Fight Club

Steph McTighe & Nim Sukamar 29 October 2009

Sometime last Lent term the CUKC squad were relaxing in the pub after a hard training session when our guest instructor for the day casually mentions that he’d like to bring his fighters to Cambridge for a friendly match. Heady with endorphins and alcohol, the karate club was unanimous in its agreement that this was a great idea.

The next morning we reflected on this in the cold light of day. The instructor in question is Sensei Matt Price, Black belt, 5th Dan – nine times British Grand Slam Champion and a seasoned international competitor.  His fighters? The fearsome Northern Regions squad – comprised of the best fighters from the North of England, many of whom come to us freshly tanned and medalled from the World Shotokan Karate Association Championships in Mexico. These are the celebrities of the karate world. When karate finally gets representation at the Olympics, its common knowledge that many of these fighters will be on the GB team.

Intimidated? Maybe a little. Keen for the challenge? Absolutely.

Now it’s eight months on. On Saturday 24th October, five men and four women from Cambridge lined up by the tatami mats to face their Northern Region counterparts. Each faced three different opponents in a series of 27 quick-fire matches. The fights were to be refereed under traditional shobu-ippon rules, with the first to a full point (ippon) being declared the winner. Half a point (wazari) is given to a strike with the potential to injure and a full point given to a strike with the potential to knock out.

The first two fighters step onto the mats, bow, and assume the ready position. At the shout of the referee, they spring into action. We start out strong – Francisco Martinez,  former Venezuelan state and national champion, takes the first fight for CUKC beating Joe Rawcliffe with two sharp wazaris to one. Nim Sukumar (CUKC men’s captain), Thibault Flinois and Petre Nicolescu (making his debut) battle hard through the next three fights but are beaten back by some strong, decisive techniques from the Northern squad. But just as Matt Price starts to get comfortable, Paul Smith – CUKC veteran and current national squad member – punches holes through his opponent, landing techniques fast and hard to even up the men’s round at 3-2 to the North.

Next comes the women. In her first appearance for CUKC, Emma Nunn fights hard against Natasha Balycki but just loses out to some beautifully executed kicks to the head. Steph McTighe (Women’s Captain), Gosia Stanislawek and Madeleine Wood also fall in the first round to a powerful Northern women’s side.

The North take the first round 7-2.

Matt’s squad is as strong as they’ve ever been, but the CUKC squad can’t help reflecting that the next 19 fights will be a hard battle to the finish. Nevertheless, showing true karate spirit, the squad dust themselves down and gird themselves for the third round, resolutely staring down the opposition. Paul and Francisco both defeat their opponents with decisive victories, whilst Emma’s speed and agility secures the first win in the women’s competition. The final score in the third round is 6-3 to the North, meaning an overall victory to the Northern Regions Squad.

Special commendation should go to Paul and Francisco, who won 3 out of 3 fights against randomly selected international fighters, and special recognition is due to Petre Nicolescu and Emma Nunn making their debuts fighting for CUKC. Heady on endorphins and adrenaline, we suggested we make a trip up to Leeds for a rematch.

Steph McTighe & Nim Sukamar