My Experience at the 13th Annual Osamu Hirano Karate Tournament by Denise Nelson, Kuyukai Canada

Despite all of the delayed flights and bouts of air sickness, the fifteen-something total hours that it took to travel from Vancouver to Wakayama was definitely worth it. We arrived at Kansai airport close to midnight and were greeted by Saikou Shihan. The first thing I noticed upon stepping outside was the humidity - a thing I was to become familiar with during the eight days we were in Japan. Saikou Shihan drove us to Etsuko's house, where Sensei Julie and I stayed. She and her family were very kind to us, and with the help of a Japanese-English dictionary and my own Japanese vocabulary, we were able to make friends during our short stay.

The next day, after we had recovered from our long night, we went to Saikou Shihan's dojo for training - something that was very different from our classes in Canada. Add the current temperature to a small, non-air conditioned room filled with at least twenty people, and you're sweating before you even start the warm-ups. I was amazed at how even the youngest white belts were keeping up with everyone and performing kata like Seipai and Saifa. The next day followed up with more training and a seminar. The tournament took place the next day, hundreds of karateka from across the world present. The tournament began around nine and lasted about ten hours. Being the first person out of the Canada team to compete, I was so nervous I thought I wouldn't be able to perform my kata at all, having to do it in front of five judges and many other spectators, but I managed to do Shisochin without difficulty. I suppose it was my surprise at making it past the second round that helped me botch Seiunchin and end up with third place, but I was happy nonetheless. I was able to spend the rest of the day watching and learning from others as they sparred and did their kata. The day ended with celebrations and a much needed night's rest.

It was sad when we finally had to part ways with everyone, as our visit seemed to go by too fast, but we will hopefully see each other again. I honestly did learn a lot during this trip, whether it was about how to become a better photographer or a better karateka, and I would not hesitate to do it again.

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