A team of 11 competitors from Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts Academy were selected to be part of the England team competing at the World Union of Karate-do Federations (WUKF) World Championships in Dublin between 15th and 19th June. The event was held in a large conference centre in Dublin, Citywest. Which was just as well given the logistics of housing all the competitors and spectators under one roof for the three days of the championships.
WUKF have members from Countries all over the world and many of them sent competitors to this event. In total 74 Federations attended, 2274 individual competitors and 455 teams supported by 230 Coaches and 128 referees or judges. As it turned out there were 12 competition areas, which on all three days of the competition where in daily use for at least 14 hours. In short it is the biggest Karate championships worldwide during 2016.
The members of the team from Basingstoke comprised of Bryan Andrews (48) Lindsey Andrews (41) Katie Dolan (43) Mandi Miles (39) Mark van Meerkerk (45) Edward van Meerkerk (17) Zara Hughes-White (17) Jack Wyatt (13) Zane Sewell (13) Harry van Meerkerk (13) and Kienan Dolan (12.)
The team had worked hard towards this event with many training sessions and squad events since February. Lots of work on developing the fitness to compete in the large categories. More work on fine tuning their Kata skills. (* Kata is a choreographed solo sequence of movements where attacking and defensive movements are practised in sequence. Kumite is fighting against an opponent) Their timing and rhythm, the quality of their techniques and the ‘look and feel’ of the Kata. In the Kumite, people worked on some bread and butter techniques, the fundamentals to ensure that they were optimised in all kinds of different positions and situations, they worked their favourite techniques which were tried and trusted and they looked at tactics and ringcraft to ensure that they could control the fight and the area.
The team assembled for their first training session in Dublin on Wednesday afternoon which was a seminar with multiple World Champion Christophe Pinna. This covered his system and gave us some things to take away and practice to improve our fighting. After this we worked on our individual Katas together as a team with the coaches providing feedback. For the majority of the team it was then a restful evening. Some of the senior coaches had to attend a presidents and officials meeting and dinners, looking at plans for the next few years with WUKF.
Thursday morning was an early start for all the coaches who had to attend a mandatory coaching seminar to enable them to coach Matside during the event. There was another seminar with Pinna which many of the team again attended to learn some new skills. Late Thursday afternoon, the whole squad had to register and be checked to ensure weights and heights were correct for the categories entered and that everyone was who they said they were. Some more light training for the squad with stretching and Kata to keep limber.
Thursday evening was the official opening ceremony with all a full house in terms of the spectators and all the competitors and officials. The officials speeches were given and some excellent displays of Irish folk music and different forms dancing were given. This was the first time that the World Championships had included people with a disability and they asked Shin Gi Tai to perform in the opening ceremony with Mandi Miles demonstrating some Wheelchair based Kata and also doing some fighting and self defence drills along with Lindsey and Bryan Andrews. All three had worked hard together over the previous three months to choreograph a strong routine, which in the end was just over seven minutes long. There were thousands of people in the audience and estimated at 100,000 watching online. Our demonstration brought the house down with several standing ovations received. It was a great example of Disability Karate and ‘able bodied’ Karate being practiced side by side, as it should be.
Friday morning was the first day of the actual competition and it started early with an 8:30 arrival in the venue. The event started with Children’s kata performed in groups based upon their age range in age order. The standard was high and the number of competitors in each category massive, one of our team had eighty fighters in his category. We saw some spirited performances during the course of the day from the children in particular Jack Wyatt pulled off some fine victories in the team fighting including a very nice head kick to win that bout. Jack’s team went onto win a Bronze medal in the team event. Mark van Meerkerk performed some good Kata but wasn’t quite able to make the final rounds in a strong category, Bryan Andrews in the same category made it to the semi final. Next up were Katie Dolan and Lindsey Andrews competing in the Veteran’s A Kata (35-40 yrs), again with a large category it was somewhat of a nail-biter. Katie made it through to the second round and showed great promise for her first World Championship. Lindsey battled through to win a silver against a very good Italian competitor. Next up, again was Lindsey in Veteran’s B Kata (41-45.) She went through the preliminary rounds and in the final drew for 1st place. She then had to perform a different kata as a tie break. She picked Anan, which is an old favourite that had helped her to two previous World Titles. Her American opponent picked the same Kata and it was clear within the first 1/3 of her performance of the Kata that Lindsey had won her third world title.
Bryan Andrews was called onto the mats to fight at 8:20pm. With over 40 competitors, the category was a big one. He started off well with a 7:0 win over a Welsh opponent and this set him up for the following fights. There were a couple of nailbiters, the quarter finals were a notable one with the match going into sudden death extra time as a result of some penalty points against Bryan, he scored first and won the bout. The final of this category started at 11:35pm and there was a partisan crowd cheering the Irish competitor and a few hardcore English fans who stayed to the very end. There was plenty of action to see and some lumps and bumps for both competitors, Andrews, eventually won the match 5:2 and secured The World Championship title. His medal was finally presented at 00:10, a long day but a very successful one. The end of day one and we had won Bronze in the teams, one Silver and had two Gold medals and World Champions.
The rest of Saturday morning came along very quickly and it was a prompt start with the teenagers coming out for their Kata prompt at 9:00am, we saw some great performances with Edward van Meerkerk finishing 9th in the world and Zara Hughes-White getting through to the semi final. Harry van Meerkerk did a little better than his big brother coming in 7th place. The boys teams of Harry van Meerkerk, Kienan Dolan and Zane Sewell fought bravely in the teams coming up against a team who were all at least a foot taller than them, sadly their courage wasn’t enough to give them the win. Our last competitor on Saturday evening was Kienan Dolan in the boys 11-12 category with over 80 people in his category, they split it into different pools across several areas to facilitate a faster finish. Kienan fought through his own and then beat the winners of the other pools to reach the final. The American he fought was just a little too experienced and quick for Kienan this time, so he won a richly deserved Silver medal and came #2 in the world.
Sunday morning was an earlier start at 8 and for Shin Gi Tai, there weren’t many of our team left competing. Zane Sewell performed well in the fighting as did Harry van Meerkerk, neither made it through the preliminary rounds though. Edward van Meerkerk and Zara Hughes-White fought valiantly with some good techniques, but weren’t able to pass the preliminary rounds. Mandi Miles was next up and she performed some great katas to win a Gold medal in the Wheelchair category and become the World Champion for this, a great achievement considering she only started training in March 2015. Our last event was the cadet females team fighting for Gold against the Polish national team, undoubtedly there were some nerves, but this didn’t seem to affect Zara Hughes-White or the other girls as they won the match convincingly 6:0 to become Team World Champions.
The days were all long and tiring, the competition was intense with some excellent teams competing against us and an enviable standard. All things considered we’d do it all over again to compete at this level.
Our final medal tally was
Gold Medals and World Champion
- Lindsey Andrews
- Bryan Andrews
- Mandi Miles
- Zara Hughes-White
- Lindsey Andrews
- Kienan Dolan
- Jack Wyatt
Shin Gi Tai Martial Arts performing at The Opening Ceremony.