Lakeland Open - August 2005

We had a great time in the Lake District over the August Bank Holiday weekend. Five of our fighting squad made the trip, and enjoyed every minute of it.

We had a great day on the seafront in Morecambe on the Saturday and participated in the competition on the Sunday.

First to fight were Phoebe 'Tigger' Harris and Harkirat Sekhon - both competing in the under 28kg category (born 94-95). Both fought excellently, taking on tough competitors from the North of England. Both girls also came away with bronze medals; a superb result.

Next up was Ken Kawamoto, competing in the under 34kg section of the same age band. Ken came through the early rounds with little resistance, but his final was a different matter. He had the tough Ramone Alexander - current National Champion. The fight went into golden score with both boys coming close to throwing for ten. Eventually Ken was thrown for a yuko and had to settle for the silver, but what a great contest!

Then, on into the 92-93 age band. Megan 'Mog' Howard, only a baby in the band, had tough bouts leading to her final, but she got there in the end. In her final she fought bravely but wasn't strong enough for her opponent - taking silver was an excellent result in this age band, however.

Last up was Taku Kawamoto, who fought a determined campaign and earned the gold as his reward.

To celebrate we took the whole team to Blackpool for the evening, where much fun was had by all.

Heart of England - September 2005

On Sunday 11th September 4 of our fighting squad travelled into the Midlands, three hoping to gain ranking points for next year's GB team. Our first fighter of the day, Lucy, was too young to gain points, but she showed that she will be ready soon. She won the A band -48kg group, with ease, to take the gold.

Next up was Megan in the B band -40kg section. She had a great day, narrowly losing for the bronze. This result still gave her valuable points for the ranking list.

Rifqa was our third competitor of the day, fighting in the B band -44kg group. Being a baby in the age band we were hoping for a win or two, but she fought magnificently, taking the bronze and 400 points.

Last up was Taku. He had a larger group to contend with, compared with the Sheffield Cadet event, but he put in a gutsy performance. He won his pool and the semi without too much trouble, leaving him with a potentially tough final. Taku pulled out all the stops though and finished comfortably in first place. This gave him another 1000 points, leaving him in a great position leading into the Junior Nationals at the beginning of October.

Ipswich Under 16 - September 2005

There were some excellent performances from our troop at this event. Phoebe started us off in the Under 28kg group. She dispatched her first round opponent with ease to move into her semi-final, against an old rival. Determined to beat her our Tigger attacked from the off, throwing for a 7 point score. She continued this into ground work and was soon in a holding position. She held on to the bell and won by Ippon. This put her in the final, which she lost, although fought confidently. Phoebe finished with an excellent silver.

Next up was Ken in the 34s. He had a very tough learning curve to climb in Ipswich. Ken realised that you must be looking to attack rather than defend, as much as possible, as hesitation cost him two matches. One of these was the bronze fight, leaving him in 5th place.

Megan fought very well in the Under 40kg section. In her final pool of 5 she won two and lost two (one to the current National Champion). This placed her 3rd.

Rifqa then took to the mat in the 44s and only lost to Nekoda Davis from Willesden. Rifqa put in a very focussed and technically varied performance - a great day. Coming away with a silver in an open under 16 is an excellent result.

Our final fighter of the day was Taku, Ken's big brother. He entered the u60kg, but unfortunately there was only one other fighter in the category. Taku fought it perfectly, taking the gold with ease. He then decided to compete in the u66kg group aswell, just for fun and a little extra training. However he hurt his arm in an early fight and had to withdraw, so no 2nd medal!

It is always really pleasing, as a coach, to see your judoka develop, and brining home all those medals at an open under 16 event was very rewarding, considering we are such a new club. Well done to everyone who fought in Ipswich!

Junior National Championships, Sheffield - October 2005

This year's Nationals were always going to be a tester for us, having never competed in the B, C or D bands before. Having club members competing at this level is like being examined on the club's ability to produce judoka of a high standard. If you medal at the Nationals you're heading in the right direction for competitive success.

On Saturday 8th October Taku was straight on to the mat at 9a.m. His group, 'B' band u60kg, were stationed at mat 6. Having had a good look at the draw we decided it was possible to win the event. Taku had beaten his first round opponent in the final at The Heart of England only a few weeks ago and he would probably be our toughest test.

With the warm-up complete Taku went out for his first bout... and caught him beautifully with a superbly timed foot sweep in the first 4 seconds. This victory put Taku into the quarter final. His Scottish opponent was a new-comer for us but Taku dispatched him on the ground, holding for Ippon.

Next, the semi. A great draw - a boy we were confident of beating. Taku threw him for ten and found himself with a firm footing in the final!

The final, however, started very differently from Taku's earlier contests. Inside the first exchange Taku was caught for a koka, leaving him chasing his Welsh opponent. This was an unexpected event and one Taku is not so used to. But he pulled out all the stops and with a minute to go he unleashed a powerful shoulder throw to finish the bout in his favour. That is when Taku became Great Britain National Champion.

On to Sunday, two fighters this time, both girls. First up, Mog in the u40kg 'B' band section. Mog fought out of her skin all day, beating her first two opponents brilliantly, having never beaten them before. With these wins came a heightened sense of expectation and just a little hope. Mog's semi-final was going to be a climb but one we thought possible, considering the earlier wins. She battled hard but was tripped for a koka at the halfway mark. No matter how hard she tried Mog just couldn't get it back. The closer we got to the bell the stronger Mog's attacks became, but to no avail. That little koka stopped Mog reaching the final, a great shame.

But onward... one fight for a bronze. This is where things get really sticky! Mog's first round victory over the tough girl from the North-West was about to be re-fought. Often in these circumstances the loser of the earlier fight comes through to win the re-fight, and that is exactly what happened here.

Although this left Mog in 5th place it was a great result. She was 5th last year when the oldest in the age band, but now as a baby in a new age band she had managed to achieve the same. Her future is looking very bright. A fantastic performance.

Last up for us was last year's National Champion, Rifqa Samad. Moving into a new age band can be really tough, especially when it feels like you have something to prove. Rifqa fought with great determination and courage and took herself neatly into the semi-final. This was always going to be a challenge, and unfortunately this time it was one we couldn't beat. A loss here left Rifqa needing one win for a bronze.

Shaking off the nerves Rifqa stepped up to compete in her last fight of the tournament. To start with, although Rifqa looked dominant the scoreline just sat flatlining for both players, but there was a turn-around about halfway into the contest. Rifqa realised she was ahead - the bronze in her sights. She just kept going, simple as that. When the bell sounded we couldn't quite believe it. Rifqa would, again, be on the rostrum at the National Championships!

Overall we had a fantastic weekend. Having entered just three competitors, to come away with a gold, a bronze and a 5th is very satisfying for everyone at the club.

L'Amitie Tournament, Belgium - October 2005

This was a brilliant trip; carefully planned as a day trip to Belgium. We left London by coach at 5:30am and headed to Dover to catch the ferry. We were tight for time to make the lunch time weigh-in, but were sure we could make it... and we did. First up were the 'pre-minimes' - those born in 1995 and 1996. While they were fighting the 'minimes' (born '93 & '94) weighed in. Our intrepid European explorers all fought very well, despite there being a varied level of experience in the team. All EJC members ended in the medals - results as follows:

GOLD --- Akhil Bist
GOLD --- Ken Kawamoto
GOLD --- Megan Howard
GOLD --- Rifqa Samad
GOLD --- Lucy Chamberlain
SILVER --- Rohan Bist
BRONZE --- Eliot Bradford
BRONZE --- Harkirat Sekhon
BRONZE --- David Sookias
BRONZE --- Soraya Asgari

This was a fantastic result for the whole team, especially David, as for him this was his first ever competition.

We then jumped back on the coach and headed to Calais to meet our homeward bound ferry. All were safely tucked up in bed by midnight!

Alkmaars International Tournament, Holland - October 2005

Our toughest day of the year so far! Four of our fighting squad made the trip to Holland to compete in this challenging international meet. Last year only 1 member of the club competed, and they didn't take a place on the rostrum. This year we multiplied our result by four! Some superb performances though.

We start with Phoebe 'Tigger' Harris in the u28kg girls. Weighing only 26 kg she was always going to be at a disadvantage but she didn't let that bother her. When we took a look at her sheet we discovered her group had been amalgamated with the boys group of the same weight. This didn't phase her either. She beat two of the boys and lost to 1 girl and 1 boy. These results put her 4th in her group, but unfortunately in some Dutch tournaments not all 4 medals are given out, so no medal there. Great fighting spirit though.

Next we have Ken in the u34kg boys. He was outstanding, winning 5 out of his 7 contests, all by ippon. But this wasn't enough to secure a medal. He finished 7th, but again, a fantastic performance.

Mog went on in the tough born 91-93 section and as a 93 this was her first opportunity to pracise armlocks and strangles in competition. She worked hard, winning 1 of her 4 fights - more than we expected! Another great show of determination and spirit, but again no medal.

Then there was our current National Champion, Taku, in the u60kg 91-93 section. He too lost out in the medals but fought well.

After a long and eventful journey home we all went to bed with a little more experience... to use next time...

Southern Area Mini-Mon, Crystal Palace - October 2005

I always think of entering this event as a bit of a risk. It is a notoriously high calibre event - and the story was no different this time. But... this time we were prepared.

Four fighters came along from EJC to pit their wits against some of the best orange belts GB has to offer. As it turns out we seem to have some of the best orange belts GB has to offer!

Boys first - Little Joe got us off to a flying start by making the final of the under 38kg boys group. He didn't manage to secure victory but this was a landmark for Joe, who hasn't seen the inside of a final match for some time. Well done.

Next up was Ken, in the weight below Joe. This was a fairly big group and there were definitely a couple of tough nuts to crack. An old rival awaited us in the semi-final, but as my nerves took hold Ken became more confident. He fought a strategic game and having never beaten this opponent before gained a 3 point score towards the end of the contest. Desperate to stay ahead Ken worked hard to hold his increasingly aggressive opponent at bay... and succeeded. He had made the final. The final was another good fight, but Ken ended the day with glory and gold. Excellent job.

On to the girls. Soraya has had a quieter year than usual, not attending the frequency of events previously seen, but this event witnessed a return to form. She progressed into the semi-final with relative ease, to face one of the excellent group of lightweight Pinewood girls in the category. Never having beaten her before she was understandably apprehensive but gave it everything, overcoming her nerves.

It was a pretty even battle, until the halfway point when Soraya dived into a well-timed, sneaky seoi nage to score a koka. This put her ahead, but with lots of time still on the clock. It was a nail-biting 90 seconds, but at the end of it a shattered but smiling Soraya had finally won. This took her into the final against another strong Pinewood girl and unfortunately this one would not be beaten. But it was a great result.

Last up was Lucy in her new weight group - under 48kg. She had no trouble, dispatching all opponents on the ground with lightning reflexes and quick thinking. She took the gold.

This left our 4 fighters with 2 golds and 2 silvers - a most unexpected and pleasing haul. Well done to all of them. Long may it continue.

Sussex Red & Yellow Belt Junior Open - November 2005

We had a tough but rewarding day at this challenging Mini-Mon event. In short the whole gang were dedicated and tough and fought very well. We ended the day with with a superb silver from Ravi in the under 25kg boys. Satoru took a hard-earned bronze in the same group. Then Manabu repeated his brother's performance and fought excellently to win a bronze in the 27s. Harkirat had a great day, narrowly losing her semi, to take a bronze in the under 28kg girls. And last but not least Rohan put in a solid performance in the 46s and he too earned himself a bronze.

Other excellent performances came from Oliver Maynard, Eliot Bradford, Akhil Bist, Sam Wood, Ardavaan Mohammadi and Tarlaan Mohammadi.

National 'A' Band Championships, Walsall - November 2005

Last year in the 'A' Band EJC took a gold - our only medal at the Nationals. This year we already had a gold and a bronze in the bank from the Age Banded Nationals in Sheffield last month, so this weekend was all about performances - medals would only have been a bonus.

However... the EJC spirit reigned true and we were delivered not only good performances but two excellent placings.

We shall start with the tiny under 28kg girls. Our Phoebe Harris was aggressive from the off, despite knowing that she was not only light in the group but also the baby of the group, being born at the end of 1995. She had Staddon from Ford in the first round - an unfortunate draw as Staddon was pegged to win the event. The superb fighter from Essex was just too strong for Phoebe and turned her over on the floor.

Phoebe's next match was against the tough girl from Hull, Hartley. Phoebe had first fought her back in August at the Lakeland event and the result had not gone our way. We were confident though that Phoebe had the skills to deal with this bout. It was close, first going down by a 3 point score, then pulling back a 5 point score, to take the lead. With less than a minute on the clock a repeat of her first round fight happened and Phoebe was held. An unfortunate loss but a good, solid performance. I feel sure she will be more than ready for the event next year!

Next up was Soraya Asgari in the under 32kg girls. Having had quite a relaxed year the last couple of months had seen an increase in training, competition and results and we were hopeful of a good display of judo, if nothing else. That is just what we got! She was strong and hard-working throughout and came extremely close to victory in her two contests, but sadly it wasn't to be this time. At the end of the day she was able to smile, and like me, seemed pleased with her performance - can't say fairer than that.

Our next competitor was Little Joe Wood, who has been at EJC since the very first lesson back in April of 2003. It was fantastic to see him competing at a National level. Joe has had a quieter year than usual, but we were sure he was ready to participate at this level.

Unfortunately he did not take a medal this time round, but he held his own well and showed that soon he will be a medal contender, with just a little more hard work and practice.

On to Lucy Chamberlain, our under 48 kg fighter. This was only Lucy's 2nd British event in this weight category, having fought at under 44kg all year. The transition has not been too tough though, with Lucy winning the Heart of England Championships in October and also a tournament in Belgium.

Lucy was up against the same fighters as took part in the Heart of England and so we were quietly confident of a title, but complacency was to be our downfall (although she didn't fall far). After an excellent early win Lucy found herself in the final. A split second's distraction and she was countered for ippon. It was a superb technique - just one of those moments you wish you could rewind and play back very slightly differently. Settling for silver won't be easy, but there is always room for improvement and I am sure Lucy will continue to be an important contender in British judo.

Our final competitor of the day was Ken Kawamoto. Having watched his older brother Taku storm to victory at the Nationals in Sheffield last month Ken was a little apprehensive, wanting to live up to the standards set by his sibling. A very tall order indeed, with last year's National Champion, Ramone Alexander, and one of his excellent training partners to contend with. Also, this was the biggest group of the day at Walsall, with 23 boys aiming for gold.

Ken started well with a swift ippon off a well-timed drop marote seoi nage. On to the quarter final and our first real battle. Tyrell Clark-Harewood (the eventual bronze medallist), also from West London, was not going to lie down for us. It remained a pretty even match until about halfway when Tyrell received a rather harsh penalty, leaving Ken in the lead by 3 points. This was not an easy lead to sustain and another score would give us a little safety barrier. In Ken came... and there it was, the koka we had hoped for. Now it was just a matter of staying away enough to hold on to it to the line. Ken succeeded and was delighted with his own performance, but the day wasn't over yet. The semi-final was against an excellent boy - one we had not met before, but a hold down from Ken took him neatly into the final. Of course - we knew it would be - Remone ALexander, another West Londoner and the reigning Champion in the final.

The final was bound to be epic... and so it was. The match was even stevens all the way, with Ramone looking more dominant early on, but Ken gaining ground step by step. Attacks were regular, varied and swift and both boys displayed a level of judo beyond their years. It was truly impressive. At the bell, with no scores Golden Score came into play - for a National final this is a precarious position for anyone to be in. However following more of the same Ramone took a big step formard. Ken gripped around the shoulder and yanked the sleeve on the other side, pulling him onto a huge, low harai goshi. As the boys landed the referee called ippon and the match was over. Ken was National Champion! An unbelievable result and an outstandingly mature performance from our newcomer. He is also only 10 years old and therefore gets another crack at the same band next year.

We had a fantastic day, one I won't forget for a long time. Well done to all who competed. It's a shame the Board of Directors weren't there to see our youngsters and congratulate them for their amazing judo and sportsmanship. They missed a treat!

Gladstone Christmas Championships, NW London - December 2005

Five of our tiny mighties came along to compete at this little event and for three of them it was their debut. Each member of the team gave an excellent performance. The results are below:

GOLD - Anna O'Sullivan
GOLD - Dominic O'Sullivan
GOLD - Sam Wood
SILVER - Maxime Cacaly
SILVER - Conor Corrigan

Maxime also won a special trophy for 'best contest of the event' having had a superb first round match. It was a very close match, with many scores and many techniques. The cup he took home was nearly as big as him!

Ealing Judo Club Christmas Championships - December 2005

A massive 42 EJC members came along to compete at this friendly club event. For a large number of these fighters it was their first experience of competition, but you would never have guessed that. They were all confident and displayed some great judo. Results follow:

GOLD Anna O'Sullivan
GOLD Harkirat Sekhon
GOLD Maja Kovac
GOLD Joel Cyriax
GOLD Maxime Cacaly
GOLD Remy Hart-Badger
GOLD Dominic O'Sullivan
GOLD Ryo Seino
GOLD Ravi Karimi
GOLD Manabu Kitagawa
GOLD David Sookias
GOLD Sam Wood
GOLD Eliot Bradford
SILVER Kristina Nowakovic
SILVER Sheeva Kavousian
SILVER Johanna Barnes
SILVER Sonny Inglis
SILVER Aidan Hayes
SILVER Sam Lythgoe
SILVER Kazuki Okamoto
SILVER Jonathan Sookias
SILVER Brent Suzuki
SILVER Matthew Butcher
SILVER Oliver Lythgoe
SILVER Satoru Kitagawa
SILVER Jack Beevers
SILVER Ziggy Zvoboda
SILVER Oliver Maynard
SILVER Conor Corrigan
BRONZE Anna Stafford
BRONZE Tenny Karimi
BRONZE Anika Kapila
BRONZE Sam Butcher
BRONZE Akhil Dhokia
BRONZE James Sookias
BRONZE Harry Keeley
BRONZE Amir Asgari
BRONZE Jack Oakley
BRONZE Elliot Cyriax
BRONZE Harry Barnes
BRONZE Kai Butcher
BRONZE Masaki Okamoto

St Gilles Tournament - Brussels, Belgium - December 2005

Just three of our little monsters travelled across the channel to this event. Not sure what to expect, they were a little aprehensive, but there was no need. Although there was a sizeable entry, much larger than the events we are used to in GB, each of the EJC fighters put in an excellent performance.

Harkirat fought extremely well and took a bronze in the lightest of the girls' weight groups. In the next group up our Tigger had a pretty tough ride but also managed some good wins and a bronze.

Ken was last up and he was in a league of his own. At this age banded event he had 3 contests, not one going to full time - in fact none went past about 30 seconds, with each opponent being thrown for ippon with superb standing techniques.

Well done to the whole gang. A special extra well done and thank you goes to Harkirat's mum, who agreed to drive to the event, carrying our precious fighters. It was her first time driving on the continent, so thanks for your help. We couldn't have done the trip without you.

Willesden Club Christmas Championships - December 2005

This was our final competition of the year. It was an excellent event for our up and coming stars. Eleven little ones came along and their results follow:

GOLD Ravi Karimi
GOLD Sam Wood
GOLD Maja Kovac
GOLD Harkirat Sekhon
GOLD Sonny Inglis
SILVER David Sookias
SILVER James Sookias
SILVER Akhil Dhokia
SILVER Amir Asgari
SILVER Maxime Cacaly
BRONZE Remy Hart-Badger

There were particularly good performances from Maja, who fought in the white, red and yellow belt sections, despite having only attended a few lessons. Sam Wood also showed that his new yellow belt grade was well deserved, winning the yellow belt section at this event. It wasn't just that he won that was inmpressive, but how he won. He was determined and consistent and seemed to have absolute belief that he could win if he tried hard enough. That is the EJC spirit we all admire. Well done to all who competed at this event.

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