My first trip to Japan, IFT 2015
By Isabelle Godin
I’m in the shuttle, on my way to the airport, and I finally get some quiet time to reflect on my amazing journey in Japan.
I came to Tokyo to participate in the senior kata division at the International Friendship Tournament 2015. I also completed the training camp at Mount Mitsumine.
The tournament was a fabulous experience. I learned so much by watching the other competitors. The children surprised me the most: their kata are so crisp and precise! The most intimidating part for me was the warm up before the opening ceremony. I was on my assigned court (there is 10 courts!), surrounded by much more advance belts from all over the world, trying to find a spot to stretch and practice with out being in anybody’s way. It was a little overwhelming! But after the opening ceremony, once the tournament started, it was easier for me to focus on what I had to do. When it was my turn to go on the court, I was calm and focused. I slowed down my pace like I had discussed with Sensei Brad and enjoy the moment. I did my best Kanku dai so far and I was happy with my performance. After my kata, I joined Sensei Terry, Sensei Brad, Gary and Doug in the stands to watch the rest of the kata divisions and a little bit of the kids kumite.
The next day, it was Gary and Doug’s turn to fight. From where I was sitting, I could see Gary with the biggest grin on his face, so excited to be there! And Doug, well, he was just being Doug: tall, imposing, focused! It was very inspiring to see them fight at an international level.
The highlight of my week was definitely the training camp we did at Mount Mitsumine. The day after the tournament, we said good-bye to Gary and Doug who were returning home. Shihan Stuart, Sensei Terry, Sensei Brad, and I left for Chichibu – Tama – Kai national park where Mount Mitsumine is. At the top of the mountain, there is a beautiful shrine and beautiful monuments, some over 2000 years old. In the mist, it was just breathtaking and peaceful. Sometimes you would hear the monks chanting in the background. One cannot help but feel lifted in this environment. We attended a ceremony to commemorate Sosai Mas Oyama’s passing, went to pay respect to his burial site, train with Kancho Matsui and enjoy this amazing site. It was a truly grand experience for me. From the slippers we wear when we walk in the hotel, to the hot natural spring (onsen) we can soak into after our training, the Japanese style dining, sleeping on tatamis, mingling with other karate practitioner from all over the world and the walk down the mountain (and standing under a very cold cascade!). It was a truly memorable experience!
Thank you to the IFT organizers and volunteers for this very successful event and the IKOK-C for given me the opportunity to attend. Also, thank you to my kyokushin “family”, I wouldn’t be where I am today with out your support and encouragement. Thank you Sensei Brad for always pushing me to be better, quicker, stronger. And thank you François, Amélie and Jonathan for supporting me unconditionally through my karate journey. Osu!
2015 IFT in Japan
I was very excited to hear that I was given permission to fight in the 2015 International Karate Friendship Tournament in Japan this year. That of course drove my training and tournament regime for the season. Well April 15th came quick this year and I was excited for my return trip to the place where it all started. This year I headed out with Gary Swift, Isabelle Godin, Sensei Brad, Sensei Terry and of course Shihan Stuart. Once we landed in Japan Isabelle, Gary and I made our way to the hotel via the efficient train and subway system, which was exciting and somewhat familiar to me as it was hard to believe only a year ago that I was there. Of course due to excitement I hadn’t slept since we left Calgary and I sure wasn’t planning on sleeping anytime soon. We got checked in and then went for a little sightseeing while we waited for the others to land and go for dinner.
The days leading up to the event were of course spent doing touristy things and sightseeing around Tokyo. On the Friday before the tournament we went to the Honbu to register for the event. This is always a very cool experience being there and posing for some pictures in front of the picture and shrine for Mas Oyama. Once all our gear was checked we were official and ready to participate. The rest of Friday was spent touring around and then to bed early as we needed to be up early to get to the event for Isabelle to compete on Saturday. Isabelle was in a very tough division of competitors, included was the current Women’s World Kata Champion. Isabelle didn’t even seemed phased by this or by the event, she held her nerves better than I could ever hope to. Isabelle competed well and did her kata the best we have ever seen her do in competition. I’m sure the story of the amazing yoko geri is already circulating around the other dojo’s. It was truly a joy to watch her compete and to be associated with such a great kata competitor.
Well of course fight day came up quick, before I knew it, it was Sunday morning and I was my usual bundle of nerves. I had already seen the draw and I had a Japanese fighter first and then if I win I got the tournament favorite as my second fight. Gary and I went down to the tournament floor to get changed for the warm up of champions and the opening ceremonies. After the warm up, is when I think the most amazing thing and one of the things that I like the best about Kyokushin Karate happened. I started to see people that I had met and some that I had fought last year, and everyone was shaking hands bowing OSU and giving out big hugs. This to me, is the best part of doing what I do and travelling around the world, is the extended family you end up with. I saw people from all around that I have met at even LA this year over in Japan. Everyone is your friend and family when you are away from your own. It is these things that keep me coming back for more.
The first gentlemen that I fought was a little taller than me, but of course I outweighed him by a little bit. LOL. This was actually the lightest tournament weight for me to come in at, right around 262 lbs. I was feeling very good about my training and cardio. My first competitor was a tough opponent and he even kicked me in the face on one occasion, good thing they don’t give out half points for light contact. Our match went right to the end and I ended up with 4 flags in my favor. Wow was I happy!!! He was a great competitor and of course even posed for some pics after our fight, his wife even wanted some as well. Now I had to get ready for my next fight with the tournament favorite. I found him on the floor when it was close to our fight to shake hands before and size him up a little. He was not a small man by any means and he was all business. Our first round went the distance and we ended up tied from the corner judges with 2 flags a piece, I was kind of glad to hear the center ref tell us to keep fighting, but as you all know, there is that dread of going another round. Well we went at it again and fought till the end of the extension with no points handed out. In the end the decision went to my opponent and rightfully so. It was a great fight and a great honor to take him to an extension and last. He of course went on to roll through his other opponents and win our division. I was the only fighter to make him work and take to an extension for his win. I was of course disappointed at first in losing but then I thought about what I tell all fighters about competing and being one of very few here competing internationally and holding their own. I trained hard and fought hard and honorably, giving it my all and leaving it on the mat. I guess I need to take my own advice and be happy with my performance for what it was and how I represented both Canada and our club. It’s a good thing Sensei Brad was there to buy me my traditional ice cream after losing and chat with to know and hear how proud he was of me and of Isabelle and Gary.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the IKOK-C for the opportunity to attend this event and supporting all our fighters that travel internationally to compete. Without you there would be no Kyokushin for us to train or tournaments to enter. I would of course like to thank Sensei Brad for helping train me, push me beyond my limits and keeping me on track with my goals to compete. Without your guidance and experience I could not do this. Also to all my Sempei’s that help me train at fight class and help push me to get better, I thank you.