Thursday, April 9, 2009

Back from the World Cup!

Well that was that- Yuko and I are just starting to get back into the swing of things after an exhausting World Cup. I was coming off a long bout of flu and Yuko caught mine right in the thick of things. Oh what fun we had!

Many, many thanks to David Barker, Bob Sidoli and Kristiansund
Well there were many highlights and hardships, but before anything, I would like to offer our deep appreciation and thanks, on behalf of everyone here in the KWF HQ, for David Barker in particular for his wonderful work in making this event happen. And of course to Robert Sidoli Sensei, who is an old hand at conjuring up magic solutions from his dogi. And right behind them was a small army of KWF Norway students, and sponsors and local people of Kristiansund. Fantastic.

Kristiansund is a beautiful town with great people. Have I gushed enough? Have I ever! We were made to feel very at home and we really appreciate all the work of all those who worked so hard.

All's Well that Ends Well
I may be writing up a formal article on the event later, so this is just a very informal take. OK, make that a personal take. Before anything else, I would like to say congratulations to all the competitors. I can't give myself a pat on the back because (a) my left shoulder seems permanently incapable of full movement and (b) my right ribs are restricting movement with my right hand and (c), the real reason, because I sucked

As I quite get a thrill from Shiai, despite my decrepitude, I have promised myself that for next year I will enter that strange and complex world of tactics! 

Personal Highlights
Highlights for me were getting kicked around by high-level senseis, not getting kicked around too much on the mat, and eating reindeer burgers and enjoying the local revelry. Above all else it was meeting fine people from all over the world.

Personal highlights as they happened (roughly)

1. Shane Dorfman Sensei's mawashi-geri Seminar.
Those of you familiar with Sensei Shane- I have been lucky enough never to have been on the receiving end of a beautifully executed kizami-zuki or mawashi-geri will know what I am talking about. As Darth Vader would say...."most impresssive..."

The other great thing behind all that power is control, which seems to be particularly valued by Yahara Sensei and Isaka Sensei. It's really easy to hurt people (seriously) if you are wearing those 2-3mm thick KWF knuckle pads. The quality comes in the control. (SEE BELOW).

2. Having the "Mori-kick" done on me by YS in the Judge Training Course.
I was supposed to be translator, but I also turned out to be aite (partner, aka dogs body). So this meant whenever someone had to make a point, they did so on me. Much to my surprise, YS asked me to throw him. Well, it's not often you get a chance to throw YS over your shoulder, so I went for's been a long time since I did a left hand ippon-seoi-nage and BONK!!! he promptly kicked me in the side of the when he landed, just like that famous shiai with Mori Sensei. My jaw is still aching from that.

3. Having the YS Kani-Basami done on me.For those of you not familiar with this particular move, it's it's crab claws takedown. I was standing there when all of a sudden YS popped under my radar. I felt these sort of steely things trapped around my legs and then a fraction of a second wobble and BANG! "DONG!!" "DONG!!" I went down like a ton of bricks then YS kicked me in the side and then the head. I briefly got a very close glimpse of the ball of YS foot- it's sort of been imprinted in my memory since.

4. Having IS hurl me backwards.
Now this was really very unsettling. Can you imagine standing in the sea and looking out on the horizon, and then suddenly out of nowhere a wave knocks you flat? IS was demonstrating about how to control space and asked me to face him. Suddenly, like some sort of mini-space warp I felt his fingers on my throat and then WHHAANG! I was down backwards.

This was very peculiar because it was like Aikido. One second IS was somewhere, the next he in my face, and at the touch of his hand I went down. It wasn't at all painful and he barely made contact with me- certainly not enough to throw me back and down. The only other times I've had this experience is with my old Aikdo sensei Saito Sensei (7th dan) who could throw me across a room just by touching me.

A few days later we were walking toward the restaurant in Copenhagen where we were going to have an evening meal and for some reason me, the worst, weakest and most feeble guy in the group by a considerable distance, was entrusted with carrying the valuables. IS asked me if I was OK with this and I said fine, but I felt sorry for anyone who mistook IS for some elderly gentlemen easy victim target in a mugging. IS turned around to me and said in English, "No Paul san, I no hurt, PEACE!" he said with a big grin.

"Oh yeah?" I thought.

6. Sid Tadrist Sensei's Oi-zuki Ippon
I am a big fan of Sid Tadrist Sensei because apart from having consummate skill, he has such a varied arsenal and seems to be able to switch from offense to defense, stalk and trap opponents. Anyway, "win or loose" he's always in complete control. The funny thing was just before one of the semi-finals I think he was talking to me, saying "I don't use oi-zuki much, only when necessary," and in the next shiai POW! out it came, a picture perfect peach of a punch! It made me so happy to see such perfect technique. The sports Karate people just don't understand this.

7. Masamichi Otsuka Sensei's Gojushiho-sho.
Actually he placed second to Ibuki Tawara's Sochin. Both kata looked great to me. But I have seen Ibuki's Sochin for years, whereas Otsuka Sensei was asked just a couple of months ago to switch to Gojushiho-sho instead of Unsu. (You should see Otsuka Sensei's Unsu- it's a masterpiece!) Not bad for a guy who hasn't competed for six years...

8. Shane Dorfman Sensei's Enbu
Now this was awesome- the budo power and control- control being an essential quality, I am learning more and more- of this display was breathtaking. IS turned around to me just as Shane Sensei had launched a breathtaking jodan tobi-geri and just touched the face of the aite. IS grinned ear-to-ear and said "That was a great display of control."

9. Being upgraded by SAS! ;-)
Look, I only judge people by the way they treat me: I like polite intelligent people, and I don't like rude, stupid people. Simple. IS was flying Economy Extra and the nice staff at Oslo decided to upgrade him to Business Class. I walked up to them and thanked them so much because IS was a famous Karate master we really appreciated it. She gave a big smile and promptly upgraded the rest of us to Economy Extra, which is roughly equivalent to what Business Class was a decade a go. Free champagne all round!

10. Friends, Karateka and Kallender
Above all else, it was really great to meet old friends. You know who you are!

The Lowlights:
If there was one lowlight of the trip it was the so called "pizza," an absolute abomination disguised as semi-edible comfort food at Oslo airport. This truly is a foul culinary blot on the fine crisp Nordic landscape that should be bulldozed out onto the tundra.

If you arrive as we did after a long-haul flight in luggage class, you may well be deceived by the seemingly succulent wafts of cheese and oven baked crust wafting through the airport. So you have been awake for a day and you just couldn't face that anemic plastic half frozen "roll" on your sad little tray. You are starving. What better than a pizza?
...nonononononoNO! Geen! Nein! Rein! DA-ME!

In Oslo airport, it's what's worse than their pizza: you pay a fortune for a huge circular blob of bland cheese with nondescript chunks of used tires, dead frozen mystery animals and ...things I just don't understand...

OK, apart fromt the dreadful, dreary, disgraceful pizza, the rest of our nordic experience was awesome!
Back to normal service soon...

Yoroshiku ;-)


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