After a fairly clear two-hour run to Bournemouth, we arrived at the 7th Legend Shotokan Open raring to go. This was to be my first tournament back in a few years, so when I say raring to go, I mean shaking with nerves and feeling a little green.
The tournament was held in a large leisure centre, in particular in a hall that could fit three tatamis. There were a few competitors already warming up, but the entry numbers didn’t seem to be massive, so I had high hopes of being home by six, all snuggled up reading a good book. My plans were scuppered as soon as I saw the point flip charts for kata. This instantly meant that the kata sections were going to last considerably longer than they would if we were using flags and the repecharge system.
I am a fan of the points system, as I always saw it as being a fairer system, but – I have to admit – it irritates me a little, because of two reasons. One, it takes so much longer, and two, because there always seems to be one referee who’s points are either massively higher or significantly lower that the others, and today was no exception. This inconsistency means nothing to competitors as long as each judge stays consistent within their own scoring, but it can be a little irritating, as it makes final scores very unpredictable, especially when there are only three judges, so top and bottom scores are not dropped off.
Other than that point the tournament began very well as far as kata was concerned, with a particularly strong Male Senior Kata event. Normally when you watch a tournament you can more or less pinpoint the top four in each category but this was different. With so many strong competitors it was anyone’s guess as to who would make the final.
Ladies Kata was a terrifying event – obviously just from my viewpoint – with some strong competitors evident immediately. The first rounds were Heian Kata, and I stood on the tatami, just waiting for the referee to call out Heian Shodan, as he has called for me every time I have entered this tournament, but to my surprise he called Heian Nidan and I was off! With pointers from my coach Paul Herbert my kata improved from round to round, and saw me through to the top four. The event went well, with Tracy Corby (SEKU) eventually winning the event. Corby (SEKU) also went on to win the Female Senior Kumite event, after facing off against a strong fighter in the category Rhiannon Davies (Dartford SKC).
The Kumite events were excellent, running with the referee and shadow referee system.
One finalist in the Senior Male Kumite 9th to 4th Kyu who stood out was Ben Leaver (Dartford SKC). Being one of his first tournaments, Ben showed focus and ability to take home gold. The competitors showed slick, sharp techniques, with one fighter in particular standing out. Steve Hollister (SEKU) was a real force to be reckoned with, fighting his way straight to the finals, using his sharp, focused techniques all the way. Hollister went through to the finals of Male Kumite, Male Kata and he and his team went through to the finals of Men’s Team Kumite. Steve went on to win the double, placing first in both Kata and Kumite, and he and the SEKU team went on to gain gold in the Men’s Teams. Good day for SEKU, who went on to win a good majority of the gold medals of the day. I would say it will be a close call between SEKU and SSKI for the official ‘Sweeper of the Boards’!
The Legend Open is a good quality, friendly tournament, and it is a shame it isn’t being supported better, especially by referees. The referees that did show up worked a very long day, and so took a dinner break for close to an hour after all the preliminary events took place. This break was a deserved one, but it did mean that competitors and those who had come to watch had to sit around for an hour killing time. If referees supported this tournament then maybe this hour break wouldn’t be needed, as the referees could break in shifts.
After a very, very long day the tournament was over, having handed out a massive amount of trophies and medals, officials, competitors and the like were finally allowed home. (And for those of you that are curious, I did bag myself a little trophy!)
We said our goodbyes to all the friendly, welcoming people that we had spent our day with (especially Dartford SKC and coach Paul, who adopted me for the day. Thanks!!) and headed home. Or in our case, headed as far as the local garage where our precious car decided to break down in between an RAC van and an AA van – the irony being that we are Green Flag members – I kid you not! Our day was about to become even longer but that’s another story!