I had been thinking about taking part in a full contact stick fight for some time, I mentioned this to a fellow Black Belt in passing some time ago as I knew he had competed and won the British championships.
A few weeks ago just before I went on holiday, I received and email from my colleague asking if I would like to fight in Leicester on the Saturday the 1st September 2012. I agreed and also emailed out my students thinking I would be the only person taking part from my club, gradually a few emails started popping up in my inbox and now there would be 5 fighters from the Hakudakan entering. The fighters were me (Barry Harte), Rick Bates, Jay Inamdar, Tarkan Paphiti and Dennis Wong.
All these people have good technical stick skills and have been training with me a long time.
We only had 3 weeks to prepare after I came back from my Holiday, I did a bit of light training and stick flow while I was away but we started really going for it on the Sunday after I arrived back. We met in a park in Harrow, found a quiet corner, armoured up and battered each other full contact for 10 rounds much to the amazement of people out on their Sunday walk, mostly people kept their distance. We kept the training up that week and by the following week we were all fairly heavily bruised.
I arranged for Carl Jackson to come down in week two of our preparations to run a seminar covering the rules. I have trained with Carl for many years at Guro Bobs. I asked him, was he 2 times British Champion? This was so I could email out to the guys his credentials before the seminar. In fact he said he was actually 6 times British Champion and had also had won multiple medals at European level and Silver in the World Championships that took place recently in Las Vegas. When he turned up on the day and I introduced him along with his achievements to the rest of the guys, he said “actually thinking about it, it’s 7 times British Champion, I forgot one!”
One of the first things Carl said was to me was “you weren’t using those sticks (he pointed to a pile of the heavier weight non-competition sticks) for full contact were you?” I replied “yes, where do you think all the bruises have come from?” I was holding up my right arm which was black and blue from the tip of my elbow right down to near to the wrist. Everyone else was sporting similar impressive bruises in various places on their bodies. For full contact competition fighting you use lighter sticks to limit broken fingers and arm damage but we didn’t know that and had been using the much heavier sticks during sparing. Carl commented that we were all crazy, which instantly filled us with some confidence.
The seminar was an eye opener and a reality check, it was a mix of technical skills at the beginning followed by full contact sparing to the max! Carl worked us hard. In the first few minutes Jay managed to give himself a black eye with his own stick while training solo! Rick already had a black eye from training on the Saturday with me. I threw up 3 times and Rick threw up too many times to count. I remember having my head out of one of the fire exits retching and seeing Rick at another exit doing the exact same thing, nice. Carl then exclaimed “we need your body armour before you go out to be sick!” The fights continued and were unrelenting.
It was a very heavy hard session but the pace had now been set and I knew what we had to do.
Carl was an excellent teacher and seemed to be really enjoying watching us beating the hell out each other! A very skilled teacher / fighter and a great humble guy. At the end of the session we thanked Guro Carl and before he left I asked for some advice about fight prep.
I got the guys together and said we have only got 2 weeks guys, let’s get in as many full contact rounds in as we can in one week, then we need to rest and drill the technical stuff. I already had in mind how many rounds I wanted to do before the fight (100) but thought it best not to tell the guys yet as they were all in shock from Guro Carl’s session. I trained every day, as did most of the guys. Myself & Tarkan completed 112 gruelling full contact rounds in one week, we would meet up, armour up and say “here we go again…” and then get on with the beatings and conditioning. After one such session I went home and got changed into shorts to cool down, Steph (my wife) looked at me with the strange look I was getting accustomed too, and said “you’ve got lash marks all over your thighs and body what have you been up to?”
The last full contact training session was on the Saturday (1 week before the fight), Peter Byrne one of my Black Belts from Manchester came to give his support and even jumped in and had a go as well. Manoj Gopal was a great help to us all in the training, giving support, time keeping and helping us in any way he could.
We were now regularly breaking sticks on each other hands, arms and heads, power levels were going through the roof and we found that we were bending the metal face grills on the protective headgear. We then worked loads of technical drills and footwork for the next week, still quite cardio vascular training but we stopped the heavy sparing to give our bodies time to heal and recover. I made the guys do a whole range of technical training including lots of blocking, footwork, accuracy drills, power striking, faking and stick flow drills. We developed fight strategies and combinations to use in the fights. We shared our experience and learnt from each other about what was working or not and talked about how we were using the techniques we had been cultivating in a real competitive combat situation. It was a massive learning curve for all of us. By the time the day had come, we were all moving very differently to three weeks earlier and felt confident that we had done all we could in order to prepare, given the time we had.
It was a long day, we arrived at the venue at 9.30am, there was a rules meeting with all the fighters at 10.30am. The fights started at about 11.00am and finished at about 7.30PM. there were about 40 fighters in total. There were two categories single stick and double stick. The veterans (over 40 years of age) section had now become open weight as there wasn’t enough fighters to be split into weight categories, this meant that there were some big guys in the mix.
During the morning there was a call over the sound system requesting that anyone wanting to fight in double stick needed to have their name down on the list. some of the my guys were just about to be called up to fight in the single stick, so myself and Rick went up to the registration table. I said to Rick “add everyone to the list for double stick as well”.
In many cases we ended fighting each other which was hard but we had already discussed this in advance and agreed that we would just get on with it, no matter who was in front of us in the ring. The fact that we had all agreed this in advance meant that we didn’t have to go through having to mentally dealing with this fact on the fight day.
What a day, all the guys did a fabulous job and we all fought really well. We brought home a total of 7 medals for the club, 1 Gold, 3 Silvers and 3 Bronzes. We were the only club in attendance where every single member won a medal and in some cases 2!
The final scores on the doors were:
Barry Harte, Silver Single Stick (Veterans), Rick Bates, Bronze Single Stick & Bronze, Double Stick (Veterans).
Tarkan Paphiti Gold Double Stick, Jay Inamdar Siver Single Stick & Silver Double Stick, Dennis Wong Bronze Single Stick.
There weren’t too many injuries just the expected knocks, lumps and generally feeling like the body had been in a fight. Unfortunately I have a slipped disk but its healing with lots of work, I didn’t feel it on the day with the adrenaline only in the days after, Rick was suffering from severe elbow pain but, all in all we were fine.
I just want to say a big thanks to Guro Carl Jackson for coming down and teaching us the rules and of course to Guro Bob Breen my JKD/Kali teacher of many years and Sensei John Griffiths Head of Mushin Budo.