Dougzilla in Tokyo
Back in January Sensei Brad asked if I would be interested in competing at this years International Friendship Tournament in Tokyo Japan .I was very excited and honored that Sensei felt I was able to compete at this level. I accepted his offer and came to the realization that this was a big deal being able to compete in the birthplace of Kyokushin. I immediately made the commitment to up my training, Lose 20 pounds as to not to embarrass myself, Canada, and especially Sensei Brad.
There were many times over the 3-½ months that I wanted to give up while training or felt I was too tired to go on. I remembered a speech from Sensei Brad to our class about how “Anybody can quit, don’t be anybody, be special. That’s why we train Kyokusin. We don’t quit.” I trained harder and carried on.
April 16th finally came this was the day I was finally leaving for Japan. I had the pleasure of flying with the Gibson family and we met Steve Antonchuk in Japan Shortly after arriving on the 17th. The flight was the longest 10 ½ hours of my life .You really know you are in the Birthplace of Kyokushin when the man at the last check point bows to you says “Good Luck “ and does not even ask to see your passport.
We then boarded the express train to take us from Narita Airport to the Tokyo subway system. (Another 40 min trip)
We boarded a packed subway train with our luggage heading to our hotel. We again were recognized as kyokushin by a Dentist who also trains. He went out of his way to show us where our hotel was and asked to take us out for drinks but settled for a picture instead. It was very refreshing to be recognized as I find myself constantly explaining to people in Calgary what we do and how we train.
After checking in we needed to keep ourselves busy until it was a proper time for sleep. We decided to visit the Honbu that was close by. Upon arriving at the Honbu the main floor was under construction but we could hear training taking place on the floors above. Luckily two students were exiting the building and recognized our coats, we asked if there was any way we could go in and watch? The Sensei that was teaching came down to talk to us .He invited us into the class to watch provided no pictures were taken. He was instructing an adult fight class, there were belts ranging from white to black .It seemed he was putting them through their paces, I hope it wasn’t extra hard because we were there observing.
We only stayed for 15 min, as we did not want to wear out our welcome.
My first taste of the Tokyo gymnasium was on sat April 19th when I accompanied Sensei Brad and Rowan for her day of competition, she competed in both Kata and Kumite.
If I was not scared before I was then, it was huge .I would compare it to walking onto the ice of the Saddle dome in Calgary, or onto the floor of any major sporting venue in any city. The amount of people, competitors, size of venue and level of competition would overwhelm most people at any age.
Rowan handled the pressure well, competed bravely and with honor.
My day of reckoning had finally arrived it was Easter Sunday
I had only slept about 2 ½ hours I was sitting in my hotel room not knowing if I should laugh or cry. I have only been this nervous one other time in my life, on my wedding day.
Upon arrival I got changed and preceded to my assigned mat for the march on and drums. After that they read the fighter oath and then we did kihon as a group, I have never done kihon with this many people before, talk about pressure! We were then all released to get ready for our matches for the day. I waited downstairs in the sub gym with Steve for the team kata to finish and then our fights to begin. According to the draw, I was given the other biggest fighter in our division. I was
In the A group and fight #10 for the ring. I was fighting a gentleman out of Japan that was the same size as me!!! Before going into the match Sensei Brad was given me instruction, I am still not sure if I heard everything he said. All I remember was keep your hands up!!!! We fought hard and I got the unanimous decision with all 4 flags. What a rush!!! I was pumped, still scared but pumped. I then fought in match #36 against another Shodan from Japan. He weighed in at about 190lbs. He was a lot quicker than the first but could hit equally as hard. His technique was sound and caught me with a good rib kick and some leg kicks, but in the end I was again victorious and got a four flag decision. I then fought in match #58 against a Sandan from Russia, Mikhail Sigachev. He is a student of the current world champion, Teriel Nikoleishvili. I did not even know this going into the match. He was a tough opponent and pushed me hard with his lateral movement. I was able to get another 4 flag victory over him. I am now into the quarterfinals and had match #69. Another Japanese competitor for me to face. This man could take it and dish it out. He was always pushing forward and taking everything I could give. I took him to an extension but ended up losing 3 flags to 1. I am not going to lie that I was disappointed that I lost but he deserved the win, I had nothing left by the end and he out worked me. He was spirited!! Top 8 in the world in my division!!!!
The competitors that I faced were truly world class; in the way they fight and carry themselves. Everyone wanted a picture after our match, and the first man that I faced asked me if I would return next year for a re-match. The whole experience of this trip and competing in the IFT was one I will remember for the rest of my life, and I can honestly say it has changed me as a person and how I look at life. If you have the chance to prove yourself and want to put in the work to compete at this level I strongly suggest it. You will never forget it.
IFT Tokyo 2014
Rowan wants to compete in Japan. It sounded like a big, long term goal. We never expected she would have the opportunity so quickly. This past week we had the honour of accompanying Team Canada on their trip to Tokyo, Japan to compete at the 2014 International Friendship Tournament. The focus and commitment in achieving that goal along with Doug Shermack and Steve Antonchuk was inspiring. We are so proud to have had the opportunity to be there to cheer the team on and to witness the accomplishment of competing at “the World’s Largest Martial Arts Tournament”.
What struck us this weekend, was how privileged we all are to be members of this organization. The support and encouragement that Rowan received in achieving this first run at her goal is amazing. Many thanks to Sensai Brad, Sempais Michelle, Lisa, Dennis, Doug, and all the Sempais and peers who encouraged her to take this big step. There were numerous examples after we arrived such as; the Japanese customs agent who, with a glance at the Kanji on Doug’s jacket, hastened our entrance into their beautiful country; the dentist on a train who greeted us with Osu who took a quick group photo and helped us find our way at the train station, and the kindness of the people at the Honbu dojo and IKO headquarters who allowed us to watch a training session (that was an eye opener as to what kind of conditioning is possible!) and the many hand-shakes and greetings from other teams as they recognize the Kanji and offered words of encouragement for the upcoming challenges.
We were able to listen and learn at the memorial for Mas Oyama celebrating the anniversary of both his loss and his legacy. We watched the opening ceremonies at the Tokyo Gymnasium with almost 2000 competitors. Watching the kids warm up and compete on the first day was an incredible sight. The intensity and skill level was impressive. We could only imagine how nervous Rowan might be as she was getting ready. Performing a kata under those conditions would have done Rich and I in. Rowan performed one of her best kanku katas. The skill level of the competitors was very high and it showed that there is no limit to the refinements and improvements that can be achieved. We were inspired to do more katas back home!
The knock down competition at this level was intense and Rowan had a tough draw for her first time out and has a black eye to prove it! Rowan has said she wants to train even harder and go back again. The encouragement she received from Shihan Stuart, Sensei Brad, Doug and Steve at the event was deeply appreciated by us. The senior men, Doug and Steve, competed the next day with Rowan offering her support ringside with Sensai Brad. Doug and Steve went out and showed their CKK spirit and Doug advanced up to the top 8. The tournament was awesome to watch as a spectator and inspired us to train harder, stay focused and go deeper. A few days after the tournament we were at the very crowded Asakusa temple and we ran into the men’s Polish fighters from the tournament. They recognized the Kanji, gave Rowan an Osu and then noticed her eye and said she was a strong fighter and gave her another Osu. That was very nice of them and reflected the positive attitude and perspective we saw at the tournament and at home.
We spent a couple of days afterwards enjoying the company and sight-seeing with the Canadian contingent, who eventually departed either for home, training sessions at Mt. Mitsumine, or in our case, Tokyo Disney on our last day before heading to Calgary. Tokyo was an amazing city, friendly, easy to get around in, and where we never really encountered a language barrier. We would love to see more of the country and maybe even do a training session! We would encourage others to make the trip if they get the chance. All told, it was an amazing experience made possible by being part of the Kyokushin family.
Cara and Rich Gibson
When I joined Kyokushin Karate 4 years ago, I never in my wildest dreams thought it would lead to travelling to Japan to fight in a world-wide tournament. In fact, a few weeks after returning, I barely believe it.
My flights to Tokyo were long, but uneventful. I took a longer, very indirect route, but met Doug and Rowan, and the Gibson Cheer Team, at the airport and we stuck together the whole trip. There are some serious culture differences in Japan, and getting to experience all that with these great folks made the trip awesome. We tried some new foods, refused to try some new foods, giggled at funny English translations, and explored the city together.
The weigh-in was at a hotel near the venue. We bought some new gear, and got our programs and numbers all sorted out the day before the fights. The program was a nice touch, as it listed Doug and me from Guam. The snazzy Team Canada jackets were great cover.
I admit that I was pretty nervous before the fight started. The venue was a gigantic arena that seats 10,000 people, with 10 rings of fighting going on. I had previously fought at SAIT and BCIT… nice places and fun tournaments, but not at all the same scope. It seemed to me that every fighter but me was at least a Shodan (as you know, I am not even close). I wasn’t particularly worried about getting hurt; that stuff heals. I was really only nervous that I was going to be outclassed. I pictured spending a minute and half running away like a bad cartoon.
After all, this is Japan! The place karate was created; where Sosai Mas Oyama trained; where you walk down the street in a Kyokushin jacket and get “OSU!” from passing strangers. I was the equivalent of a Japanese hockey player visiting Canada. Interesting, … but c’mon… The day started with a lineup and some kihon from 2 former champs and the current World Champion, Tariel Nikoleishvili. I kept my eyes on the champ the whole time. If you want to learn how a person becomes a winner, watch this man doing something he must have done a billion times. Tariel was the only person waiting for the count before EVERY technique; then he exploded, putting everything he had into it. He showed so much power in kihon that I was truly in awe of the man. That was only a week before he was scheduled for a 100-man kumite, but he sure didn’t mail anything in.My draw was a local Japanese guy. A bit lighter than me (who isn’t) but probably much faster (yes, I know… who isn’t J). He sure didn’t seem intimidated by a bald white guy from Guam! My fight was only 90 seconds, and it passed so fast that I have very little memory of what happened. I know I got some good shots in early. I landed a few leg kicks, and kept punching and he didn’t like it.
He eventually kept his arms in front of his chest to block my punches, but I didn’t really notice. I kept punching, sliding off his arms and smacking his jaw. Eventually the center referee stopped the fight to warn me. No points, but with 50 seconds gone I got a bit flustered. I was so worried about punching his face again that I let him get in close and pummel me a bit. Nothing that hurt, but more than enough to convince the judges that he won. I haven’t seen the video, but I think I did OK. The picture we got afterwards shows him with a very bruised chest (and bleeding lip). I didn’t embarrass myself or our organization and I proved that I can stand in with some of the best around. Of course, I was in no danger of winning the tournament like Doug, but at least I wasn’t outclassed as I had feared.In the end, I got to compete at a very high level and watch some amazing fighters. I learned so much about karate, about myself, and about what it takes to win. Hopefully with a bit more practice and my new found knowledge I can return in a few years and bring glory to Guam! …or Canada..
My First visit to Japan, an IKO World Friendship Tournament and Mt. Mitsumine Training Camp Osu, All:
I was fortunate to visit Japan from April 12 – 27/14 and accompany Shihan Stuart Corrigal and Sensei Brad Gillespie on a memorable trip. Sensei Brad had some red/white Kyokushin Canada jackets made for the Canadian contingent. We left Vancouver at 12:00 noon and landed in Tokyo (Narita International) 2:25pm the next day. We had pre-purchased a Japan Rail Pass in Canada and exchanged the voucher at the airport before taking the 50 minute train thru Narita and Chiba into Tokyo. Tokyo’s population approximates 13 million people. As Shihan and Sensei had visited Japan on many previous occasions it eased the crash course on learning how the various train systems and fares meshed, along with some Japanese etiquette.
We stayed overnight at the Ginza Capital Annex in Ginza, ate out and enjoyed an evening walk through the Ginza shopping district. Japanese hotels I would find out feature compact rooms. The hotel offered a mixture of Western and Japanese cuisine for breakfast. Shihan initiated my indoctrination into Japanese culture/cuisine by introducing a NATTO dish (consisting of small brown fermented soybeans – chilli oil powder and mustard sauce) for me to consume. It apparently is quite healthy, however has an interesting taste which I will leave to you to also experience.
Back to the Tokyo station the next day we embarked on our Japan Rail trip to Sapporo (some 800 km distance) on the 4th largest island of Hokkaido. The train station (as are some others) is a huge multi-level matrix of trains, corridors and stairs, retail stores of every description, vending machines and ticket purchase machines and gates. Approx a million people a day pass thru this station and commutes of 1 -2 hours each way are not uncommon to/from outlying rural cities The stations are clean and the trains operate very efficiently. Also operating out of numerous stations are subway trains for inter connections. Our trip consisted of 3 trains (some reaching speeds of 300 mph) over 10 hours passing thru Shin-Aomori, a 54 km tunnel under the Suguru Strait into Hakodate(cruise port), and numerous rural towns and fishing villages before arriving in Sapporo.
Sapporo is a clean modern spacious city of 150 years and is noted for their beer, seafood and miso ramen soup. We enjoyed them all. On average Sapporo temperatures are 10 degrees C lower than Tokyo, and Spring was just starting to emerge. Shihan Stuart had reserved the Nakamuraya Ryokan, 100 year old hotel which offered an interesting introduction into Japanese culture. Slippers and Kimonos (Yakutas), green tea served on lowered tables, sleeping on 2 mats on a bamboo matted floor, hot baths separated by gender, were the order of the day. We caught up on our sleep deprivation in our futon, walked around town visiting numerous tourist sites and towers, 5 story department stores, the Nijo fish market, journeyed by Jutetsu bus out to Jozankei to enjoy their mineral hot springs, or onsen. The 2nd night we enjoyed an ‘all you can eat and drink in 90 minutes’ at Nandas restaurant, wherein there is a buffet of Seafood and Japanese food for you to select and cook over a burner at your table. The 3rd night we visited the Sapporo Beer Museum and restaurant (Hokkaido heritage site), and enjoyed (from what I can remember) another ‘all you can eat and drink in 90 minutes’ from a pre-selected menu.
As the Alberta contingent was arriving on the Friday, we decided to return from Sapporo to Tokyo, and overnite in Aomori. Out of Shin-Aomori 6:15am in the morning and into Ikebukuro station by 9:25am.
Approx a million people a day pass thru this station as well. We met up with the Alberta group at the Metropolitan Hotel and took a couple of trains thru Shinjuku into Sendagaya. We walked by the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium and another 6 blocks to the Nippon Seinennkan hotel (near where previous Olympics were held) and had the 3 Alberta contestants registered and equipment checked or purchased. Our group returned to Ikebukuro, walked by the original Honbu and Honbu Annex dojos, and enjoyed a Japanese lunch and supper in local eating establishments. Our group journeyed out on the subway trains to Akihabara and Ueno and walked through some shopping districts. Took another
train to visit Sky Tree Tower and reached the 1000 ft level. You can pay extra to go higher. As it was quite cloudy visibility was unfortunately limited.
The International Friendship Tournament was held on the Saturday and Sunday at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium. This year honoured 50 years anniversary of Kyokushin Karate (the universal language) and 20 years memorial since Sosai Mas Oyama`s passing. This Kata and Kumite Championship
Tournament is for women and seniors and youths of all ages– there were approximately 1600 contestants competing over the 2 days. It also was a charitable rejuvenation of the Northeast Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster in March 2011. It started at 8:30 and finished by 6:00. There was a 1 hour memorial celebration of Sosai Oyama at the beginning attended by Branch Chiefs from all over the world, followed by opening ceremonies (Taiko drum) and introduction by Kancho Shokei Matsui, and a brief warm-up. Kata was conducted the rest of the 1st day, along with the start of Kumite. Rowan Gibson gained some experience. It is a great venue and was quite a spectacular event featuring 10 rings. That Saturday evening we ventured out on the subway trains to attend a Tokyo (Aomori) Giants baseball game. The stadium is a covered dome (copied after the Vancouver original dome) and it was sold out with 60,000 in attendance. We paid a 1000 yen for standing room only right amidst the Giants cheering section. Are the Japanese passionate about their baseball and players! It was a neat atmosphere. Back to the gymnasium on Sunday. It started at 9:30 and finished by 7:00. The morning featured Team Katas and an interesting requirement involved the demonstration of the bunkai in multiple applications of more than 1 attacker. The afternoon was Kumite. Steve Antochuk gained some experience and Doug Shermack went 3 wins and 1 loss. As Sunday was the last night for the Alberta group we enjoyed an ‘all you can eat and drink for 100 minutes’ at a nearby restaurant and finished off at a British pub. On Monday Apr 21/14 with the exception of the Gibson family, the Alberta group returned to Calgary.
Shihan Stuart and I attended MT Mitsumine training camp for the next 2 days. By bus it is located 4 hours north and east of Tokyo in a beautiful mountain setting at some 3600 ft altitude above Oku Chichibu, Saitama. It contains a number of shrines and memorials, including Sosai Oyama. The hotel is open to the public and is a functional Ryokan. We were assigned in groups to Japanese styled futons – I roomed with a Mongolian who was testing for 5th Dan, and 3 from south India. Even though it was misty I took some pictures and met a number of people from different countries. Before proceeding to the parking lot for 2 hours training we paid our respects to Sosai Oyama. Shihan Katsuhito Gorai welcomed us and Shihan Francisco Filhio conducted training 4:30-6:30pm, which mainly consisted of various enhanced Ido Geiko combinations and some light sparring with a partner (Lazslo from Hungary). Traditional Japanese food was served in a room large enough to accommodate 250 people. I was still hungry. Later in the evening down on the 3rd floor we associated with one another while waiting to enjoy a hot bath. Up at 5:30am the next morning and down to the parking at 6:30am for 2 hours more training, conducted by Shihan Francisco Filhio. The clouds had lifted and the sun was peering through so we could see more of the mountains. The Ido Geiko was enhanced ever more so by a number of longer combinations and many jumping sideway moves, such that my thighs were like rubber at the completion. I witnessed how much Canada is respected by the number of attendees who wanted their picture taken with Shihan Stuart and Shihan Andre Gilbert. Again traditional Japanese food was served in the large room an hour later. Hunger would set in 2 hours later. As there had been a wash out above the dam we were not able to partake in the walk down and training under a waterfall. We returned by bus to Ikebukuro and the Metropolitan hotel. We got cleaned up and walked down to the Budo store, wherein Shihan Stuart introduced me to the proprietor and his wife, which he has known for over 30 years. The IKOKC has purchased a number of martial arts supplies over the years from them. While there I sighted a Kanku belt buckle (which was on my bucket list) and as it was apparently the last one in existence I bought it from him. Most coveted was that the proprietor is a master Japanese sword maker and he had hand made this buckle from a small ball of steel into a shiny chrome frame with gold plated inlay.
Shihan Stuart attended intensive training classes (two – 2 hour sessions) during the next 3 days with 32 other Shihans and Senseis , and the 100 man Kumite successfully passed by a Russian – Tariel Nikoleishvili on the 4th day. I reflected upon what I had experienced and observed the past 4 days. Canada IKOKC is held in high regard throughout the world IKO, as witnessed by their inclusion and observing relationships at the tournament and Mt. Mitsumine. I would surmise that many students attending these types of events and representing Canada just attend the events over the required days, and may not understand what it has taken to enjoy these opportunities. The opportunities that have come available and that will become available just do not happen overnight. It has taken Shihan Stuart over 30 years of representing Western Canada Kyokushin, attending training camps and tournaments/ conducting officiating clinics in different countries, attending international committee meetings, and by inviting Sosai Oyama (1989) and Kancho Matsui (2013), and other Branch Chiefs and Shihans to attend our tournaments and training camps. By fostering and building reciprocal relationships and linking various bridges in a larger world spectrum of our organization it has opened doors and created opportunities for Canada to be represented and for students to take part and engage at a whole different level than what solely exists in Canada and the United States. Its significance is something to appreciate and understand so that students are encouraged to participate and enjoy such opportunities that become available.
During the next 4 days I got adventuresome and struck out my own to manoeuvre around the transportation systems – their subway route maps are a maize. Over 2 days I toured around Tokyo as much as I could and located some areas where I bought some gifts for my family. I visited Honbu Annex one night and watched Sensei Steve Cujic training a junior class. One day I went by train from Ikebukuro to Kamakura and visited 4 shrine parks, including the great Buddha (a national treasure). On the return
leg I stopped at Yokohama and toured the city by trolley car. As Yokohama is world renown for having over 200 Chinese eating establishments, I stopped and enjoyed some Chinese food in their china town. The last day I hailed a taxi at 4:30 am (subways do not start until 5:30 am) to visit the Tsukiji fish market, which employs approx 10,000 people. When one sees how much seafood is processed 6 days a week one wonders if there is anything left in the surrounding ocean. Then caught 4 trains and visited Nikko (a world heritage site), encompassing a number of shrines and temples. At night time I would join up with Shihan Stuart and Shihan Kenny Uytenbogaardt and enjoyed a variety of engaging exchanges during our meals, with beer of course, at various eating establishments.
Shihan Stuart and I left Narita at 4:00pm and landed in Vancouver 8:55am and regained a day.
I have been fortunate to have travelled throughout the world, with still some more places to visit on the bucket list. My impressions /observations of Japan:
- People have pride in whatever they undertake, and are very honest ;
- They are fairly structured in their life and work style;
- Customer Service is second to none-wherever, no tipping expected; fairly labor intensive employment;
- Presentation and Packaging are very prominent throughout Japan in every type and size of retail
establishments and food outlets; They love their sweets;
- High standard of cleanliness everywhere; Taxis are spotless and drivers wear a suit;
- Their draught beer is excellent, so is their sake; one can drink in public; Their water is safe to drink
- Vending machines everywhere are daily stocked. One can buy hot and cold beverages and alcohol.
Approx 70 new products are introduced yearly and 2 stay – highly competitive;
- Cost of living is very high, as is the cost of accommodation and meals out. It is not uncommon for
family generations to live together under one roof;
- I felt safe anywhere;
- Japanese Rail is a huge conglomerate of 6 rail companies operating throughout Japan. They are
efficient and on time. JR Pass is the economical way to tour around Japan. Their subway trains and
buses can move a lot of people;
- They drive, walk, escalate on the left; Lots of people ride bicycles as sidewalks are wide;
- People, even with limited English, will help you. Our Canadian jackets and Kange were a visible
representation, and local people would engage in conversation.
- I would return to visit Japan again should the opportunity arise.
Thank you Shihan Stuart and Sensei Brad for an engaging and memorable trip.
Osu: Sempai Bruce Laffling
2014 International Friendship Tournament (Tokyo)
In May of 2013, while in Tokyo for the 5th World Weight Category Championships, I learned that the following year there would be a unique, week-long event hosted by the IKO to celebrate both the 50th Anniversary of the IKO and the 20th Anniversary of Sosai Oyama’s passing. The 2014 International Friendship Tournament (IFT) promised to offer something for everyone, and indeed it did not disappoint.
Also in May of 2013 the Canadian organization celebrated and hosted its 30th Canadian Championships with honored guest Kancho Matsui (head of IKO). After this event, I knew that the Calgary Dojo could not miss the IFT in 2014, a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
One year later, I am again flying over the Pacific Ocean, this time with Shihan Corrigal and Sempai Bruce Laffling from the Richmond Dojo. After a “quick” 10 hours we land at Narita International airport, and activate our Japan Rail passes (if you ever get a JR pass get the Green pass, its WELL worth the extra bit of money). We spend the evening in Tokyo (eat at a great dumpling joint) and then spend the next four days in Hokkaido, the large Island in Northern Japan. This was my lucky 13th time to Japan, one of my favourite places on earth, but it was the first time I have ever taken the time to do some site-seeing. Highlights include the 320km/hr bullet train on the way to Sapporo (largest city in Hokkaido), the Sapporo tower, the onsen (natural hot spring bath) and the bus ride to it. I also enjoyed amazing dining experiences (Hokkaido is famous for its Seafood – which I LOVE), the Sapporo beer factory and of course the great company, conversation and laughs. OUTSTANDING time.
We return early morning on Friday the 18th and meet up with the other members from Calgary: the Gibson family (Cara, Richard and Rowan), Steve Antonchuk and Doug Shermack. From there the group journeys to check the participants in for the tournament. At check-in I see many familiar faces from around the world, and I am amazed again by the International Friendships that have been created through Kyokushin Karate. I truly am humble and thankful of the gift that Sosai Oyama has created and that Kancho Matsui has grown: Kyokushin Karate and the International Friendship that accompanies it. After check-in the group relaxes over a quick bowl of noodles a tour of the new Sky view tower in Tokyo (VERY COOL) and a very early bedtime. Rowan’s big day is tomorrow.
We arrive early at the stadium. Today there are over 1000 individuals competing. The morning begins with a ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of Sosai Mas Oyama’s passing. This ceremony is usually held at Mt Mitsumine where Mas Oyama’s Shrine is located, however Kancho Matsui graciously holds the ceremony at the stadium so everyone who is in attendance can be a part of the event. Soon after the ceremony ends, the tournament begins.
After opening speeches, a group of over 1000 warms up together on the mat. The Kyokushin spirit is tangible. In the kata divisions, Rowan is the only youth contestant from Canada in the 2014 IFT. She has chosen Kanku kata. She rounds out the 12-14 division with a beautiful kata. That afternoon, she competes in the girls 12-14 45kg and over kumite division, and although she does not win any medals, there are many victories. She does her teammates, family, nation and ME extremely proud. She has taken the giant leap that so many are afraid to take, officially becoming an International competitor. She has successfully taken on an extremely stressful situation, competed in front of thousands of spectators and met people from all around the world. She sees the work and dedication required to place at the top. I hope that her experience will be with her in all her future endeavours.
The next day belongs to Steve and Doug who will both compete in the Men’s over 40 Heavyweight Division. The day begins the same and Doug is first up, closely outfighting a Japanese competitor equalling Doug’s 125kg. Steve uses his effective low kicks to control and dominate his first fight against a Japanese fighter for the entire first three quarters of the match. Unfortunately the match stops and the momentum quickly changes. Steve’s opponent fights a very hard last 15 seconds and surprisingly earns the victory. Doug prevails against his next two opponents from Japan and Russia and meets another Japanese fighter in his fourth and final match. Despite his smaller stature, Doug’s opponent surprises us all with his tenacity and ability to take hard punches and manages to take the victory in an extension, ending Doug’s spectacular run to the top 8 worldwide.
That evening we all go out to a Yakiniku barbeque restaurant to celebrate our collective achievements, relax, and enjoy the company of good friends. Later, we meet up with Shihan Corrigal and others from the tournament at a local pub and reflect on the great weekend. We say our goodbyes, as the next morning Shihan and Bruce will leave for Mitsumine, and later Shihan will attend the advanced training seminar and the 100-man-kumite celebrating Kyokushins 50 years. Sadly I must return to work in Canada and will be unable to attend these events.
The next afternoon I board my plane back to Canada and contemplate the last year and the Kyokushin journey leading up to the IFT. I reflect on the universal emotions that participants feel after a major competition. Anyone who has ever committed to training for a tournament of this calibre understands that the emotional let-down once one is officially eliminated from an event is extreme. I remember the tears after my first world tournament – not from the physical pain but as a result of the multiple converging emotions I felt at the time – disappointment, pride, excitement, and Kyokushin spirit. It was an overwhelming, powerful and beautiful moment that I will cherish forever. But amidst the emotional let-down, remember that it is not just the day of the event that matters, and in fact the day of the event is the smallest part of the process. The victories and experiences that have taken place along the way are what truly matter. This is a feeling experienced by anyone that competes at this level, a feeling that does not discriminate against borders, race, religion, age or gender. It is a human emotion felt by any who have taken the leap to compete at the International level and the IFT. This is International Friendship, and is a feeling all good humans experience. This is the feeling that will lead to the IKO goal of “World Peace”. This is Karate.