English Karate Governing Body Junior Championships, Sheffield, September 24th-25th 2005
Report by Martyn Skipper, Photos by Toni Todorov
The EKGB is dead. Long live Karate England!
This is the final tournament under the EKGB banner. By the time this report goes to press, the Whole Sport Plan Implementation Board (WSPIB) will have met and, barring disasters, the new unified Governing Body, under the name "Karate England 2005 Limited” will have been inaugurated under the auspices of Sport England.
The first EKGB Children’s championships were held here at the Ponds Forge International Sports Centre back in 1993, in those days a one-day event and, according to one senior official, “a very amateur affair”. This year six mats ran for two days and a packed auditorium saw individual and team kata and kumite events as well as the second English Regional Team Championships.
The regional events pit the EKF (European Karate Federation) defined national regions (North, Midlands and South) against each other in senior male and female kata and kumite events. The overall winner of the round-robin competition takes away the team trophy, shared last year between the Molly Samuels/Tyrone White-trained Southern team, and the Northern squad coached by Abdu Shaher, Jeff Bottomley and Peter Allen.
As well as the competition proper, unsurprisingly the word on almost everyone’s lips was “Unification”, in (almost unanimous) eager anticipation of the coming together of the three major groups to form a single body for karate in England. To underline this support, the ETKB’s Bob Poynton was guest of honour on the Sunday. The KUGB 7th Dan and English karate pioneer was keen to demonstrate his group’s support for the new group, and expressed a willingness to get to understand, and ultimately to enter his people in, the WKF-rules tournaments in the future.
This year saw the introduction of “tatami stewards”. These are volunteers, many - but not all- aspiring or trainee mat officials, who take responsibility for the administration of the mat. These stalwarts would ensure competitors are ready at the appointed time, draw sheets are available in a timely fashion, results are quickly reported to the officials’ table, and so forth. Guided by Chief Steward Tony Cotter, their activity ensured that this year, despite the huge entry and the large number of age and weight categories, both days ran ahead of schedule. (As an aside, tournament organiser Peter Allen mentioned that all these volunteers came from his association, the AMA, and requests other associations to put forward helpers for future events. As well as providing a great help to the proceedings, such work provides valuable experience for would-be judges and referees of the future.)
The best competitor award for the Saturday went to Mitch Scotcher of Corringham and Dartford Ishinryu. His assured performance of Gankaku / Chinto in the boys’14-15 years kata final, won him unanimous approval from the judges, and the title. He also beat team-mate James Cornish in the final of the U65kg kumite.
On the Sunday, Yamaguchi Gojukai’s Emily Sharland was the only competitor to take two medals. She took bronze in the Girls’ 8-9yrs U35 kumite and the English title in the kata.
The regional senior event was in some ways a little disappointing, as not all squads fielded full teams. This begs the question already dogging professional sports, such as rugby and soccer: club or country (or in this case, with so many tournaments in the calendar, club, region or country?) The EKF’s notion of nurturing grass roots karate by promotion through the regions is a fine one, but the regional events still lack the cachet of some of the larger national and international tournaments. Until this is resolved it is understandable if athletes prefer to limit the risk of injury and concentrate on the higher profile events. Nevertheless, some big names did turn out and some exciting karate was in store.
The KMAC / England Karate Kan team dominated the female team kata event for the South. The southern ladies also performed well in the kumite, despite fielding teams of two in the three-woman events. The tactic obviously paid off.  Commonwealth Champion Natalie Williams was on fine form, and the Southern team this year was awarded the regional title outright. The trophy was awarded to Regional Coaches Molly Samuels and Paul Simmons by National Coach Wayne Otto OBE.
To the Children’s events proper.
The 10-11 boys’ U5kg kumite looked an interesting prospect. The first semi final saw Uechi Ryu’s Alex Rolle into the final after a tense Encho Sen. Young Alex looked pleased with himself, but coach Terry Daley took him to the trophy table. “Do you want a medal (for runner up) ?” he asked, “or do you want a trophy?” Alex of course agreed the big trophy looked more appealing. His opponent in the final was to be Kaizen’s Aron Emin, who won his semi-final bout 3-0 with fast gyakuzukis. The final saw Aron in blue (ao) and Alex in Red (aka). Aron attempted a right jodan mawashi, but it did not connect. He followed with a heavy chudan gyaku which winded Alex. Referee Nariman Jeddi adjudged the contact to be excessive and awarded immediately a penalty of ippon in favour of aka. His breath recovered, Alex looked determined. A quick gyakuzuki exchange went in his favour to lead 2-0. Now Aron came on the attack. Repeated advances forced Alex out of the area for first a warning, then an Ippon penalty. At 2-1 up Alex attacked with a triple punch combination. His fist contacted his opponent’s head and a warning was given. With 20 seconds on the clock, Aron came back at Alex, again forcing him from the shiajo. A third cat 2 cost Alex two points and, ultimately, the title (and the big trophy). I am sure however that we will see both these young men again, it is hoped for greater honours in senior competition in the years ahead.
It is a mark of the efflorescence of karate as a sport that, even amongst the younger competitors, the level of technical and tactical maturity is now at such a high standard. This was exemplified in the boys’ 8-9 year U30kg kumite category- the smallest competitors of the weekend. All the competitors showed skill and composure as well as technical proficiency, and the final saw Shikon’s Joseph Bonassisa pitted against Ryan Snowball of Shindo-kai. Come the final, the pressure began to show. Excessive exuberance, and undoubted nerves, led to some contact and some tears. Joseph was unable to maintain the desired level of control, and a series of penalties gave the English title to the green belt from Barnsley, Ryan Snowball. Trained by John Tunman, Ryan has only been practicing karate for 18 months, but this National title will surely spur him on to greater things. Watch out, too for runner up Joseph, another from Shikon’s fecund stable of young talent.
Thanks as ever to all the officials and coaches, and especially Peter Allen, Doug & Rita James, and Jeff Grace. Next year’s event (under Karate England) will have separate categories for each year band (so eight year olds will fight only eight year olds and so on). This will present a further headache to Peter Allen, (who has now been confirmed as Tournament Organiser for Karate England) but on past performance I am sure he will be up to the task.
Dates now confirmed, for your diary: Karate England Senior Championships 18th-19th March 2006; Karate England Junior Championships 23rd-24th September 2006. Both in Sheffield. See you all there!