BKF International Open, Crystal Palace 4-5th Sept 2004

Report & photos by Martyn Skipper. EKGB Public Relations Officer

It’s the end of the wettest summer many can remember, August is behind us and the sun is beating down on the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre at the beginning of September. Is this the start of an Indian summer? More pertinently, is the revival of summer weather a portent for the revival of English Karate’s fortunes on the World scene?

With the World championships in Monterrey, Mexico only a couple of months away, the British International Open is one of the last major opportunities for athletes to test themselves against World Class opposition, or to get themselves noticed by their country’s selectors. Not surprisingly then the level of competition was extraordinarily high this year. Seventeen different countries sent representatives, from Central, Northern and Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, USA and Bangladesh. Even Tunisia sent a team; so in all four continents were represented.

The French and the Dutch were amongst the strongest continental teams in attendance, fielding a large chunk of their National squads. One of the most interesting categories was the Male U80kg section. The smart money was on a final between The Netherlands’ European Champion Daniel Sabanovic and Yves Baillon of France, the current WKF World Champion. Also in the top half of the draw with Sabanovic were England’s Jory Chather and Davin Pack (English and Commonwealth Champion). EKKA’s Joe Mongan was scheduled to meet Baillon in the quarter finals in the lower half of the draw.  With all the above through their first round bouts both Sabanovic and Chather eased into the quarter finals with 6-0 wins in the third. A third round win for Davin Pack scheduled him a quarter final against Jory Chather. This turned out to be a real battle, with Chather nicking it 4-3 with just 10 seconds to go. So the first Semi was between England’s Chather and 2000 World Champion Sabanovic.  Chather was light on his feet against the tall, rangy Dutchman, and took the first gyaku for ippon.  Sabanovic is a great kicker, and in the opening round scored a peach of a sanbon with a double mawashigeri jodan, but Chather kept his legs at bay and all the points were singles. Sabanovic quickly equalised and some fast exchanges of hands saw Chather lose a creditable 2-5. In the bottom of the draw Joe Mongan met Baillon in the Quarter final. The Frenchman used his range to take first blood with a jodan tsuki, but Mongan messed him up and at one point threw the World Champ, but was unable to follow up. In the closing seconds Baillon was quickest off the draw in a gyaku exchange and went through 2-0. Nevertheless, an encouraging performance from the EKKA fighter.

The Men’s over 80 kilos saw Seidokan’s Matt Price clearly out to do business. A second round 8-1 victory was followed by a 7-0 against Sweden’s Mansson (himself no slouch, having won his previous bout 10-0).  This set up a meeting with France’s European Champion Chantalou. Chantalou scored first with a long range lead-hand uraken, which took Price completely by surprise. Price tried his deceptively fast trademark rear leg mawashi geri but couldn’t place it.  A fast gyaku / ippon from Price was responded to with an ushiromawashigeri from the Frenchman to take a 4-1 lead.  With 30 seconds to go Price chased Chantalou into a corner and finally his right leg found its mark to set up the Enchosen.  In the extra time Chantalou fell short with uraken, but Price countered right gyaku for his place in the final and the expectation of a cracking battle against French National Champion Florian Malguy.

In the women’s Kata England’s Michelle Hey continued her recent run of form to add BIKO 2004 Gold to her trophy cabinet, and fellow English Kata Champion Jonathan Mottram took the men’s title.

The Male U65 category included Commonwealth Champion Milo Hodge. Hodge is light on his feet and always good value from a spectator’s point of view. In his final bout against M.Alloune, another member of the French National team, it was point for point contest with Alloune matching Hodge’s jodan mawashi geris and jodan gyakus all the way. At 2-3 down, Hodge’s right foot struck the Frenchman’s head cleanly, but no score was given. Then there was a clash of knees, and Alloune went down. After medical attention he continued but was never the same. An exchange of fists was followed by Hodge dumping his opponent clean on his back, but unable to follow up. Both fighters were now starting to make excessive contact. But Hodge now seemed to be in control. With Hodge leading 5-4 both fighters were given Cat 1 penalties, but this was Hodge’s second, and Alloune’s third, thus the under 65kg title went to Milo Hodge.

The under 75kg Final saw Toyakwai’s Alton Brown against Frieker of Switzerland. The on-form Brown was always in control, and opened his account quickly with chudan Gyaku for ippon. A takedown attempt (for the judo aficionados, an unusual kouchi gari, or inside sweep) dropped Frieker, but Brown was unable to gain the score. A second gyak saw Brown up 3-0. Even when Frieker attacked, Brown was sharper and it was soon 3-0 in favour of England. A freestyle “blitz” from Brown failed to score, but Frieker knew he was now in trouble. His ushiro mawashi jodan attempt was neatly slipped by Brown on the inside, and Alton’s clever tactical fight gave England their second kumite Gold of the weekend.

In other categories, Cain Canning took a nasty knock in the U70kg quarter final, which sent him to the floor. Nevertheless, Cain came back to beat his French opponent Hammou 7-1, but lost in the semi to the eventual runner up, Marques of the Netherlands and had to be satisfied with Bronze. In the U65s Jason Ledgister and Paul Newby missed out on medals.

The 80+ Final set Matt Price against Florian Malguy.  After a cagey start from both men the Frenchman’s ushiro mawashigeri jodan found its mark for 3 points. Malguy then immediately went on the retreat, holding corner after corner, eventually conceding a Cat 2 (jogai). Price continued to attack: Malguy continued to back off, and twice drew Price in to counter gyaku chudan. 5-0 to France. The Seidokan man could not find his rhythm against the visitor, and a rear leg ushiro mawashi found Price’s face for an 8-0 walkover. Price was runner up to the better fighter on the day.

Overall France dominated, but England did not have a full International squad, rather a clutch of association teams. They did well then to place second overall in the medal table.  Although France took six of the eleven available individual kumite golds, they didn’t win the team (Netherlands did) and their World champion had to settle for silver in the U80kgs. They also did less well in the kata, so England can be proud of their 5 golds and three silvers. We look forward to the World Championships in Monterrey in November.

 Congratulations and thanks for an excellent tournament to former World Champion Abdu Shaher, the tournament director; Terry Pottage and the Refereeing team; Jeff Grace for administration and management of the draw and results; the medical/paramedic team, and all the administrative and support from English Karate and the National Sports Centre. Thanks also to Northern Ireland’s Ollie Brunton for presenting the trophies. Good luck to England (and the other home countries) in the World Championships