After our success in our first full contact stick tournament , we decided to have a crack at the GSBA British Open on Nov 11th in Northampton. Unfortunately Jay couldn’t make this one due to commitments but he was there with us in spirit, I jokingly said don’t worry we will give them a lash for you.
We continued our training prep in any space we could use including public tennis courts, parks and any available halls. Again a mix of hard and technical, but lots of full contact rounds, I personally notched up over 300 full contact rounds before the fight.
Some of us travelled up the night before so we were rested on the day. We entered 4 fighters me (Barry Harte), Rick Bates, Tarkan Paphiti & Dennis Wong.
Myself and Rick were in the veterans (over 40) but in different weight categories. Tarkan and Dennis were also in different weight categories. We weren’t quite sure what to expect being only our 2nd full contact stick tournament, but suspected that the skill level of competitors would be higher. We weren’t wrong this was a whole different ball game to the last competition. The event was the British Open but it was also an international qualifier for the European championships therefore there was a lot more pressure for the top guys to perform well. There were lots of British flags on the armour of competitors indicating they were on the British Team.
We arrived at 9.00am weighed in at about 10.00am, the whole event took about 12 hours. Manoj (club member) came to offer his support as did 2 of Ricks students (Robin & Jason).
My friend Carl Jackson (7 time British Champ and Bob Breen academy Black Belt) was there refereeing and judging. Carl has been mentoring us on this new journey and his advice has been invaluable to us. Carl was also cornering for us on every opportunity he had (thanks Carl).
Tarkan had some great fights performing really well in both, unfortunately he lost but that’s not to say he didn’t perform well he was just great, and was up against a British champion in his second fight. It was very close, the British coach came over shook my hand and said “you have an awesome fighter there”.
Dennis fought very well in single stick taking a Bronze medal. In double stick he really stepped up to the mark. Again fighting a member of the British Team in the final, he fought very well , the best I think I have seen him fight so far, he took silver.
I (Barry) got bronze in single stick, I was up against one of the British Team and multiple times British Champion, Carl said this guy was very experienced and a awesome fighter. Going out to fight someone who has the British flag on the armour is a little intimidating, I looked at it as a challenge. I felt I gave a good account of my self and feel it was a close fight. I lost but was happy with my performance.
Shortly after the fight I felt a tap on my shoulder, it was Carl with a message from the British Coach to say that based on my performance in the fight I had been selected to attend squad training sessions with the British team, I couldn’t believe it.
My fight in double stick was against another very experience fighter, the fight was rapid and furious, again I felt I did well and held my own but he had the edge. It was only afterwards I found out he is a 6 times World Champion! nice guy too.
Rick fought well in both categories he took silver in single stick, fighting a much heavier opponent. In double he was just brilliant myself and Carl were cornering for him. He came out hard and fast and was fighting for gold. First 2 rounds were clearly in Ricks favour he came back to the corner and I tried to make sure he didn’t ease up on the onslaught in round 3. I told him it was all on this round and he could still loose it if he just sat back, well he certainly didn’t sit back! Tarkan described Rick as a combine harvester ripping up and spitting out everything behind him, which was a pretty accurate description. He took gold and is now a British Champion, this also earns him a place on Team GB to fight in the Euros next year.
After wards we went for a well earned curry, watched the film footage of the fights until 1.00am in the morning and crashed out.
One thing that has been great about theese events is there have been no egos or people walking around with puffed out chests talking big. Everyone is very humble, friendly and approachable. When they fight, they fight hard and fast but there is a genuine respect for each other after the fight and in most cases you end up having a chat with the guy that you have just being trying to beat a few minutes ago. All fighters had a great attitude, respect and it was just great martial arts, onwards and upwards.