AMA International Open, Harvey Hadden International Sports Stadium, Nottingham. 25th-26th Feb 2006 Report & Photos Martyn Skipper
The AMA International Open has established itself as a major event in the UK calendar. Representatives from Iran, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Denmark and many other European countries regularly make the journey to Nottingham for this event, with over 750 competitors in two days of top level competition. World Champion Rory Daniels, and Junior World Champion Hamed Ziksari were amongst the top-flight athletes at this prestigious event.
An additional feature of this year’s event was the introduction of a new sport to the UK – Sougo Budo. Sougo Budo is a combat sport with protective armour. Largely, the scoring regime is similar to the current WKF system, but with some important differences. Firstly the combatants are heavily protected with a head guard and polycarbonate face mask that takes a considerable degree of impact. Additionally the protagonists wear a padded body shield covering the front, rear and side torso. This means that a higher level of contact is allowed to score. Secondly multiple scoring attacks score multiple points, so, hit your opponent twice in combination, and you score two points. Thirdly, the degree of grappling and throwing is a little more than is allowed in WKF rules- and an extra frisson – a takedown with immediate follow-up results in total victory!
Sougo Budo was to be showcased in a special challenge team match between an AMA team and the Ukrainian National squad, in a mixed age and sex tournament (of which more later), but this report begins with the traditional WKF karate events.
The Iranian national squad have proved themselves on the international stage. They were here in considerable force this year, and the senior and junior women made a big impression with their athleticism and aggression, and particularly their excellence in keriwaza (kicking techniques). This overall skill manifested itself in a tally of thirteen podium spots in kumite for the Iranian women.
The Men’s under 65kg event saw some impressive performances. The high standard was underlined by the fact that Commonwealth Champion Gareth Reynolds only managed joint third, and Kris Coulter, who seemed to be on fire in the early rounds (perhaps something to do with his new hairstyle, but he was on blistering form) was not even placed. This writer’s opinion is that if he continues this form, he has a World Title in him. Nevertheless, today was not to be his, and the under 65kg title went to Coulter’s Sakai team-mate Steven Rooney.
Similar high standards were evident in the U70kg category. Commonwealth Champion Collin Heath was looking good, and impressed this correspondent with his on-mat aggression and determination, balanced with an off-mat sporting demeanour. Nevertheless, he only managed joint third in this event. The final was between the Iranian Junior World Champion Ziksari, former World Games champ Jason Ledgister. As is his normal approach, Ledgister kept the crowd on tenterhooks with his deceptively lazy style, always seeming to do just enough, and just when it mattered, to carry through to the next round. The final against the young Iranian was a tight affair with neither man gaining advantage at the three minute buzzer. The encho–sen thus forced, the two men squared up. After about thirty seconds of the one-minute extension, Ledgister pounced. From a low left posture, a long languorous rear leg sweep completely unbalanced his man. As Ledgister came in for the kill, something amazing happened. From a seemingly impossible position, Ziksari somehow managed to regain his composure, and as Ledgister entered, the Iranian delivered a right-handed reverse punch which landed squarely on his opponent’s chest for ippon, and the title. It was apparent that Jason knew his opponent well, and the defeat was immediately followed with a warm embrace for both Ziksari, and the Iranian national coach Mohammmed Behboudi.
World Champion Rory Daniels had a day of mixed fortunes. His disappointment at a referee’s decision in the semi final of the 80kg kumite was not disguised as he was denied the victory against Tatsu’s Jory Chather. Although in my opinion the referee’s call that gave Chather the point in the Encho Sen was doubtful, the estimable Chather went on to take the title, leaving Daniels the Bronze. Elsewhere the team kumite was again of a really high standard, and Daniels, as part of the WKU Bristol team saw his second Bronze of the weekend. With top class squads from Shikon, AMA, Tatsu, Iran, and Sakai (the eventual winners) amongst others, a third in this event was definitely no shame. Daniels’ weekend was made complete by a repeat of his Monterrey performance- the male open weight title, this time against Scot Stuart Heaney.
Daniels’ team-mate Darren Haynes had a great weekend, taking Gold in the Mens’ 80kg+ event in a tense final against SSU Williams’ Jamie Hoare, and Bronze in both the team and individual open weight events.
The Men’s team kata is becoming an exciting event. The mandatory Bunkai for the finalists really separates the men from the boys. The AMA / USKA team have been working hard together over the last six months and a few minor trophies have come their way. This year, though victory was theirs, with a stunning visual display of Sepai to give them the title against the Iranian squad.
The showcase event of the weekend was the Sougo Budo International Challenge team match. The AMA Select team were in aka (red) and the visiting Ukranian team wore blue (ao).  The seven-strong mixed team lined up, were introduced by the MC Jeff Grace, and took the formal rei.
First up AMA’a Erin Snell, nine year old daughter of AMA assistant manager Darren Snell, faced nine year old Alexandra Krysko. In a 90 second non-stop battle of head and body punches (each scoring one point) brave Erin lost 12-4 to the Ukranian, who clearly was more experienced in these novel rules. The first bout of seven then went to the visitors.
Bout two, the ten year old boys, matched Liam Harvey against Jadym Shostak, also over a minute and a half. Liam’s significant height advantage meant he was able to dominate his opponent. Despite his lack of experience in the Sougo-Budo rules (Liam’s jodan kicks failed to score as the side of the head, unprotected by the polycarbonate visor, is not considered a scoring area) Liam was able to reverse the outcome of the first bout. The 12-4 victory this time was AMA’s.
The 15 year old girls were next on the tatami. Lauren Middlehurst wore the red armour for AMA, and her opponent in blue was Maria Logvinenko. Considered a senior bout, this was scheduled for two minutes, but after a brace of body punches for one each, and three chudan kicks for two points each, the score stood at 8-0 and total victory to Ulkraine.
Next up were the 14 year old boys. Adam Lord in red faced Evgen Shlyakovskyy. Initial exchanges of body shots failed to impress the Ukranian referee. The body armour means that in Sougo-Budo a considerable degree of force is required for a technique to be recognised as a score. Both boys learnt this quickly and soon the scores were 6-all. With about 30 seconds to go the more experienced Ukranian began to step up the pace. A body kick, a couple of body punches and it was 10-6 to Ukraine. When “time” was called (all referee instructions are, by convention, in English in this sport) it was 13-8 to the visitor in blue.
Anthony Smith represented AMA GB for the 16 year old boys. His opponent was Volodymyr Klimas. With some local pride at stake, Anthony went on the attack. Repeatedly forcing his opponent out of the area, he picked up two points. A brace of body punches from Klimas levelled things. This was a tough, aggressive bout with lots of grappling but no clear advantage being taken by either protagonist. Smith put in a sweep to unsettle his man and picked up a point for the ensuing body shot. Thus emboldened, Smith kept the pressure on, frequently forcing his man to the periphery of the area. This looked like a badly needed victory to the home team. Then Klimas pulled out a low round kick to Smith’s body for two points. No further scores were made so the final score was 4-3 to blue.
The male under 65kg contenders were Craig Smith for the AMA and Nicoli Sirakovskyy for the tourists.Both these lightweight men were very aggressive, but Smith, always fast around the tatami downed his man a couple of times and soon racked up a four points to zero advantage. A couple of body shots from the Ukranian and the margin was narrowed to 4-2. Craig scored another couple of singles. Then a beautiful turning side kick to Smith’s body, and the score was 6-4. The Englishman was dominating this bout and in a panic Sirakovskyy began to lash out wildly. This earned him a warning from the Ukranian referee.  Smith continued to attack picking up further points. 8-4, then 9-4. Again in desperation Sirakovskyy dived at his opponents feet, hoping to upend him, but to no avail. The Ukranian attacked again, a low roundhouse made it 9-6 and Craig’s trusty gyaku counterpunches made the final score 11-6 to AMA.
 The last bout of this special challenge match pitted U 75kg men Danny Massarella against the much taller Denys Krylosky. A low kick from Krylovsky opened his account with two points. Using his reach advantage the Ukranian swept Danny completely off his feet, but was unable to follow up. Using his long jab the taller man placed a thumping jab square in the centre of Massarella’s visor. 3-0 to the visitor. A testament to Massarella’s skill, the rangy Krylosky was unable to make his kicks score. Indeed at one point Massarella skipped inside a jumping turning kick and a beautifully timed evasion / sweep sent his man to the floor. Final score 6-1 to blue in this bout, and five matches to two overall.
The friendly event was marked by an exchange of commemorative medals between competitors. For those in whom this event has sparked an interest, the AMA have established a governing body for Sougo-Budo in Britain. See for more details. There will be courses and competitions over the coming months. The next chance for competitors to try out Sougo-Budo will be the AMA North West Open at Bury on April 2nd.
Congratulations must go to head referee Vince Parker, who had to quickly apprise himself of these novel rules, and indeed to English competitors who had not had a chance to practice in the protective gear, which only arrived in the UK the previous day!
Tournament Organiser Peter Allen would like to acknowledge the contribution of Vince Parker and his referee/ official team, Jeff Grace for the scoring and draw management, and the first aiders who all helped make the AMA International a success again. Next Year’s event is already booked. February 26th-27th 2007. Put it in your diary now.