At the end of February, a 40-strong team of Bath students travelled to Sheffield to compete in the BUCS Karate Nationals. Ponds Forge International Hall saw an action-packed, adrenaline-fuelled weekend for the University of Bath Karate Club (UBKC), with ‘kata’ and ‘kumite’ tournaments on Saturday and Sunday.
Kata, the execution of choreographed combat techniques (individually or in a team), is judged by 5 judges after opponents go head to head. Kumite, on the other hand, involves 2 opponents sparring against each other. The categories can be further broken down into weight groups and novice/senior status.
Day 1 of the tournament got underway with the kata rounds; some were so intense you would quite literally be able to hear a pin drop among the hushed silence. In the Women’s Novice category, Andrea ‘Tina’ Rendora celebrated her first ever medal – an incredible gold. Even more incredibly, the final was an all-Bath one, with Andrea up against her teammate Shakira ‘Sledgehammer’ Smith. With two guaranteed medals, it was almost too close to call and there was just one vote between them.
More medals were scooped up on Day 2, with the whole team fighting superbly thanks to coaching from World and European Masters medallist Ali Nyoni and Jim McCafferty, who has over 20 years of top level fighting and coaching experience. In the male novice heavyweight category, Ashley Heath picked up a bronze medal whilst Alex Powell completed his triple BUCS medal collection with a hard-fought silver. In the female novice categories, bronze medals were won across all 3 weight categories by Shakira Smith, Rose Nnando and Bev Lung. (Let’s ignore the part where I write about myself!). The second gold medal of the competition was won by first year Charlie Wedd, who has only been doing karate for less than 6 months, but triumphed as the novice middleweight champion. “It was my first competition so I’m really happy” Charlie said. “We did well as a club too so it was great all round.”
There were some excellent team performances in both kata and kumite, as well as the senior kumite tournament where the auditorium received stunning masterclasses from black belts Andrei Ivtshenko, and Leigh Matheson, winning highly-deserving bronze medals.
Out of over 50 university teams who competed this year, Bath was placed 2nd overall, jumping 5 places from last year. Chair of UBKC, James Weber, said “achieving 2nd place nationally is a huge success for the club. The competitors competed to their best along with the training and help from our dedicated coaches and with sponsorship from Central Bar.” Coach Ben Whetherly added, “the effort and commitment put into training sessions was outstanding, so it came as no shock how well the team performed. They pushed themselves through intense training which meant they had superior fitness to keep them going. I’m proud to say I coach UBKC.” Ali, who has been the kumite coach since 2013, said “it was a great team effort and I’m proud of all the competitors and the progress over the last 2 years. To be 2nd is an incredible achievement – and I’m positive we will do even better in 2016!”
At the time of going to press, UBKC are preparing for the Art of Movement kata competition in London. Just as Ali told the club before BUCS, “We are Bath. We are winners,” I have a sneaky suspicion there will soon be a few more medals in the bag to add to the collection.
For more information about University of Bath Karate Club, visit http://www.bathstudent.com/sport/clubs/Karate/ or contact the Chair, James Weber at: firstname.lastname@example.org