The BJA’s drive to revive kata in Great Britain took another significant step forward with the British Kata Championships, held on October 13th at Samurai Judo Club.
The entry was three times as large as the 2018 entry, including pairs from all four Home Countries, and the event featured a new generation of judges led by Duncan Kinnear. Along with Les Davies, Alun Jones and Paul Jordan, he made up the main judging team, with Bob Cleevely, Alex Reid, Paul Laverty and Andrew Haffner also carrying some judging. The rule that judges cannot judge a category where they have players taking part who they have prepared was strictly enforced, which went down well with the participants. At the same time, judges not actively judging a category were used to give feedback to all players, another innovation which was well received.
The BJA has provided eight new trophies to be competed for each year, each named after a past or present British Kata legend. The organisers were also very pleased to welcome three guests of honour: Margaret and Wendy Thomas, wife and daughter of the great Bob Thomas, 8th Dan, a tremendous kata enthusiast and expert; and Geoff Moore, 5th Dan, who was half of the great kata pair of Walsh and Moore who thrilled audiences in the 1990s with their outstanding Gonosen-no-kata, considered by many to be pure judo poetry.
A new version of Gonosen-no-kata was returning to the event. This kata features realistic modern judo throws and counters to them, also including a fiendishly difficult slow motion section. It was no surprise that the Samurai duo of Olivia Turner and Jake Ashen, both of whom have won British golds in contest judo, took the gold medal, although the father and son combination of Roland and Jordan Fugh were not far behind in second place.
The Senior Nage-no-kata category was comfortably won by the Scottish wizards, Paul Laverty and Alex Reid. Samurai took second place via Matthew Martin and Stuart Lane and the pairing of Isabelle Bisgood and Jenny Smith from 61 Judo Club in Amersham were not far behind them in third place.
The Scots changed roles for Katame-no-kata, the groundwork kata, with Alex this time acting as tori (the attacker) and they notched up their second gold medal of the event despite being up against the largest entry in any kata on the day and with a very standard from all entrants. Northern Ireland came second with Nigel O’Neill and Dermot McCaul from Shinken-Shobo Ryu Judo Club. There was an incredibly close-run battle for third place, with Charlotte Preston and Nicholas Burke from Shizentai Judo Club in Hertfordshire edging out the Welsh pair of Mathew Wade and Paul Absalom from Haverfordwest by just one mark – 326 to 325!
In the first of the combat katas, the Goshin-Jutsu (the modern self-defence kata), the score was even closer: Ricky Cleevely and Richard Bannister from Shizentai edged out the busy Scots Reid and Laverty by again just one mark, 476 to 475. The Northern Ireland pair of O’Neill and McCaul were not far behind in third place either. In view of the high quality of this kata, two golds and a silver were awarded, though the trophy belonged to the Shizentai pair.
Another Shizentai pairing, Bob and Rocky Cleevely, produced an outstanding Kime-no-kata (the traditional self-defence kata) to run away with the gold medal. Katie Parkinson and Nick Elliott from Staveley Judo Club took silver with Nigel O’Neill and Dermot McCaul again in the medals with bronze.
Shizentai then achieved the hat-trick in the Ju-no-kata, the kata of gentleness, with another Cleevely pair, this time Victoria and Lisa, producing another crisp, beautifully defined and timed display to take the gold. Another Welsh pair, Tasha Mathias and Emyr Rees from Sanshirokwai, took silver with Roland and Jordan Fugh taking first bronze.
The Junior Nage-no-kata section resulted in a clean sweep for Samurai, with Cerys Jones and Sophie Davis taking gold just ahead of Katy Jennings and Jake Ashen in silver position, and Alannah Martin and Poppy Bowman just edging out Alannah’s younger brother Edward Martin and his partner Harrison Flello for the first bronze.
With there being no Junior Katame-no-kata entrants, Head Judge Duncan Kinnear was invited to award the trophy for this category, named after him, to whichever pair he felt most merited it, and he chose to give it to the pair he felt were most promising for the future, Cerys Jones and Sophie Davis.