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Day Eight – Final Day

So we are now at the last day of the World Karate Championships and as the England Team take the short walk from the hotel to the stadium some use it as a time for quiet reflection.
Today we are spectators. The squad, intent on soaking up as much karate as possible at the highest level,  arrive in enough time for the first final at 10.00am. The arena, now reduced to one elevated tatami, is set up to exhibit some fantastic karate. This it delivers.
The individual and Team, Semi and Final matches featured amongst the usual suspects, the new powerhouses of Karate; Iran, Turkey and Egypt. These Middle eastern countries also had a refreshingly strong presence in the kata finals.
Team bunkai allows the kata coaches to show both their understanding, interpretation and application of the kata. Visually pleasing does not necessary mean good karate and that was clear in some of the kata decisions made. However there was some incredibly inventive but still practical bunkai demonstrated and this was no more evident than with the Female Team kata particularly Vietnam, Italy and Japan. The kata, individual and team, leaves the stadium breathless.
Biggest upset of the tournament was unquestionably the Japanese Female Kata Team losing to Germany in the final due to two pronounced stumbles in the bunkai.
The men’s team kumite final between Iran and Germany was an excellent demonstration of WKF Karate at its best: sweeps, takedowns, body and head kicks, front and reverse punches and a five man fight. It was a spectacle culminating in the host country taking the honours.
 All in all a fitting end to the World Championships.
Special mention to Jordan Thomas for his excellent performance and maintaining consistency at Elite level. There is a lot more to come from this young man.
Thanks to Debbie Sell for her organisation of the trip,Ticky Donovan, President Mick Billman and Mark Simmonds for their support and advice, the referees for their guidance and representation at the highest level, Dr Mohindar  Surdar for his selfless commitment to the squad, all the England supporters who came to cheer us on, the coaches Willie Thomas, Davin Pack, Paul “Neo” Newby and Ady Gray for their unwavering belief in the squad and most importantly to the athletes for representing England with bulldog pride, conviction and honour.
Tomorrow we head back to Blighty to rest and then get ready for the next set of international tournaments next year.
Danke Schoen
Greg Francis
Head of Delegation
Day Seven – Competition Day 4

The World Championships is now into the Finals stage. Ability gets you selected, preparation and composure gets you to the finals. Jordan Thomas ticked all three boxes. Hopes were high when he stepped onto the tatami to face the Brazillian in the Bronze Medal fight off.
The match began with Jordan scoring a technically perfect timed left gyaku zuki after a protest from his dad and national coach, Willie Thomas was upheld. The Brazillian picked up the pace and got hit by another quality gyaku zuki. The next point turned out to be the decisive one. The Brazillian was awarded the point in a punching exchange and just capitalised with a front leg mawashi geri earning 3 points and taking him into the lead. Jordan chased and got picked off with two more points. As the clock ticked down so did English hopes and at the buzzer it was 6-2 for Brazil and Jordan’s World Medal dreams dashed. However it is refreshing to see England at Senior Level competing for medals again and a testament to Willie and his coaching staff.
That said, championship finals like all sports are a mixed bag. Some matches very cagey and consequently lacking in action and risk and others a bar room brawl with Karate techniques thrown in for good measure. Those types of fights are the crowd pleasers and not surprisingly led by the Japanese whose karat eka in the finals, could fight, did fight and invariably won with minimal clinching and good committed karate techniques.
The introduction of the disabled category to the World Championships is wonderfully refreshing. It shows the versatility of karate and how it genuinely appeals to all. The Blind and Visually impaired finals in particular were incredibly emotional. The quality of the kata performed by the athletes culminated in a standing ovation from the crowd. This is our Art at it’s best: perseverance, passion, belief, discipline and confidence.
On reflection the World Championships have been organised well. 5 tatamis instead of four would have assisted in the event overrunning on the first two days and seating the athletes in the rafters compromised the atmosphere on those days. However, the close proximity, that is 15 minutes walking distance, of the stadium to the hotels, airport, shops, restaurants and training areas is a template for the future. No hassle with transport, coaches can manage their athletes arrival at the stadium and Heads of Delegation can have a bit of a lie in…..I wish! Also Friday and today saw a stadium filled in the evening with rapturous Germans cheering every move a German athlete made. Great atmosphere……Apart from having to suffer at ear splitting levels the singular German contribution to popular music “the Final Countdown” by Berlin, 100 times a day.
One more day of finals for the England squad to watch, absorb and learn!
Day Six – Competition Day 3

This was the last day of eliminations. The Kumite Team events were on and the atmosphere in the warm up area was ridiculously tense. The England Mens Team of  Ryan Jay, Joe Kellaway, Chris Harris, Ross Mathieu, Michael Burke and Alton Brown were primarily young and apart from Alton, inexperienced at this level. Coach Thomas rested Jordan due to a knee injury in an effort to save him for his repercharge final on Saturday.
The draw pitched England against Australia, a match up that speaks for itself. First out was the England Captain Alton Brown. His Australian opponent was negative, clearly trying to force a draw. Alton hustled and harried him but was unable to secure a clean point finishing the match as a draw.
Joe Kellaway was out next in his first senior championships. Joe took the initiative by dominating his opponent and getting the better of the exchanges. With 20 seconds to go The Australian scored and the bout finished as another draw.
The pressure was on and Ryan Jay was out at number three. Ryan controlled the match. He knew exactly what he had to do and did it winning the match 1-0 with an excellently timed kizami zuki.
This win put England in the driving seat for our number four, Chris Harris. As a -60 fighter Chris’s speed and movement would have to be at its absolute best. The Australian, with significant advantages in height and weight, cannily picked Chris off as he moved in. Chris tried to gain the advantage but went down 3-0.
This left the match even with Michael Burke having to win. It did not start well: the Australian man-handled Michael and was quickly 4 points up. He then added 3 more with a takedown. Into the last third of the fight Michael started getting his timing and form together and gained four points. Unfortunately it was too little, too late and England were out.
The Ladies Team were on in the afternoon facing Poland.
Amelia Harvey led the charge beating her opponent 5-3 and demonstrating a maturity in strategy and  in her response to coaching. Natalie then showed her experience by dominating her opponent and winning the match 3-1. The team had won two fights to nil and moved onto their next opponent Tunisia.
Amelia was out first against a tall rangy opponent. The Tunisian used her range well making Amelia work hard to secure a point. At the end of the bout it was  3-2 to Tunisia.
Natalie came out number two and simply dominated her opponent out fighting her in every exchange  and breaking the Tunisians spirit to such an extent that England won the fight  on kiken, that is a lack of fighting spirit.
Last out for England was Carla Burkitt. Carla started well matching her opponent with a point  each from the first exchange. Then the Tunisian started making ground and using her distance to measure Carla’s timing to be first in the exchanges. As the clock ticked down Carla through everything she had but her efforts were unproductive.was England  were out with only Jordan Thomas placed to secure a bronze in tomorrow’s repercharge final.
Good luck Jordan
Day Five – Competition Day 2

A new dawn, a new day, renewed expectations.
Natalie Williams undoubtedly England’s finest was out on the tatami first for England vs Ukraine in the -61 category. Natalie initiated all exchanges with the first score being one point each. It was evident that the Ukrainian was on the defensive but she managed to sneak a counter, stay ahead and win the fight 1-0. Natalie was frustrated but hopeful of a repercharge opportunity but the Ukranian went out in the quarterfinal.
Siobhan Hayes, Coach Newby’s protégé was next on the mats and was quickly into her stride getting the better of Uzbekhistan during a number of head and body exchanges. Siobhan won 3-1 and  faced Chile in the 2nd round. Siobhan was razor sharp taking advantage of every opportunity and making openings when necessary to win 5-1.The Finnish girl from the start of the third round was out to steal the fight in an effort to avoid Siobhan’s longer reach and eventually nicked a point as Siobhan pursued her putting England out 1-0. Repercharge was not an option when the Finnish girl lost in later rounds.
The afternoon saw Jordan Thomas line up in the -67kg category. Our current European champion was revved up and ready to go. He needed to be. His first round match was against the formidable Rolle of France. These two are so evenly matched it was accepted that the winner would probably go all the way to the final. After a tentative start Rolle got the best of a punching exchange. Jordan got after him but Rolle just kept the edge on exchanges before he scored an exquisite Jodan mawashi beating Jordan 6-0. Nevertheless as predicted the Frenchman stormed through to the final giving Jordan an opportunity to show his class and this he did in classic “old school” fashion. His Japanese opponent in the first repercharge fight was pressured and made to fight on Jordan’s terms with Jordan benefitting from the flags at the end of 3 minutes. Jordan’s Serbian opponent was broken with lancing kizami’s and  gyak’s. His despair was evident as Jordan won 6- 3 and moved onto a match against Tunisia. Jordan was well in his stride and continued where he left off scoring  lightning quick head and body punches to get himself into the Bronze medal final on Saturday with a scintillating 9-1 win.
Chris Harris was out next in -60 kg. His opponent from Hong Kong was spirited and matched Chris’s excellent movement. The match was fairly even with points going back and forth. As the buzzer went Chris found himself out of the World  Championships by the narrowest margin 3-2.
The late afternoon saw the eagerly anticipated team kata start with John Gardiner, Chris Karwacinski and Rob Bingham representing England. Coach Ady Gray had the team focussed and ready for their first match against Austria, Kankusho was the kata of choice and the team executed it well. Their  Austrian opponents performed Gojushihosho  and it looked too close to call. The decision went 4-1 to the Austrians and England were out with the Austrians losing in the next round crushing repercharge hopes.
The Ladies Team of Aimee Sell, Mellissa Williamson and Natalie Payne were our last representatives for the day. They performed Chatanyara Against Belarus and we’re winners at 3-2. The next round was Turkey who performed Chatanayara to England’s Supa Empi. The flags went 5-0 to Turkey and England were out with Turkey losing in the later rounds. Great effort for a young team that bodes well for the future.
The day ended with a hope of a medal with Jordan Thomas and a debrief from the national coaches and Chief referee, Dale Gamble.
Day Four – Competition Day 1.

Wednesday morning heralds the first day of the 22nd World Karate Championships. The stadium is incredible, three tiers of seating, 10000 seats, 107 countries, 1200 athletes, 5 days of competition, 3 days sold out. Be under no illusion, this is the WORLD KARATE CHAMPIONSHIPS.
Kata begins the day with our representatives Aimee Sell, current World Junior Bronze Medallist and John Gardiner competing in the individual event for the first time.
John was first out for England soundly beating India 5 – 0 with a strong Empi. Next round was against Iraq. John performed Gojushiodai losing 3 -2, after a slight wobble. It’s all about margins of error at this level and John will take a lot away from this experience.
Aimee came out against San Marino trouncing her opponent 5-0 with an excellent Annan. Next round saw her again show the difference in class beating Croatia 4-1 with Supa empi. Her third round opponent was an accomplished Bulgarian opponent, Aimee’s execution of Chatanyara was exemplary and yielded a 5-0 win. This win took Aimee into the quarter finals where she faced a formidable Japanese opponent who had not dropped a flag on route so far. Unfortunately Japan maintained their momentum with an emphatic 5-0 win in spite of Aimee’s excellent execution of Unsu. Nevertheless, all was not lost as Japan won through to the finals putting Ms Sell into the repercharge. Aimee faced Mexico for a chance to compete for Bronze. Unfortunately it was a bridge too far on this occasion with Aimee losing 4-1 performing Nipaipo.
Great performance and a fantastic boost for the Team kata.
The afternoon began with one of our seasoned campaigners Alton Brown competing in his new category -84 kg. Alton in his inimitable style immediately maximised his greatest attributes, speed and timing. His opponent from Curaçao was peppered with lightning fast gyaku zukis and kizami’s resulting in a 4-0 win and a confident stride onto his next opponent from Albania.
Again the weight and height differential was quite stark. Alton using his experience tried to avoid clinches and used his movement  and kicking speed to great effect scoring with a beautiful backleg mawashi geri. Nevertheless he picked up a number of warnings for contact by his refusal to be intimidated.
His third round Egyptian opponent was from the start wary of Alton’s speed and used his height to throw arrow kizami’s at Alton who tried to get his distance. When he did, a beautiful timed gyaku zuki was scored. The Albanian  countered with of course a kizami off the line followed immediately by scoring a feint kizami, front leg mawashi geri earning 3 points. Alton worked to get the points back but to no avail. At the buzzer he was out, disappointed and then dejected when the Egyptian lost in the semi final, crushing his hopes of the repercharge
Next out was the first of the ladies Amelia Harvey competing in the +68 category. One of England’s new “young guns” Amelia came out firing, skilfully scoring on her Swiss opponent (current European Champion) with 2 laser like Jodan gyak’s for a 2-0 win to make an impressive debut at her first Senior World’s. Amelia upped her pace and intensity in the next round against her Polish opponent scoring with fluid double Jodan punches and counter Jodan and Chudan gyaku winning 6-0. A potentially difficult fight was nullified early by  precision and power punching.
The next round was altogether a different ball game. Amelia faced a Japanese opponent with impeccable distance, timing and speed on both her punching attacks and counters. Amelia worked hard with Coach Willie Thomas trying to negotiate her way past the impressive Japanese armoury, but to no avail. Amelia lost 5-0 but had made an excellent impression on the world stage. Amelia then faced further disappointment when the Japanese competitor surprisingly lost in the next round on flags meaning no repercharge.
Next out was Kate Karwacinski the current Junior  European Medallist. Kate faced a Chinese opponent who did not let her get into her stride. Kate went a point down and ended up chasing the fight losing  2-1.
Last out was Ryan Jay, one of England’s top juniors competing at his first Senior World Championships. From the first exchange Ryan showed his maturity out timing his committed Dominican opponent 2-0. Iran was Ryan’s second round fight and this proved to be  a tough match. The Iranian’s experience at this level became clear as he picked up points from every little opportunity he had. Ryan as always fought to the buzzer but lost 5-0 and learnt a lot.
The day finished uncharacteristically late with no medals for England but some excellent performances that will unquestionably inspire those competing tomorrow.
Day Three

Tuesday began at 7.30am with a buffet breakfast that had plenty of healthy options for the athletes. At 9.45am the squad made its way to the stadium for their last training session.
Coach Thomas with assistants Davin Pack and Paul Newby tailored the session to ensure the athletes fighting over the next few days undertook drills relative to their fighting schedules. It was a pleasure to witness these coaches pouring the last dregs of their knowledge, skill and experience into the athletes to ensure that they were as prepared as they could possibly be for the competition.
Ady  Gray in his calm, authoritative,style fine tuned the  kata athletes to ensure they were confident and focused on the job in hand.
The sessions concluded well within the hour and a half time slot, allowing time for the athletes to relax, stretch and absorb the atmosphere of the competition environment. The squad Captains, Alton Brown and Natalie Williams, took this opportunity to  inject some humour into the day by refining the legendary “”come on England” chants. This bonding exercise concluded with the first ippons of the competition as  Kate and Natalie ambushed, swept and punched a bemused Davin!
The remainder of the day was taken up with the physio attending to those athletes with aches, pains and bruises and the coaches completing their one to one briefings with the squad.
Dinner at 7pm was followed by a final pre tournament briefing from Willie Thomas and then the ceremonial handing out of the competitors name tags.
Good Luck  to the athletes competing on Wednesday:
Aimee Sell – Female individual Kata
John Gardiner – Male Individual Kata
Alton Brown  -84kg
Amelia Harvey +68kg
Ryan Jay -75kg
Kate Karwacinski -68kg
Let the tournament begin !
Day Two
The squad now rested, refuelled and rehydrated were ready for their last preparatory sessions with their coaches. Earlier in the day all athletes were registered in the fastest and most efficient process I have ever witnessed at a championship. A testament to German efficiency and an indication of how professionally organised the championships will be.
At 2.45pm the squad took the short walk to the stadium for the first of two scheduled sessions in the adjoining hall. The balance between the mental and physical readiness is paramount at this stage and the coaches Willie and Ady structured their respective kumite and kata sessions to reflect these key factors.
It was now clear that the tournament was imminent as National Teams trained in the same vicinity,  kiaiing, staring and smiling at each other in an effort to manage their nerves and anxiety.
The squad then returned for their evening meal in the hotel. An excellent buffet was laid on with a healthy emphasis on all  options.i.e no chips.
The day concluded with a brief chat from the national coaches with the athletes on expectations and an acknowledgement from the coaching staff of the great sense of team spirit within the squad.
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Day One

Hi all and welcome to the first of 7 days of reviews, assessments and results from the 22nd world karate championships in Bremen, Germany. This is the premier event on the karate calendar with over one hundred national teams competing.

The England team of 24 athletes, 4 coaches and our physio arrived in the host city shortly after 11am after a dawn start and power naps on the plane. The early arrival at the hotel meant that the group had time to familiarise themselves with Bremen while rooms were made ready. After everyone was checked in a protracted sleep was impressed by the national coach before meeting for dinner at 7.15pm.

A Short walk to the HQ hotel for dinner took the team through the last night of the “Oktoberfest “. What a wonderful spectacle and carnival atmosphere this cultural extravaganza is, it acted as a tremendous prelude to the excitement and energy of the forthcoming championship. After an excellent meal the squad were given a quick refresher on do’s and don’ts from Mo the physio and headed for bed.

Tuesday will see the registration of the athletes and a first taste of world championship atmosphere as they have the first of their preparatory training sessions at the competition venue

Speak soon

Greg Francis
Head of Delegation