In the darkened arena the crowd gasped and cheered like they were watching a firework display as the two karate fighters on the spotlighted mat competed in the finals of the Men’s Team Kumite at BUCS last weekend. As the fighter in the blue belt (ao) attempted a roundhouse kick to the stomach of his opponent in the red belt (aka), aka swept ao’s standing leg, taking him to the floor. Aka delivered a swift punch to his fallen opponent, sending the referees’ flags into the air; he had scored an ippon, the highest score for a technique awarded in karate kumite.
Omar Maqbool, who had been watching alongside the rest of Newcastle University Karate Club and enthusiastically commentating the match to his teammates, exclaimed ‘That was beautiful!’ and in a strong Middlesbrough accent: ‘I love a good sweep, me!’ The following day, Omar went on to win silver in the Men’s Novice Heavyweight Kumite category. Omar won all of his initial fights, securing him a place in the finals. He narrowly missed out on gold despite chasing the other finalist with a flurry of seven punches followed by a roundhouse kick to the back causing his opponent to teeter on the edge of the mat on tip toe, wind-milling his arms before dramatically breakfalling backwards off the mat and getting a penalty for leaving the area.
Omar said: ‘BUCS is like no other competition I’ve been to before; the atmosphere is unique as many universities from across the country come together to compete. The skill level was exceptionally high, the highlight for me was watching the senior kumite finals. Achieving a silver medal was a proud moment but hopefully with more training at the club I will be able to go for gold in 2020. The karate club at Newcastle is great, the teaching and training is to a very high standard and I’d recommend anyone who is interested to come along and give it a go.’
This year Newcastle University Karate Club sent one of its biggest and most successful teams ever to BUCS, with 15 competitors competing in both senior (brown and black belt) and novice categories across both kata and kumite, the two main events in karate competitions. In kumite, two competitors fight each other and are awarded points for techniques including punches, kicks, sweeps and throws. In kata, the karateka (person who practices karate) performs a choreographed pattern of techniques, usually individually although kata can also be performed in groups for team kata events. The club won medals in both kumite and kata, with club president Lewis Reed winning bronze in Men’s Novice Kata with his performance of Heian Godan. Members of the club are used to seeing him endlessly practicing the jump and crescent kick featured in the kata at any opportunity.
Lewis said: ‘This is probably the proudest I’ve been of medalling in any of the competitions I’ve participated in during my time with the club. The level of competition at BUCS is very high, and to be able to improve on losing in the first round last year to such a degree is fantastic. To know that I’m representing the whole club and the cheer from my teammates when the flags went up was a massive driving factor. We were also able to watch the other categories, and seeing the level of the senior finals was unbelievable: it’s a great motivator to participate in even more competitions and hopefully improve on my 3rd place.’
The club’s Chief Instructor Sensei Steve Potts said ‘I’m very proud of each and every student who came along to BUCS this year and had the courage to compete. I’m also always very grateful to the club members, family members and Alumni who came along to spectate, support their teammates and share in the amazing atmosphere across the entire weekend. Omar and Lewis both did exceptionally well and showed great spirit and sportsmanship. And every competitor, placed or not, came away a bit more experienced and highly motivated, excited and eager to start preparing for the next competition on our calendar. Knowing how dedicated many of the students are to their training and karate development I’m certain they’ll continue to go from strength to strength.’