On the 12th May 2007, Shaun and I travelled to The Guildford Spectrum UK, for the Shobu-Ippon International Shotokan Open. For weeks before the competition, there was much hype and excitement from those who would be in attendance, so we were obviously very excited to attend.
We left the hotel that we had stayed in the night before nice and early to ensure we found the place without any problems, and to our surprise the Guilford Spectrum was far bigger than we had imagined. I don’t exactly know where this surprise had come from however as we had heard that attendance was going to be impressive, especially considering that attendance had more or less doubled every year since this competition‘s conception.
One of the most important factors that struck both Shaun and I from the moment we entered the arena was the degree of organisation and planning that had been done by the organisers.
As we entered the building and walked down to the second level, we were met with a wide hallway completely segregated from the competition area. Within this hallway were the category forms, with two officials both set in place to deal with queries and problems. This we could see was excellently set in place so problems could be dealt with far away from the competition area, before it had even begun.
From the second level, we then descended to the lower level where there were squash courts set aside for warm ups and a hallway were spectators could pay for entry. We knew that if the competition ran as efficiently as the planning had, then this competition was going to be a great event.
Over the past few years, this competition has built up a very impressive reputation, because of the standard of competitor, degree of organisation and the very atmosphere surrounding it.
With a huge increase in popularity for sport karate, in recent times Shobu-Ippon competition has been somewhat overlooked. This competition however is an obvious example of the fact that there still remains an important place for shobu-ippon competition in the world of tournament karate. With around one thousand competitors and a room filled with spectators, this was clearly a huge success; credit to both the organisers and desire for this type of competition.
If I had a penny for every time someone said to me ‘This is just like the old days’, I would have made a killing and financed our trips for the next year or so for sure. Pity I didn’t have a hat for collections, but I’ll remember for next year no doubt. Typically in years gone by, spectators at many events are low in numbers, here however was an audience full to edges, which to many brought a sense of nostalgia, and is a great indication of support for the event.
From the moment we arrived we were met with smiles from all around. From the first official that met us in the initial hallway all the way through to the paying area and competition arena, everyone had smiles. This I’m sure is credit to the anticipation of a great competition, but also the fact that everyone really wanted to make this a great day of karate, with everyone having the same goal and intention in mind. Another thing that stood out was how approachable the organisers were. All too often when you attend competitions, organisers can at times be rather stand-off-ish, here however everyone was open to help and ensure the smooth running of things.
Obviously, the most important element of any competition is the standard of competitor, and this too was of a very high standard. In attendance were competitors from most groups active within the UK, with several international competitors also present, totalling to over 30 different organisations competing.
The standard of competitor here was extremely high. The junior kata competitions were of a very high standard, with the likes of Adelyn Yap of SKE taking 1st place in the 3-1st Kyu Ladies kata, with the adult female dan grade kata category being equally impressive with SEKU’s Hannah Day and Tracey Corby taking taking 1st and 2nd place with KWF’s Holly Rye taking 3rd place.
As usual the Male senior events and the team events were also very exciting, with some excellent kata being displayed and brilliant fights taking place. The Men' Senior Dan Grade kata was of a very high standard, with Shaun Eglinton (SEKU) taking gold, and Dave Galloway following not far behind with a well deserved silver. The Men's Teams turned out to be a bit of a late event, with the tournament running with so many competitors, and I thought to myself it was such a shame that they wouldn't get much support, with people leaving. I needn't have been concerned, the energy at the end of the day - for the Team Finals - was as high as it had been all day, and most people stuck around, happy to watch and support some great karate. The SEKU team stood out, both in the three man and five man team, and although the gold went to a fantastic Chelsea Club in the three man teams, SEKU took second and third. They also took first in the Prestige Teams, with Gakushin coming in second, and ASK coming in third. This final was one of the most exciting Team Finals in a while. I didn't know any of them personally but still got very involved in the whole atmosphere!
The standard of this competition was very high, and there was a good attitude among the competitors and a nice friendly atmosphere made the day enjoyable for everyone. Our only small criticism for this competition comes from the angle of the amount of contact allowed by a very small number of referees. . The competitors however did not show a disrespectful attitude and simply got on with the job. There were at times inconsistencies regarding the contact they were allowing, which at times caused a few problems, but the majority of referees were fair and did a brilliant job
For me personally, the highlight of the day was the fantastic demonstration put on by Sensei Simon Staples of Kihaku Dojo , Darren Jumnoodoo of Thames Karate International, Stacey Crowe of Portsmouth Karate Club and Adam Cockfield of Seishinkai Shotokan Karate International. Over the past years, the demonstrations at these competitions have been the highlight of the day and are waited for with bated breath and the audience each year wonders how the organisers manage to top the previous year. These guys did not fail however and this I would say is the best yet, and you are lucky enough to watch the demo in the video below!
Next year’s event is planned for the 10th May 2008, which will undoubtedly top this year’s standard, and the organisers and officials are all determined to continue raising this standard.
For Traditional Karate-ka who want to participate in Traditional Competition, this one is for you guys and if you didn’t attend this year, please do come along next year and help promote this valuable event that both promotes and celebrates good Shotokan Karate. This tournament is playing a huge part in the re-emergence of Shobu Ippon competition as a leading tournament style, so please support the work of those who give all they can to make it happen!