British International Karate Open, Crystal Palace National Sports Centre 3-4th Sept 2005.
Report by Martyn Skipper
Photos by Martyn Skipper & Olivia Skipper
All the familiar signals herald the fact that summer is drawing to an end. The days are shortening. The Last Night of the Proms is next week. And yet, like last year Crystal Palace is bathed in summer warmth for the British International Karate Open. At the time of writing England’s cricket team are just a draw away from regaining the Ashes from Australia. The Aussies are here at the National Sports Centre too. Also making the long journey are teams from Botswana, Russia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, as well as Germany, Belgium and Slovakia, and an impressive squad of juniors from France.
So would the home crowd be joining in a chorus of “Land Of Hope And Glory”? The next two days will surely tell. Whatever the outcome, some class karate was bound to be in store. Amongst the competitors lining up this weekend were: World Champion Rory Daniels; World Games bronze medallist and English Champion Tania Weekes; France’s World Junior Silver Medallist Elaine Groffilier , Russian Champion and holder of the Black Sea Cup, the estimable Svetlana Prikazchikova; Commonwealth Silver medallist Moses Jones of Botswana; and new Commonwealth Champions Gareth Reynolds and Dave Godfrey of Wales.
One of the major events of the Saturday was the Male team final. This saw Scotland’s Meadowbank line up against Equipe de France. Coached by Olivier Beaudry, this was essentially France’s National Junior squad. This youthful, dynamic squad was a pleasure to watch, and shows that the legacy of the likes of Baillon and Chantalou is in good hands. The teams lined up as follows:
In blue (ao) for Meadowbank, Ewan Robb, Calum Robb, Dave Godfrey, Duncan Raeburn and Glen Mundell. In red (aka) Christophe Araminthe, William Rolle, Michel Alonso, Larry Dona, and Mathieu Cossou.
First up Robb v Araminthe. Robb was in good form this weekend and would later meet World Champion Rory Daniels in the U80kg Final. Nevertheless first blood was the Frenchman’s with a sharp gyakuzuki for Ippon. A second ippon swiftly followed. 2-0 down, Robb shot in a long right-handed gyaku, but no score was given.  Robb kept the pressure on though and forced his man off the shiaijo for a Cat 2 warning. Then the young Frenchman put in a beautifully-timed right leg ashibarai to completely upset Robb. Although the follow up was, in this writer’s opinion, too slow, sanbon was given. Ever on the attack, the Meadowbank man forced his man into the corner and off the mat for a second Cat 2 and ippon. At 1-5 down Robb unleashed a right gyak, but Araminthe was quicker to take the score to 1-6. A clash of hands and a grapple ensued. Robb felled his man with O Soto Gari, but followed him to the floor and was unable to score. His confidence high, Robb kept on the attack. A “blitz” hand combination forced aka back and over the line for a jogai. As a third Cat 2 offence nihon was awarded to Meadowbank. With only 20 seconds to go and 3-6 down Robb had some work to do. But Araminthe was not finished either. A lead leg ushiromawashigeri from the youngster fell short of its target. Nevertheless, first bout went to Equipe 6-3.
In a tactical error, Meadowbank forfeit the second bout as the younger Robb, Calum, was injured in his individual competition.
Bout three pitted Commonwealth Champion David Godfrey against the talented Michel Alonso. Godfrey held off Alonso’s leggy attacks, and after a minute of tactical exchange there was no score on the board. Both men attacked with right gyakus. The French fist was adjudged to have struck first, for ippon.  Aka closed on his man with a left hook kick. Ao evaded, caught the Frenchman’s leg, but failed to get a sweep in. Aka attacked, ao dodged and countered jodan gyaku to level the score. A minute to go in the three minute bout and Godfrey kept on attacking, working the corners. Twice Alonso was close with lead leg hook kick counters, but no further score was made. The bout closed a tie.
Bout four saw Raeburn against Dona. Almost immediately the two went into a clinch. The men broke. Southpaw Dona overreached with a deep left gyak. No score. His right ushiro mawashi also failed to reach his man. After two minutes and 2 seconds without scoring, the protagonists again clinched. Dona made some space and forced a well-aimed right hook kick to Raeburn’s head for sanbon. A left gyaku from aka made it 4-0.  Meadowbank needed to win this one to stay in the contest. Dona attacked tsurikomi (lead leg) mawashigeri jodan from his right posture. Quick as a flash, Raeburn dropped to the floor, spun to the rear and his right heel sent Dona crashing spectacularly to the floor. Although this raised cheers and gasps from the audience, chukoku was awarded against Raeburn, and an ippon penalty. With 30 seconds to go and 0-6 down, Raeburn had a mountain to climb. His chudan mawashi was on target but not powerful enough to merit a score. Several times Dona kicked and was caught, but the Scot could not sweep his man. At the buzzer the 0-6 scoreline gave the team title to Equipe by three wins to zero.
Elsewhere on the Saturday, Tania Weekes took the Women’s 60kg+ title in a final against Herrgesell of Germany. Commonwealth team kata runners up AMA/ NWKA were beaten by their English arch-rivals Yamaguchi Gojukai. The Women’s team kata title went to perennial favourites KMAC. Not surprisingly, France took gold AND silver in the male youth team kumite. Sweden’s Alecu took the Male Senior kata title and two athletes from Bratislava took gold and silver in the female senior kata.
Scheduled to finish at 9pm- presumably to allow for as early a close a possible on the Sunday- the proceedings were closed by 6.30. Congratulations must go to Abdu Shaher, Jeff Grace and Terry Pottage’s officials for that.
Sunday would see the remaining Women’s kumite events, the junior teams, the Men’s lighter weights and finally the Men’s open weight categories.
I took the opportunity to speak with the Norwegian team coach, Geir Henriksen. His team had a great weekend, amassing three golds and a massive 9 bronzes to finish third in the overall medal table. Henriksen himself took silver in the first ever Norwegian National Championships in 1974, and went on to win 5 national kumite and 5 national kata titles in following years. He told me his team have been attending the British Open for “several years” and that they keep returning as they enjoy the British hospitality. He thanked organiser Abdu Shaher and remarked that “he always takes good care of us when we visit.” The Norwegian Champion at under 75kg, Espen Skretting was in the visiting squad, as was the European 80kg+ bronze medallist Geir Brastad.  Both these men took golds at the weekend, Brastad in the 80kg final against Botswana’s Moses Jones, who couldn’t better he silver he took last month at the Commonwealth Championships in Wellington, New Zealand.
Another country to have a great weekend was Wales. Welsh karate is very much in the ascendant at the moment. The Welsh took three senior golds in Wellington, and all three Commonwealth Champions; Samantha Jones (U53kg), Dave Godfrey (U70kg) and Gareth Reynolds (U60kg) made the podium this weekend. The under 60kg event saw an all Welsh final, with Vale Karate’s Reynolds meeting Jishin’s Robert Scott. Reynolds in blue was surely the favourite, and sure enough made the first score with a chudan gyakuzuki for 1-0. A second gyaku and Reynolds was 2-0 up. Reynolds is a quick and exciting competitor with great kicking ability. He unleashed a low mawashi geri, but his compatriot parried it and countered gyaku for his first score on the board. It is testament to Scott’s ability that he made the Commonwealth Champion work all the way. Reynolds nicked a third Ippon with gyakuzuki to lead 3-1. Then with about 20 seconds to go Reynolds threw a chudan mawashi, and was awarded nihon. The bout was restarted but the tatami chief blew the whistle, stepped in and halted the bout. After a brief discussion the two points were revoked. Nevertheless Reynolds went on to take the bout 3-1, and the title.
The Male U80 kg final was between World Champion, Rory Daniels (ao), and Scottish International Ewan Robb (aka).  Robb scored first with chudan gyaku, but Daniels quickly replied to level the score. The Scot once more took the lead, only to see the Bristol man level up. Robb was not going to let Daniel’s flair shine through, and managed to hold off his opponent. Daniels took the score to 4-2 with a low roundhouse, and in the ensuing clinch, Robb sustained an injury to his foot. Seizing the advantage, Daniels picked off a jodan punch for 5-2. Although Robb managed to pull back a point with a midsection punch, the British Open title was Daniels’ at 5 points to 3.
Just before the concluding event of the weekend, the men’s Openweight final, between German clubmates Christian Gruener and David Rupperi, Chief Referee Terry Pottage made the award for referee of the tournament. This year the award went to Norway’s Kjell Jacobsen, for, Terry said, consistent sound decision making, clear communication and good mat control.
In the overall medal table, English clubs took nine golds to top the table, but honour must surely go to the young French squad who took 8 golds. Asked for a comment on the talents of the Gallic visitors a senior EKGB official opined that the home country is lacking something in development of youth talent, and that clearly the French have the edge in this regard. Credit must go to the Norwegian and Belgian squads who each took three golds, and to the up and coming Welsh team who took 2 golds. A special note must be made of the one-woman Russian team, Prikazchikova, who took golds in the under 60kg and the openweight kumite categories.
Once again the day finished well ahead of schedule, and an enjoyable weekend drew to a close. Thanks must go to Oliver Brunton and Victor Charles for awarding the trophies, the Red Cross for medical support as well as to Terry Pottage and his team, Jeff Grace, and Abdu Shaher. We look forward to next year.