The Story So Far – Chapter 19 – National Champion

CHAPTER 19 – NATIONAL CHAMPION

Just like twelve months before, May was a month of picking myself up and getting myself back in shape.  The year before I was just coming out of the pain of withdrawals, back then as soon as I felt I was free from that pain, I started exercising and began a program of losing weight, in order to be fit to compete at the National Championships.  After the stop start months of March and April, May was a month to get back to where I wanted to be, especially with the Nationals fast approaching on the 29th June 2013.

This year it was to be my swan song, I had planned a few years previously that I was to retire from competition after this years competition.  I had participated in my first National Championships at the age of nine, back in 1983, this year would be my 30th time competing at the Nationals, so as I was now 39 and fast approaching 40, I thought it was perfect time to step down from competing and bring a close to what had been a fairly successful run over the years.

Three years previously I had actually won this competition, at that time I was well in the throws of my addiction, I was overweight, I even drank the night before, but I still had it together at that point to put in a good performance and win.  The following year I finished second, but by that time I had put on even more weight, I was totally unfit and as the year before had been drinking the night before.  Somehow I still managed to perform to a good standard, despite all that was going on in my life, I may have been a mess, but as I’ve stated before, once I put on the karate suit I seemed to leave that side of my life behind, somehow I managed to outperform who I was.

Obviously the year before I had tasted disappointment, I had so much expectation that I could get back to winning ways, I was fitter than I had been since I was a teenager and above all sober, but things didn’t turn out the way I had planned them in my mind, but in all honesty that was the best way, I think it was right that I didn’t win that year, I wasn’t ready for that step, I was to wait and wait I did.

Come the day of the competition we drove down on the morning of the competition, it was a long drive, well over three hours, we set off very early in the morning, ready for the 10am start of the competition.  Yet somehow I still felt calm and relaxed, ready to go.

Back in 2006 I went into the competition as probably the favourite, I had finished second the year before, I had competed earlier in the year at the European Championships and also been selected for the World Championships in Sydney later that year.  I made it through the early rounds with very few problems and went into the semi finals pretty confident.

But a combination of my health problems and the volume of alcohol I had consumed the evening before, conspired against me.

I had spent the evening before at a barbeque, watching the England vrs Portugal World Cup match, the infamous match in which Rooney was sent off and Ronaldo’s wink!  I hadn’t intended to drink as much as I had, normally the night before a competition I would limit myself to one or two.  I must add that at this point in time I don’t consider that I had an alcohol problem, I drank and drank regularly, but I drank socially, not to escape my life, at that time life was pretty good.

My blood pressure issues and circulation lead me to have clammy hands and feet, this became worse when I drank.  So at the competition in 2006 they were using a new set of mats for the semi finals, unfortunately these were proving to be a little slippy in general, most people were managing to handle them, but not me, I managed five moves into the kata Enpi and then slipped and fell.  At that point it was all over for me that year, I had fell in front of everyone present and had to carry that with me ever since.

Since then I had stopped using katas that were flamboyant or fast paced, settling for competing with katas that were safer for me to perform, yet more conservative.  So this year I decided that if I was going to go out one last time, I was going to do it with my favourite katas and not the safe option.  I was going to defeat those demons that had haunted me since that day in 2006.

Things went well through the early rounds and without any problems I made it into the semi finals.  In semi final I performed the kata Enpi, this kata I hadn’t performed in competition since 2006 and this time everything went fine, I qualified for the final as the highest scorer.

Just as the last competition, I had found a way to keep calm and relaxed before competing, part of that was praying and just breathing, it seemed to be working for me at least.

In the final I decided to use a kata I had not used since the 2007 final, on that occasion I had trouble with the fast turns in the kata, because I couldn’t get the grip with my clammy feet, so I had stopped using it too.  So for the final I sent with Sochin and performed well enough to win my second and last National Championships.  The response from my fellow competitors and old squad mates was amazing, they seemed to really appreciate what it meant to me.  At the medals ceremony my retirement was announced and I was given an unprecedented introduction as I collected my medal, usually thing occasions are quite formal, but not this time.

As I collected my medal and stood on the top of the podium to the great ovation from all the competitions, spectators and officials, the emotion began to get the better of me and I admit there were a few tears.  The whole day couldn’t have gone any better, it was just the way I had hoped it would be, in a way it was the way I wanted the previous year to be too, but now I really appreciated that it was worth the wait.

Nationals 2013

Nationals 2013

A couple of weeks later the Chief Instructor of our association and my former squad coach came to my club to conduct a grading.  We spoke about the competition and he told me that I shouldn’t retire yet, he believed that I had competed better than he had ever seen me compete and there was still more to come.  That confused my decision to retire, but in the end I stuck to my guns and decided that I had finished with competing.

MIRACLE MAKER by KIM WALKER- SMITH
I’m waiting here for my life to change,
When the waters stir You can rearrange me.
Just one touch is all I need,
I’ve nothing much but the wounds I feel,
I’ve come to find the hand of the miracle man.

Holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, You are holy,
Saviour, healer,
I’m standing at the feet of the miracle maker.

I’m holding on, with Your life in mine,
Living water’s come,
And You’ve rearranged me.

You are holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Holy, You are holy,
Saviour, healer,
I’m staring in the face of the miracle maker.

Holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Jesus, precious Jesus,
Thank you, Saviour,
I’m walking in the shoes of my miracle maker.

Holy, You are holy,
Who was and is and is to come.
Jesus, precious Jesus,
Thank you, Saviour,
I’m standing with the faith of a miracle maker.

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