For the first time EVER students of Inoue-ha Shito-ryu Karate get a chance to prove themselves against other practitioners of the same style from all over the globe. September 19th, 2010, I took the plunge and got in the car for what would be an incredibly eventful day. After 4 an a half hours, 5 times of re-entering the address in my GPS, lots of water and ponds(via Everglades), and having to ask directions from several polite gas station workers, I arrived at the Hotel in which the event was being held. As I walked in I immediately was overwhelmed by the smell of sweat, and a nervous energy. I was able to follow the lime green signs pointing up the hall, down the side, through a shop, up 2 floors of escalators, a quick stop outside, and a big hallway that led to the ballroom in which it was held. Never have I seen so many people wearing white robes, strangely colored belts, and my personal favorite… LOTS of hair gel. I walked onto the main floor and spotted 7-8 blue and red squares about 20 by 20 feet each. In front of every square, there was a table in which time keepers, score keepers, and judges sat. At every side of the mat, judges sat with one blue flag, and one red flag in both hands to signal the winner. When 2 competitors have completed their forms against eachother, each judge raises his or her flag in the favor of the color of belt the competitor they think won is wearing. The competitor with the majority of the judges flags in their favor wins, and progresses to the next round. There was also a steel protective hand rail going around the entire performance area, and a relatively large warm-up area as well. Up on a pedestal sat the Grandmaster, and his head instructors at an excellent vantage point, and a large 25 ft. table. When it was time to start, he stood up, said a few words, and the games began.
Since they started with the very young children who weren’t incredibly entertaining to watch, I went back to observe the competitors warming up. It was there that I found a young man by the name of Lucas Abbott. I had met him the previous week before at another tournament in Estero, Florida where he took first place. Later on in an interview with me, he told me about this tournament, and I was so excited, I couldn’t pass it up. Lucas looked as blond as always, and didn’t seem nervous at all. He introduced me to his team, and instructor before being called to his ring with the rest of his division.
I took my chair as the 14-15 year old division began. Unfortunately I was not able to talk to the competitors and get permission to use their names, but I’ll explain best what I saw. The 14-15 year old division was intense, and far surpassed sitting on my couch watching the old Karate Kid movies. As the 14-15 year old division cleared out, the 16-18 year old girl division went into the ring where the 14-15 year old division vacated. I didn’t know what to expect from the girls because I’ve never seen girls compete in Karate before. The group consisted of about 6 girls. 2 of them were from Peru, 3 from U.S.A., and 1 from a country I’ve never heard of before. The girls performed their forms with ridiculous speed, and amazing flexibility which gave them tremendous stances. 1 Peruvian, and 1 American was at the final, and the Peruvian was able to get the win, and was crowned World Champion.
Next was the 16-18 year old boy division. First off, Kata. An all familiar sound echoed as Lucas Abbott representing the U.S.A. stepped up and began his form. His gi echoed with an amazing loud snap, and he looked 200 times better than he did in Estero. He was against what I believe to be 2 Cubans, who were also very good competitors. Lucas beat his competition to move on to the Final. There he was against another Cuban. He did the same form as his competitor but unfortunately lost 3-2 on the judges decision.
Next was sparring. Lucas was against the same people who he beat in Kata. He and his competition suited up in small gloves, shin guards, and foot pads. Lucas was up first, and when his match began he scored an instant takedown, but was not credited. He kicked his opponent in the head, but it was ruled excessive contact, and he was penalized. Lucas lost to his skilled opponent who outscored him 4-1. He was then in the match for 3rd place against the man he lost to in Kata. He proceeded to hit his opponent in the face 5 times, each of which getting ruled excessive contact, and lost 6-0 on penalty points. Lucas ended up doing fantastic against amazing competition, and managed to get crowned 2nd in the World in kata, and 4th in the World in Sparring.
After they cleared out, the adult division was up. Champions from all around the word came to compete. First up was the women, most of which came all the way from Japan to compete. They moved so fast I literally could not see their limbs move until they were in their extended position. After 7 rounds, a Japanese woman by the name of Rika Usami performed beautifully to win the title of number 1 in the World.
Than the men came up to complete the final group of the event. In this group, there was several Swedes, 2 people from Peru, 1 Cuban, and the current World Champion and Venezuelan, Antonio Diaz. Competitors left it all on the line, as they performed katas with scary power and speed. Eventually it came down to a Peruvian, and Antonio Diaz. Antonio Diaz performed one of the oldest katas in existence, and was able to win all 5 judges discision, and be crowned the World Champion.
This tournament was amazing. The trip and confusion was worth it to see the best of the best compete. I look forward to next year, when competitors travel to keep their titles, or worse… compete for revenge.
The official publisher of “The GatorTail Times”Has written many articles, and is one of the biigest rising new author in Tampa, Florida – John Callum