8th January - Antwerp International, Belgium

Following an energetic regional squad training session on the Saturday Taku decided to make the trip to Antwerp for this event on the Sunday. It was a strong event, with competitors entered from Croatia, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Belarus, France and Germany - as well as the British contingent.

Taku's group looked tough but we were confident of a good placing and more importantly were looking forward to brushing off the Christmas cobwebs. His first contest was disappointing, but steadily his judo improved, until his bronze fight. Here Taku looked much more like the old Taku. He fought well, attacking with a variety of techniques. He eventually scored two waza-aris to win the match and the bronze.

21st January - Harlow Novice Championships

Three of our excellent rising stars came along for a new year rumble and in fact for two of them it was a competition debut (outside the realms of our own Christmas event). Kai Butcher and Conor Corrigan each fought well, producing some promising judo. Each was rewarded with a bronze trophy.

In the later section Akhil Bist was up to face the more experienced fighters of the day. He, too, put in a solid performance, narrowly losing out on a place in the final, to give him our third bronze of the day. Well done to all three boys.

22nd January - South Coast Mini-Mon, Worthing

Half a dozen EJC fighters turned out to contest for medals at this event. Being an open under 16, 9th Mon and below this is always a challenging event, but we were confident of a few rostrum placings. After a productive warm-up from the whole gang the first groups were called and Ken took to the mat. The under 38kg boys was split over two mats, as it was such a large group - this was also to be Ken's first time out in this new weight category.

He had some excellent early round bouts, with power and strength being his biggest problem, but he overcame these issues and wound up in the semi against an old adversary. Ken found this a tough match with both boys being a little cagey... eventually Ken won through, to take a place in the final - we all breathed a sigh of relief. Whenever one of your national medallists moves into a new category it can be a bit of a pride/nerves issue, but Ken was relaxed and confident.

Going into the final against Ramone (yet again), also from London, Ken looked confident, but towards the bell and with all still square, both boys started to open up a little. The bell went and here we were again, golden score! Again the pair fought a tactical game, with well-timed attacks just not quite succeeding. Eventually it was the power of Ramone that won through, throwing Ken for a koka. Ken just smiled at me and new that a silver was a good result for him and a great start for EJC's day.

Next up was Phoebe. Still competing with the other tiny under 28kg girls, she set about her fights with a no-nonsense attitude. It proved to be a winning formula as she fairly quickly took a place in the final. Unfortunately a girl she beat in the pools came back to haunt her in the final and Phoebe was held, having to settle for the silver. It was a fantastic return to form for our Tigger and one I hope will continue long into her bright future.

We had other excellent medal-winning performances from Soraya and Lucy, who took a bronze each in their respective categories. It was an especially gutsy display from Suraya, who sustained a nasty knock in her first bout, but battled through despite her discomfort. Although it is not always advisable to compete at less than 100% Soraya judged her own ability and endurance perfectly and came away with a wonderful bronze for her trouble.

Also competing today were Rohan and Elliott. Both fought well but did not claim medals this time.

29th January - Alpe Adria Trofeo, Lignano, Italy

On Friday 27th February 4 of our intrepid 92-93s flew out to Italy to take part in this extremely tough event. In attendance were teams from Austria, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, to name but a few. This was the first time any of our EJC squad had experienced such a large tournament. It was held in the same venue as last year's European youth Olympics and so the atmosphere was excellent.

Rohan and Megan shall be mentioned first. Each suffered the same fate, losing in the first round. It was a shame as both put on an excellent performance, only losing very narrowly. Unfortunately neither of the people they lost to made it to the semi and so that was the end of the line for Rohan and Mog.

Taku was next up. He started well, taking out his first opponent with a great kata-garuma for ippon. His second fight had a positive result too, but the third was a different story. Taku was well and truly out-classed and had to settle for a place in the repecharge. In the repechage his luck did not hold and he went out. If such things were recorded Taku would have gone in the records as being placed 9th. It was not what we had hoped for, but was a very valuable experience.

Our final fighter of the day was Rifqa. Having dislocated a toe only a fortnight before this would be a real test for her, but she went out there confidently. Her first opponent, however, was just too strong and Rifqa was beaten. We watched eagerly to find out whether or not the girl made it to the semi-final... and she did. This pulled Rifqa back in with 3 fights to win for a bronze medal. It appeared to be a tall order, but fight by fight she just seemed to get better and better. She won the first well, then the second in the first 3 seconds. The bronze fight was going to be a toughy, though, competing against the home girl. It was a really close battle, but Rifqa managed to hold on by the skin of her teeth and at the bell had won it by a tiny little koka.

Rifqa's bronze was a huge, great medal, a great one to add to her ever-increasing collection.

Following the competition on the Sunday, the Monday was a full day's training. All 4 of our fighters grabbed hold of the opportunity and had a fantastic day.

5th February - Red Belt Rumble

GOLD Ravi Karimi
GOLD Sheeva Kavousian
SILVER Harkirat Sekhon
BRONZE Shadeh Kavousian
BRONZE Ardavaan Mohammadi
BRONZE Akhil Bist
BRONZE Oliver Graves
BRONZE Kai Butcher
BRONZE Johanna Barnes

This was a particularly successful day for Sheeva Kavousian, who only received her red belt in the week leading up to the event. Well done to all our future stars.

11th & 12th February - London Judo International, Docklands, London

Our aim for this weekend was to improve upon last year's results. Last year we only managed a couple of bronzes and so decided to take a larger, more well prepared squad this time.

On Saturday we started off with the 12-13 year old section. They kicked us off excellently with Taku winning gold, Rifqa taking silver and Megan pulling off a great 5th place.

Then our newer seniors got down to it and following some excellent performances from Ikuo, John and Dan they add a 5th place to our tally, in the shape of Dan.

Sunday came around very quickly indeed and our 10-11 year olds took to the mat.

Let's start with Lucy, shall we? Well, she stormed through her group. No challenger was even close. She looked like the gold medallist from the second she bowed on... and so it was that the gold was hers.

Ken's story was pretty much the same, although a tough quarter final nearly put a dampner on things!

Soraya fought a blinder too. She stormed through her early rounds to a place in the semi-final, but was beaten on a split decision at the end of golden score and had to settle for a place in the repecharge final instead. She won this fight with little resistance and took a well-deserved bronze.

Little Joe and Sam, in the same age band for the first time, both fought well but didn't manage a medal this time, although I felt Sam was particularly strong, despite being the youngest boy in the whole group. Phoebe, too, had a hard day and had to resign herslef to 5th after a couple of challenging battles. And in the same group as Phoebe Harkirat also fought fantastically well, but with the medals avoiding her.

Last up was Thierry, competing in the Senior Open section. This was only his second appearance for EJC, since joining us almost 2 years ago. He fought an excellent first round match, winning it with a superb ippon throw. Unfortunately the next two contests didn't quite go Thierry's way and we had to settle for experience, rather than a rostrum placing.

Overall it was an excellent weekend, with some stunning performances from the whole gang. At some stage we will check our overall ranking at the event, but I can assure our members it was a LOT better than last year!

18th February - Gladstone Tigers Tournament

This was a great day for our excellent under 8 brigade. The results were as follows:

GOLD Anna O'Sullivan
GOLD Sam Butcher
GOLD Andrew Aresti
GOLD Antoine Orieux
GOLD Dominic O'Sullivan
SILVER Lauren Fox
SILVER James Fox
SILVER James Sookias
SILVER Amir Asgari
BRONZE Akhil Dhokia
BRONZE Jonathan Sookias

Dominic also won a trophy for 'Fighter of the Day', which was a fantastic achievement and well deserved. This was probably his last Under 8 event as he will shortly be joining our ever-growing fighting squad, so it was great for him to bow out in such style.

5th March - Goole Under 18 Championships, Yorkshire

Just two of our intrepid explorers came along to contest this event. It was bound to be a hard day for Lucy, being only 11, but she gave it her best shot and although there was no medal she did us proud, as always.

Ken fought in the under 38kg section. He wasn't on the best form, but managed to struggle through to the final, where he raised his game a little and took the gold fairly convincingly.

Well done to both our fighters.

12th March - Tendring U14 Championships

GOLD Harkirat Sekhon
GOLD Taku Kawamoto
SILVER Ken Kawamoto
SILVER Rifqa Samad
BRONZE Phoebe Harris
BRONZE Ravi Karimi
BRONZE Soraya Asgari

We had a really great day in Clacton. Ken had a couple of really tough battles - always great training. Some of our little red belts had their first day out for quite some time and proved themselves to be more than ready for the challenge. A very special mention must go out to harkirat, who fought better than I have ever seen her fight before. She put in an extraordinary performance. Well done to all.

19th March - Kempen Cup, Herentals, Belgium

EJC's Kempen Cup Song

Well I don't know what I've been told
EJC they got two gold
I'm not sure but I think maybe
One of those golds went to Phoebe
And EJC is pleased as hell, we got
The other gold that went to Eliot

We got silvers, not just gold
That's because we are so bold
Ken and Lucy and Joe too
They got more than just a few
That's because they got three
All for the club, EJC

Harkirat, she has just three mons
That didn't stop her getting bronze
Another bronze, it went to Maja
And to our orange belt Soraya
One more result we have to say
Kai was also fab today

We're gonna have to end it here
'Cos Joe and Maja's dads are drunk on beer!

26th March - Northern home Counties Red Belt Championships

This was the most last minute competition entry ever! 3 of our red belt heroes came along, at only 16 hours notice!

It was great to see Oliver G in competition, as this is a rare occurrance. He fought well. Kai also fought very bravely and following 4 really tough fights secured a brilliant bronze. Harkirat was on top form again too, taking out all 3 opponents by ippon, to take the gold with relative ease.

Best wishes to all 3 of our little stars - a job well done!

2nd April - Harlow Treble T

Remy and Maxime went along to have a go at this under 8s fun day and both fought really well, earning a bronze a piece. Well done boys!

22nd April - Gower Open Championships, Wales

This was a great day for two of our fighters. Megan went along and took an excellent silver in what will be her age band for this year's national championships. This was encouraging, especially as Megan hasn't competed for a while - a very welcome return indeed.

Ken also fought, but was placed in the wrong age band by mistake and had to fight boys much older than himself. We decided not to correct this error and Ken continued in the 93-94 age band. It turned out to be the right move as he had 5 fights and won them all by ippon, with some fantastic judo. Needless to say he won the gold in his section.

23rd April - Tournoi Du Grand Rouen, France

Today was a milestone for EJC, when Taku was selected to represent Great Britain for the first time. This was the first time any EJC member has fought for their country and I was very proud of my student. Taku had actually fought at the event last year, entered by us, Ealing Judo Club and he won the event and so he was anxious not to come in below the very high standard he had set for himself.

The event seemed to be stronger than last year, but a year older and a year more experienced Taku dealt with the day very maturely and won each contest convincingly. His final was against another British boy - in fact one he had never fought before, but a swift sacrifice throw removed all threat and provided Taku with his second gold at this event.

Very well done Taku, for being the first EJC member to represent Great Britain and also for putting on a good display of judo.

29th April - Midland Age Banded, Walsall

We had 4 of our 92-93 squad representing EJC for this tough event in the Midlands. Megan had a hard day, with several top flight competitors in her pool and unfortunately couldn't get past them this time. Rohan had a difficult day to stomach when a very poor decision cost him his day. The only consolation is that he fought very well prior to that.

Rifqa was excellent, only losing her semi final. She took a well deserved bronze, after some fantastic ground work saw off much of the opposition. Taku also fought pretty well, although he was lucky to win the final after a dubious penalty in golden score despatched his opponent.

Overall the team put in an encouraging performance, but there is still much to do before this year's Nationals.

30th April - Peterborough -16

Five EJC monsters took to the mat for this competition. Last year we only managed one bronze medal and were hoping for improved stats this time out.

Lucy had a tough day in the -48s, being only 11 this was always going to be a tall order for her, but she gave it everything and won her first contest by ippon in about 6 seconds. Her 2nd fight was a little different though and after a poor knock down her day was over. She fought excellently and I look forward to her having another bash at it next year.

Phoebe went up a weight on the day and had some terribly large girls to contend with, but as with Lucy she fought very well. No medal, but much to be proud of.

Soraya had a great day, winning two contests and losing two. Some great groundwork secured her a bronze medal - her 5th of the year - she is nothing if not consistent!

Then the Kawamoto boys were up. Ken was excellent in the early rounds, great gripping, confident movement and clean throws, but his final was a different story. He lost it by a koka, just couldn't seem to pull his game together. Not to worry though, a great silver and some pointers to work on.

Then Taku was up. For him it was definitely a rough ride. He had three contests in his pool and having lost two, managed to earn a bronze. I think he was disappointed with his performance, but we all have off days! Better luck next time...

6th May - Mandy Costello Testimonial Team Event, High Wycombe

Saturday was a a fun-filled day with 11 EJC monsters in High Wycombe, battling it out with teams from other clubs. We put a 'Midgets' team in, consisting of Satoru, Phoebe, Manabu, Soraya and our Joker Amir. We also entered a 'Trojans' team, consisting of Ken, Soraya (yes, the same Soraya - brave girl!), Little Joe, Rifqa, Rohan and Anna the Joker. Both teams fought exceptionally well, taking on some hard-hitting and scary opponents, and each team finished the day in 3rd place. This means two more bronzes to add to Soraya's list - that's 7 in a row - nothing if not consistent!

Harkirat also fought, but on loan to another local club. She fought really well, doing us proud too.

Well done to all. I sincerely hope the event is on again next year as I think we all thoroughly enjoyed the event.

21st May - National Team Championships - Crawley, Sussex

This was a great day for EJC, although not without its problems!

It was great to have 2 of our excellent young girls selected to compete for the London Area at this year's National Team Championships, at the brand new K2 Sports Centre in Crawley. Neither Soraya Asgari nor Rifqa Samad had fought the event before and both were a little nervous.

Both girls fought very well, with Soraya putting in a great performance at -32kg and Rifqa moving up a weight to take the -52kg slot (not her normal competition weight).

Overall the team took bronze and our girls were delighted to bring home their medals.

The surprise fighter of the day was Keiko Kawamoto - mum of Ken and Taku. She had only been doing judo for a relatively short time and following a big let down by one of London's usual fighters she agreed to fill shoes in the Senior Women's team at -48kg. Very nervous, she did everything she could, saying that she would give it a go, just for fun and experience. A brave lady!

Unfortunately in Keiko's 2nd fight she landed badly and broke her left collar bone. This was not the ideal end to an otherwise great day and in great pain she left for hospital while the rest of the team received their bronzes. Her medal was collected on her behalf and will be presented at the club as soon as she is able to attend.

EJC would like to extend their warmest get well wishes to Keiko, who really put one out there for the mums at the club. She did us all proud and I am especially proud to be able to add her name to EJC's National Medal board - giving us ten medals since we opened in 2003. It is also our first Senior National Medal.

Well done to Keiko, Soraya and Rifqa.

3rd June - Pont St. Maxence JC Tournament, France

We had such a good time at this previously unknown tournament. We drove to 60km outside Paris, arriving for our 2pm weigh-in (luxury) in plenty of time. Taku and Rohan were our only fighters and we little idea what level of competition we would be facing, so both boys were a little nervous.

No need for nerves though. Rohan, up first in the -46kg group, fought his way out of the pool excellently, winning 2 out of 3 contests by ippon. He went straight into a semi final and following a lucky counter for waza-ari led his opponent at the bell. It was a really tough fight for Rohan, especially as the other boy was wearing a brown belt and Rohan has only had his 9th Mon for a few weeks. This saw Rohan into the final, against the only boy who had beaten him in the pool. Rohan put up a much better fight this time round, but unfortunately still lost, if only by a small score. Having to settle for silver was not so bad - 5 superb fights, lots of experience and a neat medal to show for it.

Then Taku was up, in the -60kg category. He went through his pool, quarter final and semi final opponents like a dose of salts, throwing each for ippon.

His final, however, was not to be that easy. His opponent was very tall and very strong and was determined not to lose to the visitor. Both boys attacked tirelessly, but each was too strong defensively and at the bell there was no score for red or white.

Into golden score and quick as a flash the attacks started up again. It was really close. Again the bell sounded and the two boys tidied themselves up, trying to look like the stronger competitor... the decision was ours and Taku had won the gold.

It is one of the nicest trophies I have ever seen, and Taku was grinning when he opened up the little box he was presented with. It was a beautifully cut glass block with a laser carving in the middle, of a judo contest. Also there was a small stand which lit up underneath the sculpture. A really great addition to Taku's trophy cabinet.

We then sped back to the tunnel in Calais to make our train just in time. It was an excellent event and one we shall try to return to next year.

4th June - North of England Mini-Mon, Bradford

Another great day, making this a great weekend! Little Kai Butcher, David Sookias, Akhil Bist and Harkirat Sekhon braved the drive to Bradford, for what we hoped would be a worthwhile day. Of course it was... Kai and David both fought better than I have ever seen them fight before - although no medals this time, things are looking good for the future. We must bear in mind that in David's group there were 36 boys - a huge turnout!

Then came our yellow belts, Harkirat and Akhil. Both were fantastic. Akhil had 6 contests and Harkirat 7 and both were ultimately victorious, bringing home a gold a piece.

I was especially pleased with the skill both fighters displayed in ne-waza - a real improvement. Well done to all four of our gang.

10th June - Venray, Holland

EJC has been found at a few Dutch tournaments over the last couple of years, but it wasn't until last year that we gained our first medal there. In June last year Ken took a silver medal at Venray, and was hoping to better his performance this year.

Harkirat came along to compete in her first ever event in Holland. She fought in the under 32kg girls section for those born 1995-96. She fought superbly, winning her first two contests by ippon. Then she had a tough semi, losing narrowly on a referee's decision. In the bronze fight her very tall Dutch opponent proved too strong for our Harkirat and she had to settle for 5th place. It was an excellent performance.

Then Rifqa was up. This was her first event as a member of the GB Squad and she too equipped herself well, winning her first two contests with relative ease. Then, as with Harkirat, she lost her next two contests.

Then Taku took to the mat, having never won in a medal in Holland before, he was eager to do well. And so he did, winning all his early round contests by ippon. His final, however was to be a different story, with a very strong and determined Latvian to deal with. Unfortunately Taku was thrown with a perfect Harai goshi for ippon and had to console himself with a silver.

Lastly, Ken fought. He threw his Dutch opponent for ippon in round one. Then he disposed of the Russian, a Hungarian and an Estonian, before appearing in the final with another boy from Estonia. Ken made light work of him too and achievede his goal - Gold at Venray. And, as always, with this event, the medals were beautiful - another great addition to Ken's ever-increasing collection.

Well done to all 4 EJC fighters. This was our best ever performance in Holland - one I am very proud of.

17th June - London Youth Games

We had a good day, with 4 EJC competitors winning 4 medals. Phoebe, Megan and Rohan each took a silver and Ken won a bronze. All fought well, helping the Borough of Ealing score far better than in recent years. When the Youth Games results are published I will let you know how well the Ealing Judo Team did overall.

18th June - Western Area Junior Open, Gloucester

Another excellent day, with 3 fighters and 3 medals. Rifqa fought very well in the u48kg section and won a good silver. Taku also won silver, only losing out to the excellent Foster in the final. Ken then took control of the u38kg section, winning it with relative ease.

All 3 of out club members put on a good performance - which is great in an open under 16 event.

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