USKFI 16th National Championships
Over the weekend the USKFI held the 16th National Championships at the Phibblestown Karate Club. The tournament would be considered one of the most prestigious home competitions on the USKFI calendar which attracts members from the length and breadth of Ireland. With each year that passes the USKFI continues to go from strength to strength; this was evident with the large volume of competitors in attendance and the high standard of Shotokan karate they brought to the tournament.
Before the competition commenced the USKFI held a minutes silence to pay respects to N.I.S.K.A's Zachary Geddis who recently passed away. The USKFI offered their condolences to the family and teammates of Zachary who was a regular competitor at our championships over the years. In society nowadays and with the increasing influence of social media it can appear people's lives are complete and everything can appear to be going well externally but this may not always be the case. The USKFI would like to raise awareness of mental health and remind people although they may feel alone at times there is always somebody to talk to. This especially applies when you're part of such a fantastic art like karate; we're all part of one family and there will always be somebody there to support in times of need.
With all competitors in place the bells rang out and it was time to get down to business; with close to 180 competitors in attendance we had the makings of a fantastic day of competition. The tournament opened with the Children's Kata events. Separated into three categories; under ten yrs. novice, under 15yrs. novice and under 16yrs. brown & black belts. We saw some great kids coming through the novice section; Rian Brennan, Jason Curran and Majus Jonas to name but a few. We had two competitors in particular stand out in this event; Lucy Kennedy & Maxim Coibhan. After sailing through the eliminations they met in the final where Lucy eventually took home first place after a fine performance of Heian Nidan. In the Kata event for the 11-15year old novice we had a number of stand out performers; Ballymun SKC's Lochlann Gibson & Blacklion's Lucas Garcia were excellent in the eliminations narrowly missing out on a place in the final to two superb competitors; Navan SKC's Eoin Lavina and Lucan's Finn O Connor. The two lads were consistent throughout their performances maintaining an excellent standard but when the two faced off in the final it would be Eoin's turn to take the title home to Navan.
(Hannah Duffy Greystones SKC from takes on Amy Stynes Blacklion SKC in the Sanbon Kumite final)
In the brown and black belt Kata section there was so much talent on display. With a number of our international seasoned squad members in this category it's always a tough event. With this in mind it sets the bar very high and pushes each competitor to improve and increase their standard. We saw up and coming stars like Newbridge's Anna Louise Lumingkit and Phibblestown's Alex Shortt to name but a few clipping at the heels of our more experienced competitors; certainly ones to watch for the future. For the final of this event we saw a repeat of a previous final where Phibblestown's Ray Foysal took on Navan SKC's Leon Hoban. Ray had to settle for silver as Leon eventually went on to take home the title after a fine performance of Kata Gojushiho Sho; two fantastic competitors who certainly set the standard for others to aspire to. After the children's kata events concluded we moved onto Senior Kata and Team Kata. We had sixteen teams compete for the title of team kata champions. A tough event to judge with so many excellent teams battling it out. After a short break from team kata we saw Corduff SKC come back into the fold with Lauren Royle captaining her team to take on Phibblestown SKC in the final. After a close final match Phibblestown SKC retained their title for the 3rd year in a row. In the senior kata event we saw Sean O Connor take on Andrew Mills and after a very tight final with both competitors performing Kata Enpi Andrew eventually pipped Sean to the title.
(Leon Hoban on way to Gold)
With all the Kata events had wrapped up we moved onto the Kumite events. Starting out with the Sanbon & Ippon Kumite events for students under ten yrs. Three packed out events where we identified some excellent karateka coming through the ranks. Although the majority of competitors in these events are at a very tender age and grade it did not stop them showing a true karate spirit and determination. We witnessed Greystones SKC's Luke Murphy & Hannah Duffy accompanied by NISKA's Ben Todd top the podium for their respective events and brandish their medals with pride accompanied by big smiles.
Arisha Foysal takes on Ben Todd in the Ippon Kumite Final
Next up was the Jiyu Kumite or "freestyle" events. With a wide range of categories to suit our members from 10yrs. right up to senior kumite again we had loaded draw sheets for each event. In the girl's kumite events we had a number of standout performers. Kingscourt SKC's Rachel McEneaney took the title in the 10-11yrs. girls’ event after a tough match up with competition debutant Hafsa Ali Khan. Both girls were on fire in the eliminations and were deserved finalists. Rachel's additional experience stood to her and her composure saw her through to top the podium. In the girl's 12-15 categories we saw Corduff's Lisa Meagher-Behan do particularly well. Lisa who is also relatively new to competition took to kumite like a complete natural scoring some impressive long range gyaku tsukis in the process; another strong competitor to watch for in the future. For the final of the girl’s event we saw a battle between two regulars to the podium; Sophie Farrell and Tori Maher. Two squad members with invaluable experience behind them battled it out to claim the title of National Champion. Tori shows a strength and dominance on the tatami and is certainly a force to be reckoned with; with this being said Sophie is no pushover and with her sharp gyaku tsukis really put the pressure on Tori. After a super fight between these too admirable young ladies Tori came out on top claiming the title.
(Nadir scores with Jodan Gyaku Tsuki)
In the boys 10yrs category we witnessed Corduff SKC's Nadir Ghanem take up where he left off at the recent Youth Championships to take his second title in a row after a fantastic display dominating his opponents in a decisive fashion. In the 12-15yrs boys category Navan's SKC Leon Hoban continues to go from strength to strength with his superb performances. His quality, tenacity & determination on the tatami continue to flourish and enhance with each tournament. Leon was tremendous in the eliminations and even after a tough battle where he incurred a strong blow to the nose from Lucan's Ciaran O Connor Leon showed the spirit of a true champion and came back to beat Ciaran to secure his place in the final where he eventually took home gold.
(Amine Ghanem in action)
Next up on the jam-packed schedule was the junior men 16-20yrs kumite. With many seasoned international competitors in this category it had all the ingredients for some spine tingling clashes. To kick-start the event we saw a replay of the finals of the Youth championships with Lucan's Sean O Connor facing off against Corduff's Yacine Ghanem. A close contest from two excellent competitors but once again Yacine came out on top with his lightning speed getting the better of Sean. Yacine is certainly developing into a world class competitor and if he keeps going the way he is he has a very bright future ahead.
To wrap up the individual events we saw the senior men take to the mats. We had a mixture of karateka participating in this event from newcomers to accomplished seasoned competitors. We were also happy welcome past squad member James Hughes and his brother Adam back to competition along with James Keegan. The lads were in flying form and it was as if they hadn't been away after some fine performances in the eliminations. Stand out performers in this event were Andrew Mills and Sean O Connor, they both dominated their opponents and brushed them aside in a clinical fashion. Eventually they would meet in the finals for what turned out to be a terrific contest. The two guys who are approaching the peak of their competition careers put on a spectacle for the expectant audience. Andrew took the first wazari with a sharp gyaku tsuki counter attack but Sean kept the pressure and managed to get a wazari back to bring it level again. The match restarted and Sean was relentless in pressing for the winning point. He backed Andrew into the corner and struck with a lightening quick kizami tsuki followed by a jodan mawashi geri to win the match by ippon.
(Ray Foysal in action)
To finish up an action packed day of competition it was time for the finals of the team kumite events. As karate is usually more so an individual personal sport it was nice to see the Executive Committee reintroduce the team kumite events for our National Championships. These events were of course free of charge for our members as a small token of appreciation for their dedication, commitment and loyalty to the USKFI. The team events brought an extra buzz of excitement to the tournament and the atmosphere that had been building throughout the day was at fever pitch by this point as the teams lined up. We had Kingscourt v Corduff for the boy's 10-11yrs, NISKA v Corduff for the 12-15 boys, Kingscourt v Newbridge for the girls 12-15yrs final and Corduff v NISKA for the senior men's final. Each match was a hard fought battle from the youngest competitor right through to the senior event.
(Lisa Meagher in action)
The final event of the day saw Corduff SKC men's team take on NISKA; a contest of North V South. It was an electrifying bout with the two teams consisting of competitors that had dominated the individual and team events throughout the day. Yacine was out first and took the win for Corduff scoring decisively against NISKA's Kevin Diamond. Next up Nik Lebadoks took on NISKA's Andrew Mills; a tight contest between the two men. With the score level in the closing seconds of the match Andrew went for it and scored to take the win to NISKA. At one win each it was down to Corduff's Niall Berwick & NISKA's Aidan O Boyle to decide the bout. With the captivated audience watching every move both competitors sized each other up. Aidan went in with a sharp jodan attack taking the score to 1-0. The match restarted and Niall pursued Aidan with a dogged determination; with a quick fake with the left Niall stepped through to score a fantastic right handed jodan attack. As the attack reached its target the audience’s applause hit an ear-piercing crescendo. Although it was a superb strike from Niall, one could even argue borderline ippon it had only brought the match level. With only a win in mind both competitors went for it and in the blink of an eye Aidan nicked the final point to award the title to NISKA. A fabulous nail biting end to what had been a superb tournament.
Before it was time to close the show there was one more trophy to be awarded; the most outstanding competitor. Although there were a couple of people in contention there could only be one winner. It was a unanimous decision by the Referee’s committee the most outstanding competitor of the day was Navan SKC’s Leon Hoban. Once again Leon dominated his events taking gold in both demonstrating a superior level of karate; a well-deserved award for Leon to add an ever expanding list of titles.
That brought a close to another successful event for the USKFI. Throughout the day of the tournament and the days that followed there has been so much positive feedback from members, parents and spectators. The USKFI would like to thank the very dedicated team behind making this event as successful as it was; the handful of people that set up the venue the day prior to the competition; the Referees, Judges and Officials that worked tirelessly throughout the day to ensure the smooth running of the event; the parents and spectators and finally to the fantastic competitors that graced the mats and put on a fantastic spectacle to entertain for the day.