Newcastle University Karate Club won seven trophies and three medals at the 33rd KUGB Kyu Grades Competition. After a five hour journey through hail and snow to Prestatyn in North Wales, the team faced competitors from other university clubs, including Cambridge and Liverpool as well as karate clubs from all over England and Wales.
Arriving the night before the competition, the club traipsed down to the beach for some last-minute training. In sub-zero temperatures and almost complete darkness, the karateka braced their stances against the gale-force winds and sparred on the sands.[pullquote]"The pair were so closely matched, the referees were forced to call for an extra round to decide on the winner"[/pullquote]
The tough training session clearly worked – the following day held many victories for Team Newcastle. The club had phenomenal success in individual Kumite (freestyle fighting between two opponents) with Naeem Stevens, Lewis Reed, Kristina Kapitza and Olla Al-Jaibaji all claiming bronze in their categories.
In a tense final, Kapitza and Al-Jaibaji faced each other in Ippon Kumite, also known as one step sparring. Ippon Kumite is a choreographed form of fighting where an opponent attacks once and the defender must block and counter. The pair were so closely matched, the referees were forced to call for an extra round to decide on the winner, which culminated in Kapitza claiming the gold and Al-Jaibaji the silver.
When asked about her experience in the finals, Al-Jaibaji said: “Standing at the final stage is such a remarkable experience and receiving this significant award boosts my confidence to work even harder in upcoming competitions. I am proud to have competed with everyone and looking forward to doing it again.”
Kapitza is also looking forward to the next competition, saying: “It was inspiring to see people of all ages competing and performing incredibly well. I’m really proud of my own performance; winning gold and bronze was an unbelievable feeling. I’m excited for the next competition and for our talented team to do even better next time.”
NUKC continued to dominate across all of their Kumite categories with Newcastle’s team of Naeem Stevens, Lewis Reed and Ollie Hulme-Vickerstaff winning yet another bronze in Team Kumite. Hulme-Vickerstaff also won a bronze trophy in Individual Kata after his strong performance of Bassai Dai in the finals.
He said afterwards: “It was my first time competing in Kata but I really enjoyed the experience! I’m happy that I came away with a bronze and I’m looking forward to seeing if I can improve on that in the next competition. Overall the team put in a really good performance and I think we should all be really pleased.”