I'm back again from the Lennox Legacy tournament. I had an absolute blast this year - the best time I've ever had at the Lennox, and I usually enjoy this tournament.
This year I was able to go up to Akron Friday night, arriving about midnight (as opposed to last year where I left at 2am and arrived 5 minutes after the start). I got up in good time to get to the tournament and change into my gi. One advantage of going to this same tournament every year, is that by now I'm familiar with where everything is, so there's no wasting time thrashing about looking for the Tadmor Shrine, or my hotel, or the local grocery store.
This tournament always starts with a seminar by Hanchi Duessel. Duessel is the highest ranked American in the IWKA (Isshinryu World Karate Association). He's a ninth dan, an elderly but still very fit man who is a vertible font of karate knowledge. If you ever get the chance to pick up a copy of his book Beyond Black Belt, I would recommend it.
This year's seminar started with retraction - the pulling back of the opposing hand as you strike. We covered four different types of retraction (to hip, to solar plexus, to neck, and to the rear) and practiced all of them, with some explication of possible applications for each one. From there we moved into stances, covering Seuichin (horseback riding stance), T stance (Cat stance), and Crane stance (Hook stance). Hanchi Duessel and his second prowled up and down the lines giving corrections and suggestions. I know my T stance improved markedly from their advice. I've been going to these seminars since I was an orange belt, and I feel like every time I'm getting more and more out of them, because I have a bigger base of knowledge to start from.
After the seminar, I got to meet up with someone I have thus far only known on-line (from the Isshinryu women Yahoo forum). Sunshine is aptly named and an absolute delight. She's young (early twenties) and a 2nd dan. She's a font of knowledge, but very humble with it, because she feels like she's young for her rank. She and I spent most of the day where we weren't competing, hanging out watching the rings and talking and talking and talking...
I did not break my streak of last place kata finishes, making this the fourth year running I've finished last in my division in kata at this tournament. However, unlike last year, I feel pretty good about this year's results. Last year I finished last in a good sized division where there were several people who really weren't very good, and none of the judges placed me very high at all. I desperately wanted to go shake them and wail "What did I do wrong?" Even after watching videos, my sensei and I (and a few other consulted black belts) were just puzzled about the results. It wasn't the perfect kata by any means, but it just didn't seem to be as bad as the judges apparently thought it was.
This year I finished third out of three. However, the panel of judges was entirely divided about our respective rankings. My three scores placed me first, second, and third, and my competitors' did likewise, making the final placement rest entirely on score totals. Plus, the judge who placed me first talked to me afterwards (made a point of it), and was extremely complimentary about my flow and timing - two things I was getting negative commentary on last year. A note to those of you who judge - this is possibly the nicest thing any judge has done for me in four years of competing. I was nearly in tears, because it's the first time someone (other than my sensei) has told me I'm doing things right in my kata. I'll take my third place and those compliments over the gold medal any day. Not that I won't work my heart out for gold next year, but now it doesn't feel like a hopeless task.
Kumite was simply weird. They didn't have enough competitors in senior women's kyu ranks to make up a field. (Kata and weapons are co-ed, fighting is split out by gender). So they decided to combine all the kyu ranks into one field, leaving us with a white belt (3 months experience), a blue belt (Taekwondo, first tournament), and two brown belts, both of us with four plus years and multiple tournaments, in the same group. Adding to the weirdness, they then paired the blue and white together, and the two browns together in the first round. Patti (the other brown) beat me in a fairly close fight (3-5 with multiple no decision exchanges). She then demolished the white belt for the gold medal, while I beat the blue belt 5-1 for third. I've made a suggestion for future tournaments that small groups (3-6 competitors) use a Round Robin format before progressing to single elimation, both to give everybody more chances to fight, and to make sure medals are more fairly distributed. I don't particularly care about a third place vs. a second place, but Patti, who actively competes for the year end awards (points given by placing), would have been severely annoyed if I had beaten her and she had been placed third beneath a white belt she could beat easily.
T. also came to the tournament and did very well, with three silver medals, especially impressive since he just recently (in the last month) moved up from the pre-teen intermediate category to the teen advanced category, which is a massive leap in competitiveness and aggresiveness. Sensei did not compete (to my surprise), but instead ran the peewee ring all day. He was slightly miffed at the way a tournament that used to be exclusively Isshinryu (non-Isshinryu people could compete, but had to use Isshinryu katas to compete with.) has become an open tournament, with the only concession to Isshinryu particularly being that all weapons must be Okinawan weapons.
I (along with Sensei and Sunshine) was invited back to the tournament organizer's house for dinner and after-chat. I had a blast with this (and found a new beta reader for Ghost Dancer!), and ended up leaving very late, not getting home until past 1am.
The boys meanwhile, had their time with Daddy. Their costumes were a hit, with multiple people stopping them on the street to take pictures. Unfortunately, the pictures Rob took came out too dark, so sometime here we'll try to stick them back on the boys and post them up. Their report cards also came in this week, and both of them did very well, so all is good on the school front. Plus I really like Robbie's fifth grade teacher, whom I had not had a chance to talk to before this week. She's very sweet, and the fact that she seems to adore Robbie doesn't do her any harm in my book. Robbie is also going to be on the Academic Team again this year. It should start in Febuary to prep for spring competition. He really enjoyed it last year, so I'm looking forward to having him do it again.
NaNo is going. My meter is up in the corner for those following along. I'll only be updating every third or fourth day, due to the extreme slowness of the NaNo boards right now. I may change that once we're back from Great Lakes Games and I'm not trying to cram every spare second into simply not falling too far behind. For example, my actual current count is 3687, while the meter shows 2011, but I won't be updating until tomorrow morning, with whatever number is accurate then.