Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On May - 20 - 2013

cup4The International Karate Daigaku (IKD) held the 32nd Canadian Championship tournament this past weekend (May 17-19, 2013) in Dieppe, New Brunswick. This years event was hosted by the Maritime IKD which is a combination of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

The City of Dieppe welcomed competitors and officials from across Canada. The first day of the Canada Cup was exams. A small group of IKD Shihan (Masters), IKD Sensei (Instructors) and students gathered in a banquet hall at the Crystal Palace Ramada hotel to take part in an Judge’s Clinic. The clinic was designed to teach or refresh the participants on how to run a tournament ring. I took part in this course to prepare myself for future events as a judge. I have competed and judged at local and Provincial level events. After taking the Judge’s clinic, I have a better understanding, of not only the job as a judge but also as a competitor.

Immediately following the judge’s class, I would be taking my exam for the rank of Yondan (4th Degree Black Belt). I have been preparing for this exam for sometime. Injuries have plagued me over the last few months, I felt that as long as I could stay away from aggravating my knee or my back I would be okay. Shuseki Shihan Frank Woon-A-Tai called for everyone taking the exam to line up. I went to the line and prepared myself to take the exam. Then he called for the rest of the Judge’s that were taking the exam to come forward. I then thought that perhaps we were going to take our test for the Judge’s license. After a bow in, I was called front and centre to do my Dan Exam. I think I was a little thrown off but did my best.

I completed the series of techniques that were required of me for the test. I know I made a few mistakes and was starting to feel like I might not pass the test. After the series of techniques, I was required to perform 2 kata (forms). I chose the Kata, Jiin. I got through the kata to almost the very end and made an error which disrupted the flow of the kata. I immediately knew that I had just blown my grading. All the hard work down the drain! Now I was emotionally crushed but I had to continue and complete the rest of the exam. Next I would have to perform a kata chosen by the examination panel. The kata that was chosen was Chinte. Chinte is one of my favorite kata to perform. I believe I did well on this kata. At the end of the kata as I tried to regain my breath and mentally prepare for the rest of the exam, Shuseki Shihan Woon-A-Tai asked me a question regarding the end of Chinte.  The last movements are comprised of 3 hops backwards with your left hand clinching your right fist in from of you at chin level. I explained that the hops were to get back to the same spot where you began. I also explained that it could be used as a holding technique pulling your opponent back off balance. Afterwards, I thought of some other things to say that would have been better but it was too late. (As you shift back it could have been to avoid grabs to your wrists.) The next part of the exam immediately followed, two of my fellow students from the Amherst Shotokan Karate Academy, Brendon Drake and Ben Pittman joined me to perform a bunkai (practical application) of the kata, Heian Yondan. I thought the bunkai was well performed. At the end of the bunkai, I was questioned by I ended the bunkai with a striking motion. All karate kata begin and end with a block. I knew this! I was supposed to strike and then block with the striking hand to the opponents other arm but the last couple times practicing it I had left that part out. I knew at this point that I was now just going through the motions. I would have to wait another year before testing but I would have to continue and complete the rest of the test. The next part consisted of knife attacks from one attacker. I was preparing for this with Brendon Drake but expected to be attacked by one of the panel members. When I was told that Brendon was going to be able to do the attacks, I was happy. We have worked on some techniques together and I feel that the knife portion was good. I was now questioned on my knife defenses. What I felt when I saw the knife? I explained that the initial “fear” of seeing a blade would prepare me to defend myself. After saying this I immediately knew that I had misspoke.  This is what I was taught in First Responders Tactical training for working with Security. I continued to talk about distancing and that you would more than likely be cut. Inside I was beating myself up for not saying I emptied my mind of all fear and anxiety and prepared myself to defend my life. At this point I knew that I was done. The injuries did not beat me, I beat me.

The black belt test results would have to wait as we moved on to the judge’s exam. During the class we were instructed on how to perform as the head referee in a tournament ring. We went over what is required to win in tournament matches for both kumite (sparring) and kata (forms). The exam was verbal which was great. The panel would ask a question and we were to respond with the Japanese command and hand signals to correspond. After having the panel fire off a series of question and us answering them, we waited for the results.  There are 4 levels of Judging and they are ranked “D” thru “A”. If you hold the rank of a “D” level, you are allowed to act as a corner judge at a National Level event. If you are a “C” level, you can act as the centre ring referee at a National level event. The “B” and “A” levels are for International events. Each rank requires a certain level of Black Belt to hold and you can not test for the next level until you are that rank. Following the test, Shuseki Shihan began to award the results of the judge’s exam. Everyone passed receiving levels “C” and up. I was shocked! I was going to a “D” level judge and received a “C” level referee. WOW! Now for the big let down!! My Dan results. I stood awaiting my results, expecting 100% that I would require a retest in 6 months to a year. When Shuseki Shihan said that I had past to Yondan, I nearly crumbled to the floor. Inside I was beating myself up for doing so badly. My family and karate family were waiting in another room in the hotel. The only person from the Maritimes to know my results was Shihan David Pyke, my instructor, who served on the panel. I gathered my things and made my way from the banquet hall through the Crystal Palace amusement park which is inside of the hotel. As I walked toward the hotel door, I planned on entering the room where my friends and family awaited with a look of depression. This was hard to do after some children approached me in the amusement park and asked, “Are you a ninja?” I chuckled all the way back to the room.

Saturday morning would begin with a class for black belts and instructors under the instruction of Shuseki Shihan Woon-A-Tai and a class for brown belts and below with Shihan Maureen Woon-A-Tai. The Black belt class was on the Hangetsu kata. All instructor trainees or Kenshusei would receive a credit towards their program for being in this class. I took part and received another credit towards my instructors program. It was a great class. I have know Hangetsu for a long time but it was never one of my favorite kata. Now I can say that it is growing on me. My wife, who is a black belt, took part in this class as well. She did not know Hangetsu before the class and now thinks she could get through a large part of it on her own.

Now what we have all been preparing for the 2013 Canada Cup. I would spend my first day of the tournament as a official. We started off with the opening ceremonies. I live in Nova Scotia but entered with Team New Brunswick. I teach karate in Sackville, NB which is about a 10 minute drive from Amherst, NS. We entered and took the competitors oath and the 2013 Canada Cup was declared open!

The competition began with the Team Kata, Team Enbu and Team Bunkai (Youth, Adult & Master) events. The day would end with the Individual Youth Kata event. The students of the IKD Canada are spectacular! They have amazing form and technique. This was a hard event to judge because everyone was so good. The day went fast. I really enjoyed judging at this event. Even though I received a referee’s license, I was given the job of one of the 4 corner judges. I was glad not to have to referee at this level without a lot more practice. I can not wait until the next tournament that I get to don the Haori (official IKD tournament judge uniform).

The evening would see the Canada Cup banquet.  Those that attended this semi-formal function were greeted by a photo slideshow from past events. Photos going back to the 80’s and working their way up to last years IKD World Cup in Ontario. We had an amazing meal prepared by Chef Ray Fowler of McGinnis Landing. Chef Ray is my cousin and we had the opportunity to chat on the side of the room for a few moments. He later came to my table to personally see if the meal was to our satisfaction. Thanks Ray for making me seem important! LOL! The Vice President of the IKD said a few words and referred to the IKD as a family. Which I truly believe is the truth!

The last day of the Canada Cup would start with the completion of the Individual Kata events as the Adults and Masters would compete. I took part in the Adult kata category. When I woke up in the morning, I started to review katas. I thought that we were going to be starting off with higher level katas and started to practice then at home before we headed to Dieppe. I struggled with some of the simplest techniques and then beat myself up over them. I went into the day already mentally defeated. At the beginning of the event, I was happy to discover that we were doing beginner katas. I was so happy that all of my worry was for nothing. I entered the ring and was give the kata Heian Sandan. I was so happy. This is one of the katas that I love to teach as an instructor. I felt like I did a great job until near the end of the kata, I hit a “mental block”. The problem is that I started to think about what I was doing. It was over. I messed up a movement and was eliminated from the kata portion of the event. I was so embarrassed that messed up a simple kata but it would quickly be forgot as I watch the rest of the event. I used the remaining competitors as practice for future judging. I would mentally score their performance and see how I matched up with the actual judges. I would have scored most of the katas the same. I had two more events to compete in but they would be much later in the day. I spent the rest of the day as a cheerleader and unofficial coach for the competitors from NB and NS. Even though, we went into the Cup as the underdogs, we did receive some medals.

The final events of the day would be the kumite portion of the tournament. This is what everyone comes to see. There is nothing like a good sparring match. I entered both the Adult Individual Kumite and Adult Team Kumite events. I knew who I would be facing first in the Adult Kumite tournament and it was exactly who I hope not to face in the first match, Marco Coulombe. Marco is and amazing competitor. I had no chance against him but I have to say that I faced an man that I am greatly respect. Marco is a big guy like myself, he can move like a cat and is very strong. His techniques are very controlled and I was honored to have stepped into the ring with him. OSU! Thank you Marco for a memory that I will not soon forget! I had one more event left to compete in. The Adult Male Team Kumite. This event was an after thought for me. New Brunswick wanted to enter a team and we were thrown together a few weeks before the tournament. Then one of the teammate broke his big toe and severely sprained two other toes in training. He pulled himself from the tournament. Up until the day last day, I did not know who would be replacing him or if there was a replacement. We no replacement we would have to forfeit. Michel Gaudet, from Moncton, NB would step up and we went on to face Team Ontario. My first match was against Ken Woon-A-Tai, the son of Shuseki Shihan Frank Woon-A-Tai and Shihan Maureen Woon-A-Tai. Again another great experience. Ken is a young man that truly has karate in his veins. He is an amazing competitor and I am glad to have faced him. Team Ontario defeated Team NB and moved onto the Championship round against Quebec.

The tournament ended with the medal ceremony for the second day of events. On the first day of the tournament during the medal ceremony, I was an official giving out medals. Today, I would be receiving one. I have won medals in the past at local and provincial events but never have I stood on a podium much like you see at an Olympic event. This was truly a spectator moment in my life. Something that I will never forget.

Now that the tournament had concluded, there was only one this left to do, PARTY!!!! We all had to wind down. Problem was my knee injury had decided that it was not happy with me for putting it through the torture of the competition.  I enjoyed myself being in the company of my huge extending family. That is exactly what the IKD is a family. I felt like we were sitting in a room for a reunion with Sensei Craig O’Neill’s band Old School performing for the evening. All the Masters were there partying alongside of us. Shihan Mattias and Sensei Gilles Périard really were cutting a rug. I was pulled from one corner of the room to another to speak with students and instructors. So many people were saying that they could finally to a face to the name. I am the IKD Web designer and am constantly in contact with so many Shihan, and Instructors. Shihan Josef Woon-A-Tai was going around the room snapping photos as was my wife. Shihan Josef, hugged her and said that he needed to speak to me. He came over and grabbed me and said that his niece wanted to meet me. I knew who Michelle Woon-A-Tai was but never actually met her. We spoke briefly. Then Shihan Josef introduced me to Ken. We said that we met in the ring earlier. I love the Woon-A-Tai family. I have developed a great friendship with Shuseski Shihan Frank and his brother Shihan Josef. Finally after many years, I have had the opportunity to met more of the family. I feel so welcomed by this family. OSU!

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