Congrats to Andrew, Gretta, Jane, Jeff and Simon on passing through the first part of their Black Belt grading; the sparring. As usual it was a fairly intense night with some shadow sparring, a few rounds of sparring drills, a round (or two) of light sparring, five (I think) rounds of full-on jui kumite, and one round of sparring cum grappling (standing to ground).
I arrived at almost 7:30 thinking they’d already be into it. There were lots of people in the dojo and even more in the viewing gallery. It was chockers; not even much standing room left. The guys weren’t to be seen which was a worry. I assume they were downstairs getting the pep talk. Sometime later Shihan appeared and they followed him up.
After the usual long intro, Sensei Steve did a fairly gruelling warm up for the guys going to black and those going for their brown belt. I commented to one of the guys that they’d have nothing left for the sparring. Jeff seemed to be struggling. Simon and Andrew (and Gretta of course) were powering through their pushups.
The first round was shadow sparring followed by two rounds of one-for-one sparring drills. The intensity was climbing. Then there was a round (or two, I lost count) of light sparring (awase kumite) between the brown & black candidates.
Then they lined up for the full-on rounds. Shihan lined up against Andrew and black belts lined up against the others. It was on and Shihan showed the level of intensity required. They guys were holding their own. I tried to take some good photo’s but everyone had their gloves covering their faces.
As the rounds went on, Shihan faced off against the black belt candidates; Gretta after Andrew, then Jane. Shihan went down during the round with Jane, apparently his knee had given out after a shin or sweep kick. He tried one round with Jeff but went down again. Simon missed out (I think he owes Jane a coffee). Somewhere along the way one of the junior girls got a blood nose and Andrew looked like his had been broken. But they all got through; very red faced but still standing.
The final round was a standup to ground round, with smaller gloves and reduced intensity. The “ground” experts, Ando, Burnie and Sempai Chris, lined up against the candidates. I think most were able to get their opponent to the ground and try to get into some form of mount, but it looked like the experts had the upper hand getting the candidates into a lock or choke eventually.
And then it was over, or “that’s it, game over” as Shihan said. I’m betting that’s the best phrase the guys have heard in a long time. It’s now on to Friday night and the technical grading.
Congrats also to Brett who got through his brown belt sparring.
Photos on the next page.
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