Back in 2014 we had hosted a relatively informal competition at the East Meon Dojo followed by a family picnic to support the members of the Petersfield, South Downs and Kokoro dojo’s as they began to compete. Our established Christmas competition had grown from Sensei Williams Paulsgrove-dojo tournament and the summer event was conceived to compliment that event and build the children’s confidence and exposure. In May 2015 the Applied Karate Association was formed. Suddenly we had a plethora of jobs and tasks to complete. We also had some significant obligations to fulfil. The first of which was our children’s competition scheduled to take place at the Petersfield dojo in the July. One of the significant challenges for a new organisation is the availability of referees, timekeepers and willing helpers able to support an event in the various roles and capacities that are often unseen but essential to its success. We were extremely grateful that our wider membership demonstrated fantastic support and helped us deliver our first competition as an independent association.
When we look back at images from that first competition, we can reflect on how far we have come in that first four years. We have invested in our own mats, podiums, banners and we always ensure our trophies echo the effort required to win them. We have moved to progressively bigger venues and are now at The Mountbatten Centre in Portsmouth where we grew up on the mats. Even more impressive is that so many of the faces in those images from four years ago are found smiling out of this year’s photographs. The grinning six-year-old clutching a participation medal is now a confident ten-year-old standing on a podium. The green belt teenager is now a confident black belt cadet who competes with our squad and confidently medals on the open circuit. Perhaps most significantly you spot the corner judge who has evolved to the tatami chief of the progress grades, whose support and patience with the young ones is so crucial to their development. He is supported by people who jumped in with both feet four years ago to corner judge and run tables and now they do so with increasing confidence and style thanks to the development provided by Sensei Chris Carr. It is so rewarding to see such evidence of everyone’s development, especially when it is fuelled by the desire simply to get involved and help!
For this year’s event we had invited some old friends and their teams to compete to enrich the day and add to the atmosphere. Sensei Adam Cockfield of the Total Shotokan Group and Sensei Steve Bailes of HDKI attended with their teams and both teams proved a credit to themselves and their associations both in karate standard and demeanour. We were also supported in a refereeing capacity by the wider karate community. Senseis Paul Moreby and Jim Lewis (who as our seniors have witnessed our personal development) and our great friend Eden Burrell worked tirelessly to support our competitors with experienced and fair leadership on the mats. We are all extremely grateful for this support.
As an association we are passionate about affording our members the opportunity to grow, develop and have life experiences together facilitated by karate. We were thrilled to introduce Sensei Daniel Walton 4th dan to the crowd. Dan and his brothers grew up with us in SEKU and we competed throughout Europe and the UK as a team. To us he is karate family and a person whose ability, ethic and pedigree we greatly respect. The AKA now has a fantastic dojo in Cornwall to spread our wider message and enthusiasm.
In my speech at the end of the competition I explained that I personally consider karate a ‘privileged obligation’. I feel that we ALL have a responsibility to recognise what Karate has provided for us and ultimately strive to give some of this back. Broadly speaking the majority of our association are already doing this and that is so pleasing to see. Now it is crucial that our cadets compete to display their ability and inspire those curious and unsure beginners. A number of these guys from SDKC performed a skilled and fun demonstration...perhaps their next development will provide opportunity to coach this younger generation?
Whilst many surprised themselves, inevitably others were frustrated by their own performances, the challenge of a tough draw or some close decisions that they felt could have gone their way. Ultimately this is all part of the challenge. Champions have had to lose to appreciate victory. In our competitions we have seen confidence grow and sometimes be crushed. What is always impressive is how the individual reflects and develops on the performance or result. Our images from this year’s event feature some champions who are simply a face in the crowd from that first event in 2014. They have grown, developed and achieved because of considered effort and determination. In some cases, they have overcome previous frustrations or extreme nerves and self-doubt.
To any of our juniors who left the competition a little deflated, remember that tomorrows success starts today. Focus on your goals, look to the older competitors for inspiration and grab the opportunity with both hands. To our cadets, please recognise that in many ways your role now is to shine and inspire the younger ones. Your example will fuel their desire! This is your privilege.