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International Match England v France Report

The England Team were invited by the French Karate Federation to take part in a ‘friendly’ match with the French Team on Saturday 3rd April 2010, to assist with both teams preparation for the European Championships in 4 weeks time.

The England Squad met up at Stanstead Airport at the very unsocial time of 4-30AM on Good Friday morning. They looked tired, but everybody made it on time . . . just about! The only member not present was Tom Canham, who had suffered an injury to his hip and was in no condition to take part. The delegation was led by EKF President, Carl Lindley, and accompanied by National Coach, Wayne Otto OBE.

The Ladies’ Team consisted of:

Natalie Williams
Katie Hurry
Carla Burkitt
Rio Smith
Mairi Kerin
Alice Goudie

The Mens’ Team consisted of:

Rory Daniels
Davin Pack
Alton Brown
Saule Del Rio
Steven Heath

The EKF Chief Referee, Dale Gamble, was also present, together with two further guests of the French Federation: WKF Treasurer, Mike Dinsdale, and Karate legend, Ticky Donovan OBE.

International Match England v FranceThe squad took the 06-45 flight to the provincial French town of Limoges and were met by members of the French authorities and conveyed to their hotel. It had started to rain and we were accused of having brought British weather with us. Limoges is in the Limousin region of France, noted for its fine food, particularly local beef, and we were treated to the first of a series of spectacular meals.

The French authorities had arranged a sightseeing tour of the town, but little did we know that this meant taking a rather comical and noisy little train through the back streets. The train brought laughs and plenty of waves from local people and though the VIPs clearly enjoyed the tour, the competitors seemed slightly less enamoured. The tour gave a good view of the beautiful town, renowned for its fine porcelain, and ended with a visit to a porcelain shop. Interestingly, it seemed every other shop was displaying a poster advertising the match. That evening, another gargantuan meal and an early night.

Saturday brought fitness worries. Alice Goudie had suffered an injury to her hand that would make her unable to compete and Alton Brown was clearly unwell. The match was arranged for that evening and it was decided that one competitor from each team would have to fight twice, to give all the French the chance to take part.

The Team warmed up whilst the VIPs were given yet more food, this time in the company of French Federation President, Francis Didier. We were then taken to the venue, a large sports hall, where some 900 members of the public had paid to watch the event. This shows the support for Karate as a spectator sport, and the excellent organisation, including the teams being paraded in and standing to both national anthems, made for a very polished event.

International Match England v FranceThe Ladies’ Team were first up and the French were fast, aggressive and in excellent physical condition. It was interesting that a greater level of contact was being allowed, including techniques to the face that the England Team were neither used to receiving, nor to being scored with. This gave the home team an advantage, but was invaluable experience if the European Championships are to adopt the same changes. The fights were close, with the French winning 3 or the 6 fights, and Katie Hurry showing great composure, beating her opponent with well-timed counter punches. 3-1.

The Men were next. Rory Daniels beat his opponent, but the Team went down 4-1 in a series of hard bouts. The refereeing rules were slightly different, with the three flag judges awarding the points, a little like in boxing, and the referee managing the contest. The obvious benefit was that the audience could easily understand the scoring, unlike the situation when there are 2 blue flags and 1 red one, but the referee deciding to award the point to red. Former England International Referee, Terry Robbins, now resident in France and living nearby, came along to assist.

There was then an intermission when the French Ladies’ Kata team performed a spectacular demonstration. They even stopped as they had forgotten a part of the routine, but they were so good that this did not detract from the show. EKF President, Carl Lindley, was interviewed by French television. Fortunately, he speaks the language.

The second round was even closer, as the English competitors started to get used to the scoring and to the physicality of their French counterparts. The results did not reflect how well England performed. The Ladies’ Team went down 4-1, Katie Hurry again defeating her opponent, but picking up and impressive ‘shiner’.

The Mens’ Team event was also close, but ended 5-1. An example of the result not reflecting the closeness of the teams was when Davin Pack, leading 2-0 with 3 seconds to go in a 3-minute bout, suffered a momentary hesitation and was tripped by his opponent for a 3-point score. The crowd were also entertained by some apparently rather partisan commentating from former world champion and French Performance Director, Thierry Masci.

The match over, Carl Lindley presented medals to the French Team and Francis Didier presented consolation medals to England. Wayne Otto was presented with a magnificent vase of Limoges porcelain and all the party received a commemorative plate. The French then insisted on another fantastic meal that the English were far too polite to refuse.

We would like to thank the organiser, Didier Desmaisons, who did everything possible to ensure we were looked after. The hospitality of the French Federation was indescribable. Most of all, this was excellent preparation for the next big event on the world calendar, the Europeans in Athens. The countdown has truly begun!

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