Jikishin Ju Jitsu Association Belgium Trip - 2007
Sensei Brian Herbert, 7th Dan and Head of Jikishin, led a group of some 25 to Aalst, for a Ju Jitsu convention and also to attend a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event at the local Sportspalast.
We set out from various locations including the Burger King in Brentwood which only exists as a figment of Sensei Lee Bywater’s memory of youthful indulgence: this means he was often there as a teenager but hasn’t been there since and which explains why it’s now a Sports Shop.
That diversion aside, we were safely collected by Sensei Paul Nichols, 3rd Dan and thence to Orsett to pick up Sensei Brian and then on to Dover. Everyone dived into the Restaurant except Lee, Tony Park and a favoured view, whose Epicurean taste-buds demanded “Langan’s” and its £15 Breakfast. Following disembarkation, we travelled across Northern France and into Belgium without a hill in sight. Arriving at the Hotel Ibis, we met Sensei Chris Barnham and his students and then, altogether, we wandered into Aalst and into a phenomenally loud Bar, playing some Thrash Metal at high volume and where everyone smoked. After that, we went to a high quality restaurant of previous acquaintance and enjoyed an excellent dinner, Steak, Mixed Grill and more, although Simone did insist on Snails and pronounced them “very rich” and appetizing. Roger had to have a taste and was pleasantly surprised.
The following day, we set off for the local Community Sports Hall and enjoyed seminar work under our hosts, Sensei Steven and Sensei Eric and others of at least 4th Dan; although this was initially confusing as their belts suggested 7th Dan (but were clarified as 4th Dan).
Sensei Brian, using Chris Barnham as Uke, demonstrated some astonishingly flowing techniques encompassing initial block, multiple distraction strikes before executing a Throw and Finish. He then demonstrated variations albeit from the same initial stance. Sensei flowed during each iteration of technique and did not pause for thought thus showing his deep understanding and application. It awed the spectator and the student alike; it also awed Chris Barnham but he relished the experience and felt honoured to be chosen as Uke. He also mentioned that one innocuous Strike left him out on his feet and was grateful for the respite that Sensei Brian allowed him when explaining part of the technique to the students.
Senseis Lee Bywater and Steve Hobday, both 3rd Dan, also took part in the teaching and used Senseis Carrie Bywater and Wendy Roser as Ukes As a group they demonstrated a variety of techniques, to the students and were able to support each other in their teaching. It is a big responsibility to teach on the mat at a seminar and there is a balance to be struck between the reasonable expectations of the Kyu grade student and the Dan Grade student and they did really well.
Mention has to be made of a French 6th Dan, who performed some superb techniques including a variation of a leg throw, which melded into version of Rice Bale. He was a joy to watch both in execution of technique and also his enthusiasm and teaching (English not being his First language). He also made a telling point when he got to the Black Belt section and mopped his brow showing that he was sweating but that they were not. It was a very good natured observation. It was later revealed that he had had a Heart Attack only 6 months previously and had lost a lot of weight (probably on Doctor’s orders).
The seminar over, we took lunch in the same location (which had a very handy glass-panelled Bar adjacent to the Dojo and which provided excellent ham rolls, chips, hot dogs and chocolate). The afternoon was given over to Competition and this meant Random Attack and Groundfighting to Brazilian Ju Jitsu (BJJ) rules. For the latter, the Referee awards the Points, which are recorded by the Scorer so all can see. It also allows the Ref to concentrate of the awarding of Points for Takedown, Guard Mount, Passing the Guard etc. The competitors ranged from youngsters to Adults. One girl proved very able and beat both boys and girls with clear skill, as muscle mass etc is less of a factor in children. It did bring a rebuke to one small chap who opened with a kick only to be told off. He looked confused and, later, tearful as the girl beat him. To be quite fair, he was much the younger and smaller. She also beat those boys more her own size but this was due to skill; she was better trained and it showed. Another young woman won Gold by demonstrating both skill and invention. When matched with another young woman of similar skill and bearing, she took the strain of a double push to her shoulders and leapt up crossing both her legs under the chin of her opponent and executing a shin choke to the throat. She dropped straight down on to her back, drawing the opponent down with her and got an immediate Tap Out. Quite right, it was an irresistible choke.
In the Men’s category, were 2 very well matched and skilled BJJ fighters who tried techniques with gusto only to meet counters with counters. It was very interesting and wholly technical. They were followed by 2 giants, who nullified each other and made much less of a spectacle but it’s easy to say this when you are witnessing fighters of 6ft 6ins try to get the better of each other on the ground. If they were stood upright on a Door and told me I wasn’t going in, I wouldn’t argue.
For the Random Attack, which took part on the other mat, the usual rules were followed. Emma won Gold in the women’s Kyu Grade event and showed considerable vigour and effort. In the Dan Grade event, Sensei Wendy Roser shouted the loudest and longest “Kiai!” ever heard on a mat as she crunched Sensei Steve Hobday, her ‘husband-to-be’. It prompted the thought “…and don’t be home late!!” but perhaps that’s unfair. This was a very tight contest and the Belgians showed excellent speed and technique and there were no complaints that they took Gold. Congratulations to Emma Probets winning the gold and to Lee, Steve, Carrie and Wendy on their Silvers and Bronzes.
The seminar and competition closed on time and we then prepared for the evening’s Dinner. This was held in the Sportspalast, and the food was Excellent. Whilst we were absorbed in the Beef, and Chocolate cake and more, videos were shown at the far end of previous MMA events. This did not intrude on the Meal, which was sumptuous.
Afterwards, we all went downstairs to the Dance floor and Bar. Excellent planning. Again, it was thoroughly enjoyable and the DJ was able to take requests although it is difficult to excuse him for playing “Stairway to Heaven” followed by “The Birdy Song” at the end of the night. Well, it was 3AM. It was absolutely great fun and Chris Barnham, Lee Bywater, Tony Park, Wendy Roser, Steve Hobday and Carrie Bywater all looped arms to dance but at first sight it looked like they were going to do “The Hokey-Cokey”. Certainly they all got involved with the local dance, which was a variation on the Gap Band, “Oops, Upside Your Head”…after which the DJ played the original Gap Band and they carried on the seated dancing. This was followed by throwing yourself forward like Jurgen Klinsmann scoring his first goal for Spurs. Tony Park did a variation on this when he charged forward and was about to launch himself, when he thought better of it and did a Side Breakfall instead. Masterful. I don’t think anyone else noticed.
Sunday saw everyone gathered again at the Sportspalast for Noon Lunch. Again, great food and hospitality. This led into the MMA event at which the Jikishin Party were VIP guests and were allowed to sit in the Upper Tier and look down into the Ring. Jikishin had 2 competitors who supplement their training at London Shootfighters. They needed to: this was essentially a professional event with competitors graded into Classes A to C. Amateur to Semi-Professional. All were superbly conditioned and, in real terms, pro athletes. The contests comprised of MMA, Groundfighting, Muay Thai, Karate/Kickboxing and with a different referee and sets of judges depending on the contest. All competitors gave their own salutation to the ref and judges. A medical team were also in attendance and all competitors were weighed and checked over by a Doctor.
Both the Jikishin competitors, John and Peter, were supported by Lee Bywater and another cornerman. Tony Park took the photos. John entered to his own music and immediately got to work taking his opponent to the ground and dictating the fight. He won a unanimous decision and did not seem too troubled by the opponent.
Peter “Thrillmore” Gilmore entered to the tune of Blur’s “Song 2” and with the adrenaline upon him, broke into a dance and whipped off his Tee Shirt and threw it into the crowd. It landed on a chap with Dreadlocks who seemed horror-struck and threw it back. Lee caught it and threw it once more into the crowd, where it landed on a woman who took a close look and put it in her bag. Well, for the punch line (no pun intended) you need to know that we were all wearing the same sponsored Tee shirt so at first sight it looked like she had a nominal souvenir. However, Peter had actually borrowed a £60 Versace shirt and in his excitement, that’s what he threw into the crowd and the lady’s bag. Bet she was chuffed as it cost more than her ticket.
There was a great staredown between Peter and his opponent, whilst the rules were re-stated. The opponent was older and applied himself well, although Peter did manage to get the leg throw take down he was looking for, he also took some punches. Peter came second, as his opponent won the decision after the 3 Rounds but Mr Thrillmore landed 2 or 3 superb strikes and the opponent looked like he was going to ‘go’. A great picture was taken by Paul Nicholls on his phone. A great Screensaver. Very well done to both Jikishin competitors. They showed both courage and skill in a very public environment with some 700 persons in the audience. By the way, there was also a video-crew up in the “Gods” so the whole event may yet be on Eurosport, as was suggested.
Well, it was a long day so we returned to Hotel Ibis and changed and then went back into Aalst for Dinner. We went to the Station to try the Chip Stand but as it wasn’t there, so we went into an Irish Pub. Guinness all round, please Bar Keep. Marvellous. After a scoop or 3, we wandered back into Aalst looking for a Restaurant but most places were closed, this being Sunday night. A Pizza place owner looked kindly on 3 of our group as they approached at closing time though he got a surprise when 15 more of us also walked in. Probably did his profits good though.
The evening highlights was Tony Parks singing “I’m a lumberjack” Lee getting everyone up on their chairs for a rugby song, and Steven getting his police mates to arrest Peter “Long story” but a great laugh
We had trouble getting taxis to take us all back to the hotel as it was late.
The owner kindly volunteered and took everyone back in his car made about 7 trips to the hotel, which was really nice of him
Monday saw us all assemble to take leave of Aalst and the return and back to Essex (that Mecca of the Western World). It was a great and very successful trip with memories of friendship, great hospitality, great food and terrific fun. One of the best weekends away with great friends.
The trip was such a success everyone was constantly talking about it at clubs for many days after.