The AKA / AMA Eastern Championships always attracts a quality field, not least I suspect because of the consistent high quality of the organisation and the officiating. As one of the year’s big opens, the Easterns is of particular significance this year as the English squad begins to prepare themselves for the World Championships in Mexico in November.
One of the shocks of the day came in the Mens’ heavyweight (70kg+) division. Veteran fourth dan Eddie Gillespie recently came out of retirement after five years sabbatical. A former EKGB champion, after some years in the Metropolitan Police he relocated back to his native North East and has started to enjoy the competition circuit again. A tough competitor under the tutelage of Ticky Donovan, Gillespie showed his potential in an early encounter with European Junior Champion & Commonwealth Bronze medallist Joe Mongan. In one of the toughest bouts of the day, the older man led through most of the match, but both competitors let their aggression get the better of them, with lots of head contact. (In this writer’s opinion, Mongan – although he got the better of a number of contact decisions- will need to protect his head better if he wants a place in the Monterrey squad selections in September.) At the encho-sen the scores stood at a massive 11 points all with Gillespie quickest on the draw with a sharp left gyaku for the match. Gillespie then went on to meet Higashi’s Rory Daniels in the final, and won by Hansoku when Daniels committed a second low kick. At the presentation ceremony, a team mate of Daniels was heard to remark “What’s Second Rory?” Eddie Gillespie has had a great year, taking Bronze in the English Championships, Gold in the North East Open and Silver in the Carlisle Open. Now the AKA Eastern Open Gold can go into his trophy cabinet.
The men’s lightweight (U70kg) final was between up coming Shikon star Chris Mendes, and Tatsu’s Jason Ledgister. Mendes is showing great promise and opened his account with the first gyakuzuki for ippon. Ledgister seems to be at his best when under pressure and quickly retaliated with jodanzuki to level the score. Mendes has fast hands and, like his more experienced opponent is light on his feet. Ledgister has a large armoury of scoring techniques, but Mendes was tricky, and restricted the former World Games Champion to just hand techniques. In the end Ledgister took the title 3-1 but it will be interesting to watch the Shikon man’s career develop (he is no slouch in kata either).
The women’s U60 title went to Erdington’s Naomi Abrahams. Naomi is only young but has been training twelve years with Mick Duffas, and won her place in the England squad last October. She beat WKU’s Sarah Clark 2-1 in the final, despite her assertion that her performance was “not up to scratch”.
The Women’s team final was between EKKA and Mike Mainwaring’s Talbot karate. First bout was Sam Jones of Talbot v Kelly Williams. Williams scored first with jodanzuki for ippon, but after a hesitant start Jones was the victor 3 points to 1. Next Talbot’s Sarah Powell v Tracey Warren. Powell was the taller and dominated the early part of the bout with combination attacks and a consummate rear leg mawashigeri. At 4-0 up Powell swept her EKKA opponent but was unable to capitalise with a score. Perhaps in desperation, Warren picked up a warning for face contact. Then a low kick from the Talbot fighter dropped Warren. Clearly in some considerable discomfort Warren was unable to continue and was awarded the bout Hansoku for 8-0. So the team title rested on the decider between Rhian Davies of Talbot and Hayley Newall of EKKA. Newall dominated the bout from the off, chasing Davies into successive corners. At the halfway mark it was 5-0 to EKKA thanks to a peach of a lead leg mawashigeri jodan. Davies was unlucky not to get referee approval for a seemingly legitimate chudan mawashi which would have narrowed the gap somewhat. Perhaps that decision frustrated the Welsh woman, and a couple of heavy blows gave two points against her. The final score was 7-3 and the title to EKKA.
The male kata was again the domain of English and British Champion Jonathan Mottram, beating IshinRyu team-mate Craig Suckling in the final. The Team kata was a one-two for Steve Scott’s NWKA of the AMA, with the “A” team again showing their style in the bunkai.
The men’s team final was a certainty for a title for Higashi coach Alan Flook as the finalists were Bristol Higashi A and Bristol Higashi B, all under his tutelage. The A team’s first up was Andy Kelliher. He faced team-mate Lee Osborne. With a significant height advantage Kelliher soon racked up a 4-0 lead. Osborne was a dogged fighter though and soon learnt that he could pick up points by moving inside, and a gyaku counter was quickly followed by an attacking gyaku for 2-4. An exchange of blows followed with Kelliher getting the judges’ call for 2-5. A chudan mawashi from Osborne so nearly got through, but having made contact with the arm did not score. At the buzzer it was one win to the A team. The second bout was Luke Osborne for Bristol B against Rory Daniels. Daniels’ deep gyaku failed to meet its mark, as did Osborne’s chudan mawashi reply. Another exchange of blows again failed to yield a point for either man. Although initially unable to pick up any points, Daniels had his man on the floor three times, and it was only a matter of time before Rory turned his man and his right gyakuzuki hit home for Nihon. Osborne kept the pressure on and a neat reverse spin and an immediate kizamizuki found Daniels’ head. At 2-1 up Daniels seemed to be playing with his man- presumably he knew his style well- but a rear leg ushiromawashi geri could not find its mark. Nevertheless, at time it was two bouts to nil to Bristol A, and team Gold to Daniels in compensation for his individual silver.
Once again a well refereed and efficiently organised day. Thanks to the local St. John team as ever in attendance. Thanks too to WKF referee Brian Noble and his large team of officials ensuring an early end to the day’s proceedings.