Last weekend I participated as a judge in the Swedish Kata Trophy competition in Stockholm. It's northern Europe's largest kata competition, and is held once every year. This year they had over 600 competitors originating from everywhere between Sweden and Venezuela! This is the largest competition I've been to so far, and I must say, the level on even the kids were very high!
The day was long, it started at 8.45 with a briefing, competition started at 10.00, and we finished our last class of the day 19.00. The whole competition ended at around 20.00.
We stared off with the kids. Our tatami had 2 large classes, the first class took us 2 hours to work through. As the tatami next to us was finished with their classes quite fast, we managed to split the second class on the two tatamis. It was not always easy to rule for one or the other, as the kids kept a really high standard most of the time. And I must say I was really impressed, and quite jealous of their kata standard! I was thinking to myself, one of these days I'll be as good as these kids! (I wish!)
I really liked the rules we had for the kids. They all had two shots of performing the kata, if they stopped they were allowed to start over again. If they failed a second time, we just ruled the other one as a winner and not flagging for disqualification. They were also allowed to perform the same kata throughout the competition.
Luckily we had time for a long lunch, and a well needed break before the main events started at 2 o'clock.
They began with the kata team on the center tatami, while the other tatamis rested. The finals with the bunkai was incredible, made with a lot of imagination and performed with incredible athleticism. Although, I felt myself getting irritated over the unnecessary audible cues during the bunkai. I now understand why this is signified as a foul in the rules.
After the final of the kata team female seniors final was over (which the English ladies won), we started off on our tatami with female cadets, seniors, male seniors, and then as our last class we had a special class named Old Boys. This class was for males that are 50 years or older. They were also, as the kids, allowed to perform the same kata throughout the competition. And this time I was hoping to be in as good shape as these gentlemen were, with their balance, low stances and incredible agility!
The afternoon consisted of nonstop judging, with only short breaks between classes. I remember my parents trying to communicate with me when I was switching chairs, I only saw them waving and mumbling something, but I have no idea what they said.
I must say I was surprised that I was allowed to sit as a head judge during the competition. It was a little bit nerve wrecking, and I felt myself being more focused so that I wouldn't mess up any procedures. Of course, the first bout I almost flagged for the wrong person. Our tatami manager came up and whispered "You're holding the flags in the wrong hands"...(d'oh!)
After the competition I was invited to dinner with some of the other judges and the organisers. We met up at a local restaurant, and I got a bit shocked to see both world champion Antonio Diaz and Inoue Soke being there. I must say I got a tiny bit star struck to sit across the table of a world champion that I've only seen in YouTube videos before! And also being in the presence of a living master was very humbling.
The day after I participated in the kata seminar held by Inoue Soke. It was very interesting, and he talked a lot about where the power and speed comes from and to use the internal whip rather than big motions of the hips. I was not able to take any pictures or film as I was occupied with listening to his words, and I didn't want to miss any of them. Karate by Jesse have summarised many of the things Inoue Soke brought up during the day in this blog post.
I had the opportunity to ask for some tips about the hip and technique use in our Shorin Ryu kata, Bassai Sho. But I'm not sure my sensei or her sensei will approve of the small (but effective) changes...
All in all, it's been a great weekend and I do not regret going at all. I'm actually planning on going again next year. Hopefully I can drag some of my Norwegian colleagues with me next time!
Pictures by: Gösta Danielsson