Edition No. 38. Spring, 2004. Today is
 

Bath's Kagami Biraki
University of Bath, England
January 31, 2004
Saturday January 31st saw the opening of a purpose-built judo dojo (training hall) at Team Bath's £23m sports hall on the University of Bath campus.



For the official opening ceremony, four times World Champion, and 1984 Olympic Champion, Yasuhiro Yamashita was welcomed to the dojo by Roy Inman MBE, 8th dan and Masaki Arai, the assistant coach at Bath on loan from the Tokei University Japan. Team Bath player, Karen Harrison, who has recently returned from a year in Japan, spoke the words of welcome to Mr Yamasita in his native language. He was then invited onto the mat by master of ceremonies Mike Callan, the Sports manager for Team Bath judo.

A great gathering of the British judo community came to take part in the traditional Kagami Biraki (the Japanese New Year ceremony where judoka re-affirm their commitment to training at the beginning of the year), including British Judo Association Chairman, Densign White and British Judo Council President, Robin Otani. Mr. Yamashita, who is now the Education Director of the International Judo Federation began by welcoming everybody to Bath and then unveiled a portrait of judo's founder Jigoro Kano which will hang in the dojo. He then gave a stunning demonstration of the techniques that made him the champion that he is, pounding his Uke, Masaki, into the mat as the spectators looked on in awe. Osoto gari, Ouchi gari then Tai otoshi. Masaki said afterwards that his hand was still stinging from the break falls!

Next some of the Team Bath players gave a display of Uchi komi followed by Randori watched over by Roy calling out the changes.

This was followed by a demonstration of a rarely performed Kata called Itsutsu no kata, Kano's attempt to portray the forces of nature through judo. Often known as the unfinished Kata, it certainly has a very esoteric feel. Jeremy Robinson and Andrew Jones, the National Kata Champions performed it brilliantly and then followed that with a demonstration of the more traditional Nage no kata, a series of 15 throws demonstrated both to left and right - five groups of three throws. They said afterwards, "It was a great honour to perform in front of Yasuhiro Yamashita although we were really nervous. With the proposed reintroduction of Kata into the BJA syllabus it was a great opportunity to show what Kata is all about".

The focus of the ceremony then returned to Mr. Yamashita who took brush, ink and paper to produce some Japanese calligraphy expressing of one of Kano's maxims, "Mutual Welfare and Benefit." He admitted afterwards that he was very nervous about showing his calligraphy skills in front of such a large audience, and when he finished he gave a huge smile of relief while he showed off his handiwork. Although World and Olympic Champion at judo he modestly referred to himself as a yellow belt at calligraphy. The maxim was then presented to Mike Callan for display in the dojo. Mr. Yamashita followed this by making presentations to Team Bath members, Karen Harrison for Spirit of Judo and Miriam Stapleton for Throw of the Year.

Kate Howey MBE then took centre stage in a 1 against 5 competition. Five of her teammates were lined up in front of the former World Champion and Sydney Olympic Silver medallist. First up was Kate Rennie who was thrown with a huge Uchi mata. Miriam Stapleton followed and was quickly dispatched with a Tai otoshi. A drop Seoi nage finished off Katrina McDonald but Laura Clempner was determined to stop the champion in her tracks. Nonetheless she was thrown with a huge pickup. Last out was Sian Wilson who also put up a valiant fight but was finally armlocked with a powerful Juji gatame. Kate was victorious!

To round off the ceremony everybody then congregated for a group photograph before feasting on the traditional meal of bean soup with rice cake followed by a satsuma. The rice cake caused some consternation amongst those uninitiated in eating Play-Doh with chopsticks! But congratulations must go to the cooks for creating such an authentic Japanese meal.

An altogether inspiring occasion!

For details of practices at this excellent dojo please contact Mike Callan (adsmic@bath.ac.uk)



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