Gold. Ross has impressed over the years, not only for his versatility and aggression, but also because he has always come through, despite a significant height disadvantage. Today, at a mere 34kg and only 1m40, he still concedes height to pretty well all his competitors. Ross continues to dominate with an attacking style, and his jodan mawashi is testament to his flexibility, but in today’s final against Daniel Smith he showed a rare tactical maturity as he picked off his opponent with some well-timed counter gyakutsukis.
The Male U65 event has recently been dominated by Nathan Clarke, now British (BKF) champion. This year the lightweights was very well represented, with a number of youngsters waiting to snatch Clarke’s crown. Bronze this year went to Doushukai’s Dean Pallas. Dean is an all rounder, and since he joined the AMA a year ago has not failed to pick up a medal, in either kata or kumite, at every event he has attended. The final was between Clarke and Chestnut’s Leonard Pesci. Leo is showing flair and promise, and gave England Squad member, and European U21 Bronze medallist Nathan a real run for his money in the final, losing to Clarke only in the Encho-Sen.
The mens’ open weight final was between two of the AMA’s young guns; Ben Moir and Danny Rudkin. Both have recently joined the ranks of the seniors, and are still improving. Ben’s semi final victory against veteran Heron Chisolm was a tough affair with both protagonists using the full armoury of kicks, punches and sweeps / throws permitted in the WKF rules, for an exciting bout, Ben finally snatching it 4-3.
In the final, Ben came out on the attack taking an early point with a jodan tsuki. A quick left-handed gyaku made it 2-0. Rudkin, however was not to be subdued. A flying combination fist attack looked like it might unsettle Moir, but a calm gyaku counter was too quick for Danny, and Moir led 3-0. Still plenty of time though and in the next clash Rudkin showed some of the form that got him into the England squad last year. A sharp counter gyak closed the margin to 3-1. Now fuelled with some confidence, Rudkin attacked jodan tsuki for 3-2. With only 30 seconds to go a quick gyakutsuki levelled the scores. The next clash was almost aiuchi, but (correctly, in my opinion) referee Phil Moody deemed Rudkin to have stuck first: 3-4 and Rudkin in the lead for the first time. Another sharp exchange of blows and Danny was 3-5. Only Four seconds remained in the bout, and Moir came out fighting. A hand-foot combination fell short and Moir hit Rudkin’s elbow with his instep. Danny dropped to the floor and had to have medical attention. Something like three or four breaks to this bone in the last few years had left his foot really tender. Nonetheless, with only a couple of seconds on the clock, but only two points in it, a quick jodan mawashi geri could take the title. Sure enough, Ben kicked. The timing was good, the line was true, but Danny was too quick. A right hand reverse punch beat the clock- and Ben- to secure the title six points to three in a truly thrilling three minutes. IOC officials, please take note.
The final event of the day was the men’s team final, between Colin Rudkin’s Freestyle Combat, and Herron Chisolm’s Chestnut Shotokan. First up was Freestyle’s Danny Rudkin and Chestnut’s Ilir Grifi. Ilir is showing real promise and took Bronze in the U70 event. On this occasion Rudkin’s experience showed through, but the 8-2 points victory did not do justice to Ilir’s talent. A name to watch in the future.
So, at 1win to Freestyle, the two old warriors came to the tatami. Herron Chisolm v Colin Rudkin. First blood went to the lighter, smaller Chisolm a deep gyaku tsuki for 1-0. Rudkin Senior quickly struck back with a peach of a hook kick off the rear leg. Another exchange of blows, and disaster struck. A mis-timed attack from Chisolm met a poorly controlled right cross from Rudkin. As Herron hit the deck Rudkin realised his error. It was clear he was not going to get up. Colin and Herron are old team-mates, and it was obvious that no malice was intended. After swift and efficient intervention from the medics in attendance ensured Herron was OK, Hansoku was awarded in his favour. The referees, headed as ever by WKF official Brian Noble declared the fairest result was to give both teams joint Gold, though by this stage, everyone was more concerned for the well being of Herron than with any contest result.
A great shame that the day had to end with an injury (thankfully Herron is fully recovered from what was a minor concussion). Otherwise a truly splendid day of top-flight karate - kata and kumite. The AMA, and British karate in general can take heart from this. Olympic status can surely be just around the corner.
Keep your diary clear for the AKA eastern Area Open, on Sunday August 22nd again at Harvey Hadden. Details from www.amauk.co.uk, or from Brian Noble on 01604403439