British Karate Federation British Youth Championships. Ponds Forge International Sports Centre, June 10th-11th 2006
After the worst winter we can remember, suddenly it’s summer. The hottest day of the year is upon us. Furthermore England play their first match in the World Cup, against Paraguay. So it would be completely understandable if the British Championships were a little under-attended - by the English contingent at least. Those not absorbed by the prospect of  ’66 all over again, undoubtedly will be seduced by the lure of sunkissed domestic beaches.
What a pleasant surprise then to see Ponds Forge packed again with spectators and competitors. The one apparent concession to World Cup fever was the proliferation of national flags, the crosses of St. George and St. Andrew particularly dominant. The Ponds Forge arena was hot and humid, with the six mats running constantly throughout the weekend.
With Karate England stabilising and growing, and a solid base of new talent on the way up, the Youth Championships held the promise of some great competition over the two days.
With the Kata events on day one, many familiar names took to the podium. Shikon’s Alice Goudie took Gold in the 14-15 year individual category. In the 12-13 category, AMA’s Amy Cook was denied the title by IshinRyu’s Emma Lucraft. KMAC completed the team double, taking Male and Female titles
Category B138 was the female team kumite 10-11 years. The final was between EKKA of England and Scotland’s SKF “A” team. First up for EKKA in red was Caitlin Batchelor, facing Rachel Gouraly of Meadowbank, wearing blue.
Despite the significant height advantage of the English fighter, with 25 seconds remaining on the clock, scores were level with one gyakutsuki each. In the dying second the EKKA competitor upped the pace. A chudan tsuki was adjudged to have made excessive contact, and chukoku was awarded against red. A following gyaku did score making it 2-1. With five seconds to go, Rachel attacked, but Caitlin’s counter was quicker. First win to EKKA of England.
Next to toe the line was Chloe Cooper (aka) for EKKA and Caitlin Gulland (ao) for SKF.  Both fighters came out on their toes, using all the 8m area. In the first meaningful exchange Gulland’s quick gyaku gave the first point to SKF. Both competitors showed a good range of technique, both equally confident with front and rear leg, as well as hand techniques. A chudan tsuki from Cooper clearly hurt her Scottish opponent, but “ippon” was declared to level the score. With 30 seconds on the clock a lead leg mawashigeri from red struck jodan for sanbon. The scores at 1-4, blue struck back. A clean gyaku chudan narrowed the gap to 2-4, but time was ticking away. Another jodan mawashi from red took the score to 7-2 but the point was hotly disputed by the Scottish coach. To my eye too the kick appeared to fall short, but to allay any doubt Cooper quickly followed up with another jodan kick which was not disputed. The scores at 10-2 to red, and the requisite 8 point margin achieved, the second bout, and the title went to EKKA.
I took some time to speak with AMA’s Simon O’Brien, of Imperial Karate Club. 5th dan Simon affiliated Imperial to the AMA last year because he felt the association offered him “national exposure, and the opportunity to develop my fighters”. He felt they needed a new challenge and had at that time no expectation of any personal promotion. Within a few months however his talents as a coach were recognised by AMA team manager Peter Allen and Simon was appointed National Kumite Coach.
Simon said his style is to work on specific training regimes, and analysis of strategies, then to work on lots of repetitions of simple drills, worked in sets. He runs separate fitness sessions on Saturday morning, with emphasis on cross training.
Simon readily acknowledges the influences of others and particularly paid tribute to his coach of 30 years, Higashi’s Alan Flook who, he said, “taught me everything I know”. Under Flook, Simon won British and English team titles three years running, and his work with Higashi’s “Big Squad” appears to have paid off.
Simon is a pragmatic coach, and his aside to one of his charges, victorious, but disappointed with the manner of her victory, was telling. “Although people have paid to come in you haven’t got to put on a show for them”, he advised, explaining that a win is a win, and that’s what matters.
One of the most exciting events of the weekend was the boys’ 14-15 team kumite. The visiting Scots fielded some very strong teams, and were guaranteed three medals, with Yamakai and SKF “A” sharing Bronze. The final, then, saw SKF “B” team meet Ken Yu Kai, with Ken Yu Kai wearing Aka (red).
The first bout matched KYK’s Saule Del-Rio against Meadowbank’s Chris McDonald. The Englishman had a significant advantage in size and weight, but the Scot had a armoury of combination attacks which kept the pressure on. McDonald however was unable to make his head and body kicks score and a single jodantsuki counter from the rangy KenYu Kai athlete was enough to give the first bout to Aka.
Bout two pitched Ashley Tancock for KYK against Donald Forsyth for Meadowbank. In this three man team event Meadowbank needed the win and Forsyth came out fighting. Sure enough, first gyaku score went to Scotland.  Soon after, Forsyth made another attack, lost his footing and allowed Tancock to open the scoring for England. The scores level, and the team title in sight, Tancock again attacked with chudan tsuki to take the score to 2-1 to red. Both young men attempted sweep/punch combinations, but neither was successful.  A single gyaku attack from Aka made the score 3-1. This was a very exciting bout and blue kept up the pressure. A jodan mawashi attack from Forsyth failed to connect. Tancock caught the leg, upended his man, but failed to capitalise. With still 30 seconds on the clock this was anyone’s bout. Doggedly, Forsyth continued his kicking attacks – the Meadowbank team have built a reputation on excellent keriwaza – but Aka managed to catch and trap most of them, though failed to get the takedown. Finally Forsyth got the jodan mawashi geri through the Englishman’s guard, but unfortunately failed to show adequate control, the heavy contact earning him a chukoku. (Remember, in junior competition face contact is completely forbidden). Another ashibarai from Red upended the Scot, but no follow up meant no score. Forsyth realised time was against him and kicked up a gear. A chudan gyaku attack near the mat edge floored the Englishman. Many old timers will recall the era when such a strike would merit “Ippon” or maximum score. In these pre-Olympic times though, this was considered excessive contact. As a second offence, “Keikoku” was declared, and a point awarded to Ken Yu Kai. At 4-1 and two bouts to nil, the title went to the English team of Del Rio, Tancock and Chris Hargreaves. Worthy runners up then were McDonald, Forsyth and Sean Gulland.
This tournament, I focused on the female 12-13 kumite team from Kaizen central.
The squad of 13 year old Adele Crimmins, 12 year old Jodie Hammond, and Rebecca Gibson, 12 are all brown belts but and hail from Chingford, Essex. Under the tutelage of Alex Hart the girls have a great deal of tournament experience behind them. This time they managed bronze. Surely a team to watch for the future?
The female 10-11 35kg+ final saw Chelsie Ware of WKU Bristol against Kaizen Central’s Rhainy Harris. With no score after full time the match went to Encho Sen (sudden death extension). First to score was Harris for the title.
A particularly pleasing result was the male 10-11 kumite 35kg+. The silver medallist , Roding’s Reece Kirwan, conceded the title to one of karate’s most famous names, Jamaal Otto, son, of course, of former multiple world champion Wayne. The win clearly delighted both Wayne, and the Otto’s coach Terry Daley. Does this win presage another karate dynasty perhaps?
Yet again the juniors showed maturity and flair that their elders can be proud of. Another splendid weekend of tournament karate presided over by Abdu Shaher as Tournament Director, Terry Pottage heading the refereeing team and Jeff Grace keeping the whole thing running to time.