On the 2nd and 3rd of March 2019, a team from the recently reformed ESKA competition squad competed in the AMA International Karate Championships held in the international sports centre Ponds Forge Sheffield

What is the AMA International Karate Championship?

The AMA (Amateur Martial Association) is one of the largest martial arts associations in the UK with the majority of the members being practitioners in karate of various styles. The International Karate Championship is the annual flagship competition event held by the AMA and this year saw approximately 500 unique competitors (Many of them entering multiple categories) from over 60 organisations. Competitors from all over the UK and even a handful from overseas gathered for an intense two days of competition.

Ponds Forge International Sport Centre – Sheffield
More about the AMA Championship...

This was a two-day competition with kata categories being held on the Saturday and kumite on Sunday. Kata categories where split by gender, age and style with categories for each individual style as well open categories for all styles. The 4 major Mainland Japanese styles (Shotokan, Shito Ryu, Goju Ryu, Wado Ryu) were well represented as well as a few other styles too.

Kumite has no distinction for style and categories are split by gender, age and weight. The AMA is part of the WUKF (World Union of Karate-do Federations) and so kumite competitions were run under their rules.

Success at this event in both Kata and Kumite can lead to qualification to represent the AMA as part of their team at the EUKF European Championships or WUKF World Championships. Last year several ESKA members were selected for these events and had great success and so whilst we as a team were hopeful for good results, we were all very aware of how high the standard is and tough the competition will be.


Competition Day 1 – Kata

Time for Kata – Team Kata’s First!
How does the Kata competition work?

In this competition, each competitor performs a kata and is scored numerically. After every competitor has performed a kata, the top 12 go through to the second round where they will perform another kata. In most classes this must be a different kata to what they did in the first round. From those 12 competitors, the top 6 then perform a 3rd kata which will determine the final positions. Once again this must be a different kata from the previous rounds. The number of rounds may be reduced if there are less than 12 competitors in the category.

There are also restrictions on which kata can be performed in each round. The WUKF rules split the kata into 3 categories, Shitei, Sentei, & Tokui. For us Shotokan practitioners, Shitei kata are the 5 Heian kata. Sentei kata are the “Brown Belt” kata, Bassai Dai, Empi, Kanku Dai, Jion, & Hangetsu. All other Shotokan kata are Tokui kata.

In most children’s categories, they must perform a Shitei (Heian) kata in the first round. The second round allows from Shitei or Sentei and the final round can be any kata. The high-grade adult categories allow for Shitei or Sentei in the first round with any kata in the 2nd and 3rd rounds.

7 ESKA squad members competed in the first day of competition:

Max Galloway (Hatfield)

Was first to the mats in the Boys 10ys and under 3rd kyu and above kata category. Max’s first round kata was Heian Yondan. A few nerves showed in the first couple of techniques but he soon got back to his usual self for a strong performance. In round 2 Heian Nidan was his kata of choice, performed with great speed and strength which advanced him to the final 6. In the final, he performed an Excellent Heian Sandan to finish in around 5th place. This was a fantastic result in a very large high standard competition.

Jack Galloway (Hatfield) & Theo Price (St. Albans)

Were next up in the Boys 11-12 years 3rd kyu and above Kata category. This category contains many young but experienced black belts making it an extremely competitive category. Theo performed Heian Godan to a good standard but missed out on a place in the finals. Jack performed Heian Yondan “better than he ever has before” according to ESKA Squad Coach John Gillespie Sensei. Unfortunately, Jack very narrowly missed out on a place to the finals. Both Theo and Jack are improving with each and every competition and are showing amazing potential for the future.

Rose Kusmierek-Peh (Hatfield)

Entered the Girls 11-12 years 3rd kyu and above kata Category. This is another class loaded with experienced black belts. Rose didn’t let the pressure get to her and performed a confident and precise Heian Yondan in round 1. After a long wait for the large field to finish their kata, it was confirmed that she was through to round 2. Rose carried her confidence into round 2 where she performed Bassai dai, which is arguably her strongest kata. The judges agreed and she was into the final 6. At this sage the remaining competitors were all of amazing standard and Rose was very much holding her own in this field. Rose’s final performance was a sharp Jiin which placed her 4th, missing our on the podium by the smallest margin possible. Rose looked content with the result but was already looking forward to the next opportunity to get her revenge on her rivals.

Matthew Passingham (Knebworth)

Entered 2 kata classes in this competition. The first was Male 15-17 years Shotokan Kata. Matthew opened with a strong and sharp Empi which saw him into the final round. His choice of kata for the final was Sochin. Matthew has shown great consistency in recent competition but this was the first time Matthew had performed Sochin in competition. There was no need to worry however as he powered through the performance and finished 3rd for a bronze medal.

Bronze for Matthew!

Matthew would be joined by ESKA squad coaches John Gillespie Sensei (Hatfield) and Masaya Yumeda Sensei (Cambridge) in the Open kata for all styles over 15 years. Masaya was first up and performed a solid Bassai Dai. Matthew chose Empi for round 1 with a performance bettering the same kata from the previous category. John Sensei Started with Jion and showed his experience through power, sharp execution and kime. Matthew and John sensei made it through to the top 12, with Masaya missing out by a small margin. Round 2 saw both Matthew and John Sensei choose Sochin. Matthew once again surpassed his previous performance and John Sensei remained as consistent as ever. After some controversy involving some of the other top competitors, the dust settled and both Matthew and John Sensei qualified into the top 6. Mathews final performance was Kanku Sho which suits his dynamic high energy style. Despite the fantastic kata, Matthew narrowly missed out on the podium with a 4th place finish. John sensei performed Gojushiho Sho to his usual high standard placed in 5th. The scores in this category were so close and the tiniest details splitting the competitors.

John Sensei (Hatfield) & Masaya Sensei (Cambridge)

Then took on their second category of the day, Male 18+ Shotokan Kata. Both choosing Sochin for the first round and both making the final 6. John Sensei performed a composed and powerful Gojushiho Sho in the final and placed 3rd.  Masaya chose Unsu and placed 5th in class.

John Sensei was very tired after his Competition…

John Sensei and Masaya took on a third category, the Veterans (36+) Male Kata. John Sensei this time chose to start with Gojushiho Sho to see him into the final 6th. Masaya performed Sochin again but missed out on the final 6 placing 7th overall. John sensei squeezed out all he had left for one final performance of the day with Sochin. This was enough to place him in 3rd place for a second medal of the day.

A long day of competition was wrapped up with competitors and supporters getting together for a good dinner and a few well-earned drinks.


Competition Day 2 – Kumite

Day 2 saw 5 ESKA members competing in kumite categories.

Nichiforos Petcov (Hatfield)

Was first up in Boys 9yrs and under category and put up a great fight. He was unlucky to not score a Jodan (head) kick which was a close call but the referees deciding not to award the points which swayed the momentum of the match. Nichi lost by a small points margin but showed great spirit and technique throughout.

Theo Price (St. Albans)

Entered the Boys 10-12 years under 150cm category. A close battle with Theo finding a couple of opportunities to pick off his opponent with some precise counterattacks but he was just outmatched at the end.

Andreas Petcov (Hatfield)

Competed in the Boys 13-14 years under 65kg category. In a close match, his opponent was able to find a couple of counterattacks after Andreas setup a kicking attack which sway the result away from Andreas.

Matthew Passingham (Knebworth)

In the Boys 15-17 years over 70kg category had a very close and tense match which had his fellow Knebworth members who had come to support him on edge. Matthew took the early lead but a slight slump in the middle of the match had his trailing with just under 1 minute to go. Matthew levelled the score with just 10 seconds to go with a powerful counterpunch which is fast becoming his signature move. In the last 10 second both competitors made their last second charge to try and settle the match and in this clash it was Matthews opponent who was just able to get his attack in first. Despite losing out by the smallest margin at the last second, Matthew looked happy with his performance and the experience he is gaining in kumite which he is still new to.

Masaya Yumeda Sensei (Cambridge)

Started his day with a mountain to climb. In this case an almost literal mountain as his opponent in the 36+ veterans kumite was approximately 7 feet tall. Masaya used his speed to try and close in on his opponent but was caught out by the difference in range.

David vs. Goliath

Masaya entered another class in the 18+ -85kg kumite class. Due to a forfeiture from his opponent, Masaya was awarded a bye in his first match. His next bout would be a semi final match up with an experienced fighter known for his kicking ability. Once again Masaya struggled with the difference in range but closed in with his aggressive charging style to find some success but was outmatched overall. Masaya would be awarded 3rd place in this class with his opponent going on to win the class in the final.


Summary

Overall ESKA members took away 4 bronze medals with many more making it to the finals of their respective categories. The ESKA squad are all still relatively new to these bigger competitions and the rate of improvement by all the members give us all great hope for future results. Please support the ESKA squad as we look to keep improving their results at the next competition, scheduled for mid May.

Well done everyone!

Pictures

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