Tag Archives: Champion

Karate And Me – Part 6 – Stagnation To The Winning Week

KARATE AND ME

PART 6 – STAGNATION TO THE WINNING WEEK

It’s fair to say that my karate progress has gone along at differing rates, so many times it has just moved along at a rate so slow, it’s hard to see any progress, then there have been big jumps in progress, it seems that’s the way it has always been, no steady progress, just very slow or very rapid, kind of all or nothing, I guess that sums up my character.

Following that period of success, starting with the runners up position at the regionals, passing my second dan and then third place at the nationals, everything slowed down once again.  In a way, there wasn’t that much to aim at for a while.

In terms of gradings, that was it until I was twenty one.  In our organisation, both then and now, the age limit for taking third dan was twenty one, some associations have a limit on first dan for juniors, but here in the U.K. there is rarely a limit on first and second dan, but third dan has that age limit, so for me at that period of time, grading became a distant thought.  I have to say that I fully agree with that, even though I did wait eight years to grade again, I don’t regret it and I believe it’s the right thing to do, even though I had a lot of knowledge at that point, at that age you don’t really have the maturity.  I was angered a few years back, when I saw that a senior instructor who split from that organisation and started his own, he changed that rule to eighteen, to promote his star student, in truth I thought it was a bit of a joke, because I knew the student in question and I had reservations about him, not so much his ability, but the general attitude he displayed to fellow students and competitors, as I say, I don’t believe he had the maturity to go with such a grade.

So the rest of 1987 went by without any major incident, I entered the regionals again that year, but in the fighting I was soundly beaten in the early rounds, the only success came as part of a team kata squad, Alan put me with two other lads, Darren and Ian, both were older, bigger and better than I was, but he decided we were the best team the club could put together at that time.  In team kata, as a three you perform the same kata in formation and synchronised, the three make a triangle, with on person in front and then two behind.  Generally you try to keep the two together at the back a similar size, so naturally I was the leader at the front, something that I have generally done all my career, even later on as part of the England team.  So I was the leader, I gave all the commands and set the tempo for the kata, essentially if I was off the team was off, there was no hiding when you’re in front.  It was our first outing as a team and we made the final four, I think we practiced really hard on our first kata to get through to the final, but not so much on a different kata should we get there, but we achieved the first priority, reach the final, but sadly we finished fourth out of four, but still received a trophy.

After that there wasn’t any further success for over a year, training was good, I was still training five times a week, still teaching with the beginners class, our black belt group was growing all the time and the club was growing, everything was good, so it’s hard to put a finger on why I didn’t continue with the successes I had had, but I guess these things happen from time to time.  In fairness, I have always said that the best lessons are learnt through failure, it makes you go back, to access and analyse things, a chance to work on things that aren’t quite right, so maybe it was a good thing.

In the summer of 1988 I had a major set back.  I had joined a local football club with a number of friends from school and over the summer we were preparing for the new season.  At a training session one Wednesday night I suffered an injury that put me in a plaster for a month.  I was running with the ball and my friend ran across me, taking my back leg with him, it was completely by accident, just one of those comings together, but my studs kept my foot stuck in the ground and I was spun around whilst my ankle ligaments twisted, as I fell to the ground my foot stayed flat in the ground and it torn my ankle apart as I fell, my ligaments were shredded.

I was taken to hospital, where they x-rayed the ankle, but they sent me home strapped up until some of the swelling had gone down and two days later I was put in plaster, it had severely torn my ligaments, I was now facing a month in plaster and then further time out until I could train again.

My Dad wasn’t happy, neither was Alan, my Dad said that after all that karate training I had no injuries and I do a few weeks of football and end up with ruptured ankle.  Alan wasn’t happy as he wanted myself, Darren and Ian to continue working together for that years regionals, which were coming up at the beginning of October, it was cutting it fine as I wouldn’t be out of plaster until the end of September, but he didn’t want to change the team at this stage.

I spent a month in plaster and then went back to have the plaster removed, if you have ever had limb put in plaster, you’ll know there is that moment of shock when the plaster is removed and a skinny looking thing with pale, flaking skin is there in front of you.  Where had it gone, my leg was tiny now from the calf down, in fact it still is, my right leg still looks skinny compared to the left, even after almost thirty years.

They told me to keep my weight of it for a week or so and to use crutches to get around.  I had use crutches for the first few days it was in plaster, but as they had given me a shoe to wear for the plaster, I had just walked around with that without using the crutches, I hated them.  So after walking home using the crutches, as soon as I got home, I put them aside and refused to use them ever again.  That was a Friday morning, I went to watch training that evening, but being sat there, with my foot out of plaster, I found it irritating not being able to do anything, so Sunday afternoon I defied Doctor’s orders and went back training.  I tried to take it easy, but soon got caught up in trying as hard as everyone else, some things were hard, I couldn’t turn on that foot as easily as I used to be able to, but after a few weeks, it was business as usual and our team was back practicing for the regionals.

We performed well, but I guess our lack of practice costs us, we failed to make the final, it was close, but we missed out.  I didn’t fight that year because of the ankle injury, only kata and team kata, but missed out on medals in both, maybe next year.

At the end of 1988 there were two open competitions that would be on back to back weekends, one at Newark on the last Sunday of November and then one in Ipswich on the Saturday after, which was made more interesting as we moved house the day before.  At the Newark Open I was entered in kata and kumite, I made it through to both finals that day, I finished third in the kata and then faced an old club mate in the final of the kumite.

Malcolm was a good fighter, I can’t remember the exact reason why, but he wasn’t training with us at that time, he was training with another local club, although we were all still good friends.  This competition was run on the unusual rules and they made us wear body armour and head protection, neither of us were used to this, but we made the most of it.  In the final I took the lead, fighting my usual way, just waiting for the opponent to come in, then counter attacking, I was leading when Malcolm made a series of punches to the head, the referee firstly warned him and then the second time disqualified him, as he announced it we both stood there wondering what was going on, I wasn’t particularly bothered by the punches, it was the head gear that was making it awkward, but the referees decision was final, I was awarded the fight, I was leading anyway, but still I didn’t want to win that way.

So the next weekend we went to Ipswich, I was in kata and kumite once again, but also in the team kata with Darren and Ian, as the eliminations went on I made the kata final and the team kata final, in the afternoon we had the kumite.  After fighting the previous week on the defensive, I decided to change my style in the first fight, I was against a lad I had beaten the weekend before, I decided to attack, pretty soon I lost the first point and almost lost the second, which would have seen me eliminated, Alan was refereeing and he gave me a look as if to say “what the heck are you doing!”  So I returned to my old style, I took the second point and then the decider to win the fight, so for the rest of the day I kept those same tactics, wait for them to come, I made the final once again and for the second weekend, it was me verses Malcolm, his chance for revenge from the weekend before.

I finished third once again in the kata, in the team kata we finished second and then it was the final of the kumite.  It was I guess a bit of a grudge match, this time no silly rules, no body armour and no head gear which caused more problems than it was worth, we were fighting the way we knew best, no gimics.

I kept the same tactics, wait and counter attack, Malcom was an aggressive fighter and liked to attack, so it was down to who was quickest, I took the first point by counter attacking and then the second doing the same, I was champion again for the second weekend running and any controversy or doubt about the result the week before was settled, we were still friends and remain so to this day.

It was a good return for seven very busy days, five trophies, two firsts, a second and two thirds, it was a good way to end a difficult year, but the bar was set for the year to come.

RISE TODAY by ALTER BRIDGE
The wind is blowing cold
Have we lost our way tonight?
Have we lost our hope to sorrow?

Feels like we’re all alone
Running further from what’s right
And there are no more heroes to follow

So what are we becoming?
Where did we go wrong?

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
Oh, won’t you rise today
And change this world?

The sun is beating down
Are we ever gonna change
Can we stop the blood from running?

Our time is running out
Hope we find a better way
Before we find we’re left with nothing

For every life that’s taken
So much love is wasted

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
So won’t you rise today
And change

This world
Only love can set it right
This world
If only peace would never die

Seems to me that we’ve got each other wrong
Was the enemy just your brother all along?

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
Oh won’t you rise today
And change this world?

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Discovering The Heart Of A Champion

The Church I attend is called Everyday Champions Church, that was the Church I walked into on the 1st April 2012, just three days after finishing my last drink.   We have a motto as such which is “There Is More In You Than You Think”.

Over the last few weeks in our Connect Groups we have been discussing what it means to be an Everyday Champion, what it is that drives us on to be the best we can be.  A couple of weeks ago in our Group, my mind was drawn back to a comment I had heard, a quotation that a famous Karate Instructor had said and when I went away to find the actual quote, I came across a story I had heard before, but now found more relevant than ever.

Back in 1957, the Japan Karate Association organised the first All Japan Karate Championships, which was probably the first Nationally organised karate competition in the world.  One student, Kanazawa Sensei was training for this competition, until just four days before he broke his right hand training.  The J.K.A. withdrew him from the competition because of the injury.

His mother had travelled to Tokyo to watch her Son compete, when she arrived he told that he was unable to compete due to the injury to his hand, but she didn’t understand why he couldn’t.  He tried to explain that he wasn’t allowed, due to the injury and she questioned him further.  She asked if he only used his right hand, didn’t he have another hand and two leg also, couldn’t he use them?

She told him to go back to the J.K.A. and ask to be allowed to compete.  The J.K.A. eventually agreed, on the provision that he had a doctor with him that would take responsibility for the injury.  So he went along to compete, hoping to win just one fight for his on looking mother.

In the competition he used his left hand to block his opponents and counter with kicks, he won his first fight, then another and another, until he made the final.  In the final he once again used his legs to score the points that saw him crowned the first All Japan Karate Champion.

Years later he travel to England to teach, he was introduced as a Champion of all Japan and students would congratulate him on becoming champion, he would usually respond  with “Thank you but please remember that I was only a karate champion for that one day, what about all the other days of the year?” Then he would say. “Karate is not just about being a champion on one day of the whole year but karate is about how hard you train in order to perfect your karate and yourself all the time, for every day, not just one”.

The story of that first karate championships is a great example of how we think.  He only saw what he didn’t have, concentrating on what he had lost, his mother looked not to what was lost, but made him look to what he had, to use that and go out and win, she changed his thinking and his mentality.

We see a parallel here with many stories and heros of the Bible, the likes of Moses, when God instructed him to lead the Isralites out of Egypt, he saw his inability to speak as a reason he couldn’t do it, but God saw the heart inside and sent Moses anyway, sending Aaron to speak for him, God saw what Moses did have, rather than what he was lacking.

In Jeremiah 1, we see the same issue, God instructs Jeremiah to go out to be a Prophet among the Nations, but Jeremiah responds with what he does have as an excuse, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.”  God sent him out anyway, seeing what Jeremiah had rather than what he lacked.

Despite being a karate champion, Kanazawa Sensei saw that as only one act, just that day, he saw his training as his way to perfect his character each day, to be the best person he could be.  In karate we have what is called the Dojo Kun, five ideals we strive to be:

  • Seek perfection of character
  • Be Faithful
  • Endeavor
  • Respect others
  • Refrain from violent behaviour

Kanazawa strove to live out this code in his daily life, not just a champion for that one day, but to live as a champion everyday.

Unfortunately these days we see too many champions of sport, not just karate, who fail to live this way, though they train to win on that one day, the rest of the time they unfortunately fail as human beings, consumed by success and riches gained, rather than living the real life of a champion.

We see in David, a champion on the battle field who strove to live the life of a champion everyday.  We see when he accepted the challenge of Goliath, it was those around him that saw only what he didn’t have, they saw him as young and small, inexperience and not a warrior, they didn’t see what David had.  Even Saul didn’t see what David had, otherwise he would have taken the challenge himself.  We don’t see Saul get down on his knees and pray to God, he was the King of the Israel, yet he never saw what he had on his side, only what he didn’t.

David on the other hand knew he had God with him, he answered Saul’s doubt with “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” He knew he had God with him, he had all he needed and as we know he defeated Goliath.

We are all guilty of seeing what we lack, me included, I see everything I don’t have as a reason not to be the person God made me to be, I see all that is wrong with my life, forgetting about all that I have and what God has given me.

I may have overcome so much, but there is still much I am afraid to do, because I have fear in what I don’t have, rather than confidence in the God I have with me always, I just need to keep believing, like David, that the God that has delivered me from so much, will deliver me in all the battles I face.

What is it that you see as a reason not to face the challenges before you?

What is it that you don’t have that stops you from competing?

What is it that you believe you don’t have that stops you being a champion everyday?

For we all have God with us, in every battle, in every fight, so what is it that stops us living as a Champion?

WHOM SHALL I FEAR (GOD OF ANGEL ARMIES) by CHRIS TOMLIN
You hear me when I call
You are my morning song
Though darkness fills the night
It cannot hide the light

Whom shall I fear

You crush the enemy
Underneath my feet
You are my sword and shield
Though troubles linger still

Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

My strength is in Your name
For You alone can save
You will deliver me
Yours is the victory

Whom shall I fear
Whom shall I fear

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding on to Your promises

You are faithful
You are faithful

And nothing formed against me shall stand
You hold the whole world in Your hands
I’m holding on to Your promises

You are faithful
You are faithful
You are faithful

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

I know who goes before me
I know who stands behind
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The one who reigns forever
He is a friend of mine
The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

The God of angel armies
Is always by my side

National Champion

So after 30 years of competing, I’ve finally called it a day, but I’ve finished with a bang!

I retire as Mens Kata National Champion, again.

I’ve crawled and climbed my way back to the top.

It’s been an emotional day, it’s 10.40pm and where just leaving for home, I’ve been up since 4.45am, plus it’s at least a three hour drive!

I’ll sleep well tonight!

Thank you for all your support and encouragement.

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