Latest updates from across the academy

By Admin
23 September 2023 10:52 pm

We were delighted to have a small team of Academy members travelling to Switzerland to compete in the Basel International Open Masters last weekend. 

The event is a truly international affair, with 26 nations in attendance and the event reaching its maximum 900 entries a fortnight before competitors stepped onto the tatami. 

While this was not the first tournament abroad for the Academy, it was the first time entering one under the banner of the World Karate Federation. The standard was, quite simply, excellent and a joy for our members to be part of and to witness. 

Amongst those attending were world champions, continental champions and Premier League champions, making for a high quality event in a day filled with back-to-back action. 

While competition was tough it was wonderful to see everyone step onto the mat, with everyone staying focused and not letting themselves get overawed by the occasion. And there were even medals to celebrate too. 

The familiar Academy kata team of teaching trio Tim Griffiths, Steven Connell and Dan Salter returned to compete together for the first time this year. Their performance of the kata Empi was solid, but they were beaten into bronze medal position by the eventual winners from Austria. 

Three weeks before the tournament, Tim picked up a foot injury that left him with the prospect of not being able to compete, having already withdrawn from the British International Open earlier this month. While not fully recovered, Tim chose to compete in the Male Veteran Kata event - and was glad he did. Tim worked through the rounds to reach the final, but was pipped to the gold by a competitor from Italy. 

Tim wasn’t the only Academy member to pick up a medal in the veteran categories. Caroline Walton achieved bronze in Female Veteran Kata, having been beaten by the eventual winner in her category. And it was a similar story for Ian Connell, who picked up a bronze as he was beaten by an excellent fighter from Switzerland, who also won his category. 

While that wrapped up the medals for the Academy, there was another event left to contend: the Masters open weight kumite. This is a prestigious category, with the winners and medallists winning prize money for their efforts. This being the case, it attracted a field of exceptional quality from around the world. And so it was very special for Academy member Juan Rodrigues to be part of this field against Kiparoidze from Georgia, who is ranked 30th in the world in -84kg kumite.

Juan fought bravely against Kiparoidze - who picked up a bronze earlier this year in a WKF Series A event. He kept things tight in the first half of the bout, before his opponent took control in the last 90 seconds. We’re proud of Juan for stepping up to take part in a category with such a quality field. 

As the evening unfolded, the crowd were treated to some excellent matches from fighters like 2018 -75kg World Champion, Ghoncheh Bahman Asgari (Iran) and two-time Premier League winner, Asiman Gurbanli (Azerbaijan). But perhaps the best spectacle was a quarter final match between eight-time Premier League and four-time Asian champion, Ugar Aktas (Turkey) and 2016 World Champion, Sajad Ganjzadeh (Iran). 

Both competitors opened their account with scores that some people were surprised to see. And with a series of points scored by Aktas, it looked like the match was dead and buried early on, until Ganjzadeh mounted the most incredible of comebacks, with takedown after takedown. With scores levelling up, then began an exchange of techniques with both Aktas and Ganjzadeh looking just as likely to win. But it was Aktas that was the eventual victor, taking the bout 11-10. The crowd showed their appreciation with a huge ovation, acknowledging both competitors for playing their part in the match of the day. 

Being able to go to events of this standard is a great privilege. Seeing the level of karate at the Basel International Open was hugely inspirational and everyone that took part or spectated looks forward to get back to the dojo to work towards the opportunity to take part in other high quality events like this in the future. 

Well done to our competitors and thank you to those that came to watch and support. 

Full squad: Steven Connell, Ian Connell, Tim Griffiths, Juan Rodrigues, Dan Salter and Caroline Walton