Karate is not known in this country as a mass-appeal spectator sport. Many an international tournament has disappointed not by the quality of the karate, but by the apathy of the public, or perhaps the shortcomings of the publicity machine. The two days of the English Children’s Championships proved a welcome and refreshing contrast to this established norm. Why might this be? The impending World Senior Championships and England’s real chances of top medals (and Leon Walters defending his heavyweight title)? The accelerating pace of Olympic recognition- many of these young athletes could be ready for 2008- certainly 2012? The organisation, venue and professionalism of the event management helped, certainly. Maybe, but I suspect that the answer is something more prosaic. Even in these days of supposedly declining family values, most child competitors will come with a built-in package of two parents, and maybe a few siblings. Therefore you might expect a children’s event to be well supported. Whatever the reason this year’s Children’s Championships played host to over 500 spectators, whose support enhanced the performance of the athletes and contributed greatly to an exciting weekend of quality karate.
Many even managed to stay on a bit later on the Saturday to see the showcase senior event; the inaugural North v South v Midlands regional challenge- of which more later.
The event was attended by Ticky Donovan, Wayne Otto and Mick Billman, all no doubt with their eyes out for future talent. We were privileged also to receive the Lord Mayor and lady Mayor of Sheffield, Cllr Mike Pye and Mrs Josephine Pye. These VIPs along with EKGB Management Board member Peter Allen were on hand to award the trophies over the weekend. EKGB Performance Strategist Suzanne Genery was also in attendance. Suzanne has been successful in securing funds for training grants for young athletes. All event winners were given the opportunity to apply for these bursaries. The event was given added cachet by the presence of a TV film crew. Highlights of the championships will be screened on Sky Sports “Sports nation” during October.
To the Championships proper, 450 competitors represented 45 of the EKGB’s 100 affiliated associations. Special awards were made to the best male and female competitor, and the best official on each of the two days. On the Saturday, the female award went to Amy Cook of the AMA, who won Gold in the girls’ 10-11years coloured belt kata, and Silver in the 40kg+ kumite; and BKO’s Rafe Wilson, who similarly took boys’ 10-11yr Dan Grade kata Gold and was runner up in the -45kg kumite. Their handsome trophies were presented by Councillor Pye.
No single association dominated the kata, with titles going to a variety of groups- an encouraging sign of an overall high standard from a good pool of talent.
Four associations dominated the two days. The EKKA took a massive 7 golds and a further 9 silvers to head the table, whilst the AMA, Shikon and KMAC all took 6 golds each, as well as a hatful of the smaller trophies.
Shikon’s Jenna Shilston took the Girls’ 14-15 Kata title on the Saturday, and the next day picked up the -50kg kumite Gold too. She took the Judges’ special award for outstanding competitor on the Sunday.
Saturday evening saw the first ever English Regional Championships. To remind you, the EKF (European Karate Federation) has inaugurated the regional structure to encourage “Grass Roots” karate. This is promoted by an annual championships for the regions, this year held in Bratislava, where the English Midlands team picked up a bronze in the team kumite. To encourage and promote the regional structure in England, male and female teams in kata and kumite were pitted against each other for a special challenge trophy.
In the female team kata the Southern team looked good with matching hairstyles and consolidated this with an excellent coordinated, stylish Chatanyara Kushanku. The Male team kata title went to the Northern team with Gojushiho. The female team kumite title went to the ladies of the South.
The Male team kumite produced some exciting clashes, as well as some confusion. The Midlands team were looking sharp and aggressive, and suddenly the head referee Doug James intervened. It seemed that in the contest against the Tyrone White / Molly Samuels coached South, the team had fought in other than the declared order. Under the strict rules of the match, they were disqualified. Under a complex calculation of wins, with points countback, it was declared that the North and South had, overall, tied the match, and each was requested to nominate a single fighter for a deciding match. After some discussion between the regions’ coaches it was agreed to forego the decider and to share the trophy for the inaugural regional tournament.
So an exciting contest ended somewhat confusingly, but, refreshingly, in a good sporting spirit. We look forward to next year.
Hearty thanks must go to Pete Allen, Doug James and the organising committee, as well as to Jeff Grace for his usual efficient administration. Thanks also to the people of Sheffield, especially the events unit and other staff of Ponds Forge, The St.John Ambulance team, as ever in attendance; Councillor and Mrs Pye, and of course the parents and coaches for their support of the hundreds of young athletes.
Watch out for the broadcast of this event on Sky.