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34th JKF Gojukai Annual Tournament in Fukuoka,
Japan, August 2008
In late July 2010, around 25 GKR students, representing Goshukan and JKF Australia, will be making a trip to Japan to compete in the 36th JKF Gojukai Annual Tournament in Takamatsu City, Japan. For many, it will be their first trip to Japan, but for others it will be a return trip. They will be part of the JKF Australia Team, and they won the right to compete by either winning or placing second in their respective events at the 2010 JKF Australian Championships. A group of National Squad members will also attend training camps and watch the Tournament, supporting the Australian Team.
The origins of participation go back to the early 2000's when Kancho and Shihan took groups of Senior Instructors and Regional Managers to train with the Seiwakai Goju Association in Japan. In 2008, Shihan Stacey Karetsian, Sensei Bob McCracken and Sensei Anthony Ryan took part in a 2 week International Training Camp at Omagari, Japan. The camp was attended by 55 karate-ka from every continent, most being high Dan-ranking instructors with decades of experience. It was a fantastic experience to say the least, forming many new friendships, immersing themselves in Japanese culture, and training 6 hours a day in scorching heat. The camp was headed by Master Tasaki, head of Seiwakai and one of Japan's most revered Instructors. An 8th Dan, Tasaki Sensei is famous for being the top student of the great Yamaguchi Sensei. Shihan Stacey Karetsian participated in a grading at the end of the Camp and was awarded the grade of 5th Dan Seiwakai by Master Tasaki. Shihan Stacey was then invited to attend a JKF Goju Grading. The JKF is the Governing body for all Goju styles in Japan. These gradings are very tough. They are literally conducted behind closed doors and each person must contest their grading alone in front of a panel of 8th Dan Masters. Despite making the journey to Japan, a number of top international Goju people were held back. However, Shihan Stacey passed this grading also, receiving another 5th Dan grade, a JKF 5th Dan. Shihan was subsequently appointed Head Instructor of Goshukan Australia.
In early 2008, selected students were invited to nominate for positions in the Australian Team for the 36th JKF Gojukai Annual Tournament in Fukuoka, Japan. Not all were able to attend or make the team, but a group of around 30 made the trip in mid August. Amongst those competing were three South Australians - Daniel Tregenza, John McDonald and Natasha Hammersley (OK, she lives in Victoria now) plus Lesley McDonald who was living and working in Japan at the time. Daniel, Natasha and Lesley have each told their story of their experiences.
Opportunities to train and compete in Japan come around rarely for most people and with this in mind I was enthusiastic to join the Australian contingent to the 34th JKF Gojukai All Japan Karate Championship held in Fukuoka in August 2008. Now enthusiasm in one thing, the practicalities of work another, so after manipulating the schedule to create a window and convincing the family that they could do without me for a week (I know, it was hard for them to cope) I booked my spot on the team and on flights.
In order to coordinate with interstate competitors and try to get the most of this trip (which I have failed to do in the past) I booked to fly into Fukuoka and out of Osaka leaving time to explore Kyoto after the karate events. Arrangements were informal and I planned to tag along with some of the NSW team to make use of Sensei Anthony Ryan's "local" knowledge.
The trip over was uneventful and I eventually arrived to the humid heat of southern Japan in the afternoon looking for a bed to rest in for the afternoon (I was on holidays after all). After walking into the hotel I met some of the early arriving GKR contingent including Shihan and Sensei Anthony who had taken part in a week long training camp prior to the tournament. During the remainder of the day and into the next many others arrived including fellow South Australian, John
McDonald and his daughter Lesley (who was living in Japan at the time). Meal times were much more varied once Lesley arrived and we all took advantage of her language skills to order more interesting dishes than rice and water than we had done by ourselves.
The karate training prior to the tournament consisted of a two day Kata seminar with Japanese masters. In terms of our own training this was fairly physical with many of us surprised and the strength of the aged Japanese masters. An example of this was the point of knuckle push ups that were demonstrated by a man in his 70's following what must have been 100-200 other pus hup variations prior. The seminar was very detailed and dealt with a limited number of kata performed in
strict accordance with JFK Goju-kai form, this gave a valuable insight into the different interpretations of kata bunkai and has added overall to my understanding of the kata performed in GKR.
With the kata seminar complete it was down to the serious business of the tournament over the weekend. The commencement of the tournament was undertaken with efficiency and had all competitors weighed in and signed in within a very short time, the opening ceremony consisted of speeches and tops-off Sanchin practice prior to the events getting underway. The level of competition was excellent with children demonstrating excellent focus, strength and technique in the morning.
When it came time to compete ourselves it was obvious that the scoring criteria was slightly different to our usual tournaments and generally involved quite a lot more contact that usual. This made for quite energetic competition, but with only a couple of Australians making it through to the final 8 on the Sunday. The lunch break on Saturday saw a spectacular demonstration of kata Suparenpei by some local female competitors and without a doubt was the most impressive I have seen, the coordination, focus and obvious practice that is showed was awe inspiring.
Sunday saw team kumite events and finals taking place. The team kumite was once again a hard fought competition with both Australian teams narrowly losing but demonstrating excellent attitude and skill. The tournament came to a close in afternoon with the organisers congratulating the Australian contingent on an excellent performance.
The last night with everyone in Fukuoka saw fireworks, bbq octopus, karaoke, Chuhai (look it up, yee-ha) and finished with an Iranian version of Kenny Roger's "Gambler" (yes, it was a big night).
Unfortunately leaving here meant a split from all our new (and old) friends once again, we said our goodbyes and jumped on the shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka. Upon arrival I changed trains to Kyoto and had a lovely chat with the taxi driver using my I-phone as a translator. I met up with the NSW guys at our accommodation which was in the traditional ryokan accommodation. A few very funny and tiring days were spent touring Kyoto viewing the sites and riding on our hired push bikes from temple to temple to bamboo forest. Nights were filled with community dining, drinking and laughing at the peculiar games they play in NSW !
The trip home was again uneventful and I spent my spare hours wandering Singapore's Changi airport trying not to catch the eye of the machine gun toting .... staff.
The trip was a great experience which I would encourage everyone to do at some stage in their training. Thanks must go to Shihan Stacey and Sensei Anthony Ryan for coordinating, Lesley for her great navigating/translating/ordering (and who could forget) singing prowess and the NSW crew for letting me join their tour of Kyoto. Daniel Tregenza
When the opportunity to compete at a karate tournament in
About 30 members of GKR karate
The competition began with the pee wees – very very cute (in circular rings). Then progressed to seniors. In my opinion the most impressive competitors were the local Japanese Open Female Kata competitors. They exhibited the most graceful, beautiful yet strong kata’s I have ever seen. That division was a spectacle in itself. All GKR competitors gave strong, competitive performances at the tournament (in kata (for a select few) and kumite for all). Special mention to Sornya Smith and Haylea Fitzsimmons for making the finals of the light weight female Kumite division. I competed in the 60kg plus division (which in Japan, was the heavy's) and was leading my first bout by points until the other competitors coach recommended that his competitor drop low and reverse punch under my attack, (which I might say worked beautifully), knocking me out as a first round causality. However, despite the early knock out, I enjoyed every second of that bout.
After the tournament I took the opportunity to see as much of Japan as possible and travelled from the south (Beppu) up north to
So my dad arrived in Matsuyama on a hot summers day, just over a month ago. We had only a day and a half in Matsuyama, in which I took him on a tour of my Junior High School where I work, the farm my school looks after, the Matsuyama BudoKan and we caught up with Mika who stayed at our house last Christmas. Then together we journeyed by ferry and train down to the city of Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu, for a 2-day karate seminar and 2-day competition. Once we were booked into the team hotel we caught up with Sensei Daniel and Shihan and met some people from Perth and Queensland and from other clubs before heading out to a local izakaya for dinner. I was very glad that all those Japanese lessons paid off.... It was awesome to catch up with people, to meet new people and especially awesome to be with so many English-speaking karate-ka. One does miss Aussie conversation sometimes.
The next morning we heading to the first day of the seminar, where I got to wear my black belt for the first time since Christmas, and my first time in Japan! It was sooooooo awesome..... The kata seminar began with.... push ups. We had some time to kill, so I guess the Senseis wanted to test us! Most people did pretty well, until it got to the one-knuckled push-ups... The kata seminar itself was just amazing... I learned so much from it, I can't wait to get back and start doing GKR kata again.... There were people from all over the world, from so many different clubs, all coming together. We met Rod and Graham Martin (old school GKR folk). Rod Martin actually knocked on our door back in 1992, when I was 8 years old, and signed us up to GKR karate. How's that for a blast from the past!
Same izakaya for dinner, where I introduced Sensei Daniel to the wonders of "Chu-Hi". Please ask him all about it!
A short kata session the next morning, a photo session, then a bunch of us spent the afternoon feasting (and sweating) at an Indian restaurant with a trip to the arcade afterward for PURIKURA!! Then in the evening 5 of us booked ourselves in at a local massage parlour, before the big weekend! The morning of the heats dawned and we all made our way to Fukuoka Civic Gym. The morning was a bit crazy as we all got the programs very late and turns out they were all in Japanese. The whole day was spent, peoples names being called over the loudspeaker because no one was where they were supposed to be. The day started with a walk-in procession where all the Japanese prefectures lined up and the country teams lined up (I was tempted to go hang with the Ehime folk... but I stayed true to my country!) There were speeches etc, with an American translator doing all the hard work.
So we spent a day watching awesome Japanese karate-ka doing freakin awesome katas and kumite - incredibly high standard, just amazing to watch. The Aussie team did really well, but only 2 made the finals. During the lunch break, these 3 girls did a synchronized bunkai demonstration of Suparinpeii.... oh.... my..... god..... it was just about the best demonstration I have ever seen in my life.... they must have been practicing it for like 6 years...... All the action was still going at 7pm when we left as we had a special dinner organized for us at 7.30. The dinner was quite surprisingly short (with no Chu-Hi!!!) and consisted of Tash and her Victorian girls trying to marry me off to a Japanese man. After the dinner, a huge group of people (Shihan included!) went out for about 3 hours of karaoke, in the biggest karaoke room I've ever seen in my life! (and I've seen a lot!) 3 microphones, LOTS of chu-hi and about 20+ people singing all the hits of the 70s, 80s and 90s!! Good good fun....
Sunday, the day of the finals came around and we all cheered on our 2 who made the top 8 (a great effort, though neither placed) and then the team kumite in the arvo - both Australian teams getting knocked out first round, but none the less putting up a damn good fight!! Late afternoon was the finals of the open events.... 16 suparinpei in a row.... that was a killer.... sparring finals rolled around - as did an absolute mother of a storm outside which poured buckets of rain, thundered and lightening-ed so much it caused half the lights in the centre to go out and halted competition for 10 minutes. The final event of the competition was the final of the team kumite, between Team Fukuoka and Team Kagawa. Incidentally, Ehime (my prefecture) had come third and Kagawa is our neighbour, so 2 Shikoku teams in the top 3, YAY!! So Fukuoka and Kagawa sparred (5 guys on each team), and each team won 2 bouts, so it came down to the final bout between the last 2 members to decide the winner..... they spar almost the full length of time with no points scored..... when finally the Kagawa player scores a point in the dying seconds of the bout. The Kagawa player is so elated and proud of himself he starts mocking and taunting the other team, and celebrating just a little bit too much..... and...... the referee decides, well that is not very sportsman-like!.... and he takes the point away from him!! Woah! So the fight goes to sudden death.... the players spar.... and bam! The Fukuoka player gets the first point, wins the fight and secures victory for Team Fukuoka! Can you believe that?? Makes you think twice about premature celebration hey?
Sunday night (thankfully after the rain cleared) we heard tell of a fireworks festival in a nearby city which we had to take a train too. It was here I accomplished my greatest feat ever.... getting the entire Australian team on to the right train, in busy crowded Hakata Station, after running to the platform and sparing only 1 second before the doors closed all of us in! Phew!... And I'm talking like 25 people here.... everyone still owes me for that one! My heart was pounding so fast however, as I quickly conversed with a group of Japanese people to make sure we were actually on the right train.... I don't even want to imagine what would have happened if I got the NSW, VIC, QLD, PERTH tournament team members, Sensei Anthony Ryan and Shihan on the wrong train..... *shudder*....
The festival was really good fun, though the fireworks were partly obscured by trees. The food was good, the crowds were horrible, but I got to eat "fruits ame", my favourite festival dessert (apart from Tokyo cakes.... mmm.... Tokyo Cakes....) and I'm glad the team got to experience a Japanese fireworks festival.
Come Monday, everyone started leaving.... which was really sad... even though we'd only had 5 days together, we had eaten breakfast, lunch and dinner together, taken taxis together, partied together.... I made so many new friends it was hard to say goodbye to them all! But alas, all good things must come to an end, and me and dad rode the shinkansen and the ferry back to Matsuyama. Lesley McDonald
Thanks to Daniel, Natasha and Lesley for their contributions, with additional material from GKR Sensei Newsletter December 2008.
Thanks to the various people who have contributed photos.
Aussies and Iranians
1st Place Female
1st Place Male