Doing it for the girls!
by Amanda Gisby 3rd Dan HDKI
As with most great ideas, there they were in the bar after another great course, Simon Bligh Sensei 5th Dan HDKI had been teaching at Black Country Shotokan Karate Club, when an off the cuff remark was made to instructor Aimee-Jo Morris, and the seed of an idea set the ball rolling. What about an all female competition run by women for women, a novice competition to give women and girls confidence to compete in a girls only environment.
By the power of social media, within a couple of days the ladies of the now HDKI, had got a venue, a set of rules, officials and competition pack together. On 15th October 2016 our first womens only competition was held for novice female competitors aged 11 and over. We only had 12 competitors at that first competition but the atmosphere was great. The competitors and coaches told us that it was the best atmosphere at a competition ever and although we were initially disappointed with the numbers we had such a positive experience that we decided that next year would be bigger and better.
Fast Forward to 17th June 2017 and the HDKI invitational Womens only competition held in Wolverhampton. The competition was open to all HDKI dojos in the UK and invited other dojos.
We had expanded the categories from our 1st event to any age but still keeping this as a novice competition, grades up to Shodan but stipulated that those who had competed in a national squad or internationally could not compete. We wanted to keep it novice so that those who were inexperienced in competition or who lacked confidence were not frightened off by super experienced competitors. Entries started flooding in from as far afield as Devon, in the South to Preston in the North and to Norfolk over in East as well as several places in between.
42 Girls and ladies from ages 6 to 45+.
7 kata categories, 7 kumite categories, team kata and my favourite event the lottery team kata.
Another year forward and we decided to open out the competition so that experienced karateka and higher grades could also compete.
On Saturday 16th June this year we held our 3rd all womens competition, 61 competitors in 23 categories of kata and kumite over 2 tatami came to Wednesbury Leisure Centre in the West Midlands. From the youngest competitor age 6 to the oldest competitor/official in their 70’s we truly cover the whole spectum. We noted this year that the biggest growth category was the over 40’s which is very unusual.
After a welome message we do the draw for my favourite event, the lottery team kata competition. Its a unique event and really captures the spirit of this competition.
Names are pulled out of the hat in teams of 3, everyone was introduced to their new team mates from different dojos and were advised that the last competition of the day would be a team kata event where they would compete with their new found friends and they would need to collaborate and find each other during the competition to practice. The new teams were then given some time to practice with their team mates, many of whom they had not met before to work out their team kata. There was jut a lovely buzz of busy karateka all working together about the dojo. Simon remarked to me that this is what it was all about, people getting on, doing karate, working hard and having some fun.
It was then time for the competition to start.
The referee team consisted mainly of women headed up by myself as chief referee , with a few male referees to boost the numbers. We also had a couple of junior black belts Arwen Stewart and Erin Wrightson had a go at corner judging for some of the junior events. They both remarked that it really was not easy but enjoyed the experience. We also had some young ladies help with scoring table expertly during the day. Special thanks to Grace Helliwell-Cameron who worked hard all day.
Competition was fierce throughout the day and standard was extremely high. Not one cross word was heard and throughout there was support for every competitor from within their own dojo and also all the other competitors as well as the coaches and supporters who came to watch. Medals were won and issued and photos taken. Every competitor also received a certificate of attendance.
We also had a student of the day trophy to award. I asked around the officials to let me know if they had noticed anyone who stood out for them. One young lady was noticed by several of the officials. Evie Twigg, one of the youngest competitors on the day, was awarded the trophy. She celebrated, commisterated and supported her fellow competitors whether they won or were knocked out with joy or empathy that went way beyond her young age and it was felt that she had truly captured the spirit of the event.
Overall, we had a very positive experience and have received some amazing feed back from competitors and parents/coaches alike for the third year running.
Many have asked when the next competition will be and that they were floating and on an absolute high.
I would say that this is mission accomplished, girls and women having a positive experience and going away with the confidence and a spring in their step. A big thank you also has to be said to all the companies who made a donation to the grand raffle. Thank you for your generosity.
Next years event will be on Saturday 15th June and is going international with promises of entries from USA and Ireland – although all are welcome.
The following day we will have a very special event open to all (men and women), training in the grounds of Dudley Castle which is inside the Zoo. We will have exclusive access to the zoo before opening and 2 hours training with Scott Langley Sensei followed by a picnic and open access to the zoo for the day.
Here’s to next year. We look forward to welcoming you all.
If you want any further information please do not hesitate to contact the ‘A’ team Aimee-Jo Morris or Amanda Gisby