I returned from London last week where we had the Wado World Championships! It was great to see the city, although we didn’t get to go inside any of the main tourist attractions. Despite everything closing at around 4:30, the team still made it to see Big Ben, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. We also found a few guards of the Household Cavalry to get our picture with. They didn’t move unless you got to close to the door they were guarding, then they yelled at you… poor lady. Fish and chips are better than I thought they would be! Who doesn’t like fried fish? I was also pleasantly surprised that chips meant French fries.
The tournament was really something special. The presentation and set up was something I’ve never seen before. They paraded each division from staging around the whole event hall to allow the crowd to cheer for their athletes as they passed. Then once all divisions were at the 5 rings, they had the first two athletes and referees come out and get into position. From there the chief referee began all the matches at once with a microphone and a loud gong. It was sweet. I think the event also did a great honor to our departed Sensei Tatsuo Suzuki, founder of the Wado International Karate-do Federation.
It is very rare to get the opportunity to travel and compete with the very people who push you and train with you every day. I was very glad to have my dojo-mates near. It helped me relax and have fun, which I know is a critical piece of a good performance. On the first day, out of 22 athletes, I took gold in Kata. There were strong competitors from Spain and Belgium that I had to outscore. I thank Sensei Dale Gatchalian for the hard work and thought that went into our teams kata prep for this event. The next two days was Kumite, and it is crazy to think back on how much fighting I had to do. Through -75, Open, Team, and Suzuki’s Champions, I had a personal record 16 matches which came out to be over an hours worth of fighting on the weekend. Although I managed to stay undefeated, there were some tough opponents. I had to compete with “the heart of Belgium” in the -75kg as well as a Georgian -75kg fighter known for defeating Aghayev earlier this year. There was another Georgian who I have always admired for his throwing abilities and a WKF heavyweight champion from Greece. When I came up against them however, I was able to put all worries aside and get down to business. I outscored my opponents on the weekend 101 points scored to 17 points allowed.
My favorite moment had to be team fighting. It’s not every day that you get to fight alongside your dojo mates, and I learned a lot from the way we handled team fighting. The team was Vincent Garcia, Travis Hintzel and myself. We were having so much fun together that we couldn’t be stopped. I will never forget our moments out there. A true underdog story, we were one of the few teams without a bye, and we finished by beating Georgian national team members. Well done chaps.
I was glad to be on the plane coming home, only because we almost didn’t make it. In legendary fashion, our bus driver, Chris, gave us the perfect ending to a trip. We started out late for the airport, and traffic was bad so we were already sweating the thought of missing our flight, when the van started to run out of gas. If we pulled over for gas we were surely going to miss our flight, so we decided to try and make it. With the airport in sight in the distance, the van began choking on fumes. We were in a long underground tunnel when the van decided to turn off. Rolling at about 20 mph on a highway, Chris shook the van back and forth while repeatedly twisting the key and restarting the engine every 5 seconds. I didn’t know at the time, but he was shaking the gas tank to get everything that was left. We barely made it up a hill leading out of the tunnel and once we started going downhill the gas ran to the front of the tank and we had some fuel to work with. Finally, after running a few lights and weaving through the airport, we made it a mile or two without losing precious momentum to our terminal. And after a few sighs of relief we remembered we were still late, yelled goodbye to Chris and ran inside.
I just want to thank my Sensei, Brody Burns and Dale Gatchalian for an excellent trip and to congratulate my 7 man team, each of which came home with medals. Good Job Maxine Lisot, Shelby Konrad, Travis Hintzel, Vincent Garcia, Brandon Wahle, and Cesar Colunga. You guys rock and have amazing abilities.