10
Apr
12

Ozawa Cup Part Two – Special Needs

 

Yesterday’s post was about the premier of the movie Empty Hand. This is going to be about the tournament. The standard disclaimers apply. For those who are not regular to the Shortbus to Hell, I try to keep my posts a little surreal and dotted with humor. Sometimes my humor translates poorly across cultures. By popular demand, the Shortbus is now very much multi-national. I prefer to invoke joy with my writing, but I’ll take anger if I have to – any reaction beats nothing.

 

Yesterday, I insulted a reader. I’d proclaimed I thought that athletes were self-serving, and their years of hard work served only to gratify themselves. I should have expanded my statement to covering American athletes, and then set martial-artists to the side. A true martial-artist has trained not just their bodies to excel, but also their minds, characters, and spirits to becoming the best they possibly can. I’ve yet to meet a black belt in karate who isn’t the embodiment of great principles such as integrity, patience and temperance.

 

Tournaments are a chance for many practitioners of karate to gather and share their skills. The Ozawa Cup is the largest Dojo sponsored tournament in the U.S. and quite possibly the world. There are bigger tournaments, but not sponsored by a single Dojo. Osamu Ozawa was the master who came from Okinawa to the U.S. and began a school here in Las Vegas. His dojo is the Las Vegas Shotokan Karate. He’d also started the tournament here in Las Vegas, but I don’t think it was named after him back then. He died in the late nineties, but the tradition of his namesake tournament still lives on.

 

As my regular readers know, I love anonymity, including respect for the anonymity of those who I share time with, not excluding the anonymity of every-day villains. Everyday villains? You know – the car salesman who tricked you into buying that lemon, the waiter who spit in your food, the cop that pulled you over because his skin was white and yours was black, or the opposite. I may respect the anonymity of the villain, but I will call out the company or location where they can be found. Anonymity is important because it affords honesty without injury – for all parties involved.

 

The point of this statement of anonymity is cornerstone to how I got involved with the Ozawa Cup. A friend of mine is important to our community and I value his friendship. My writing may insult him, but it will never embarrass him. That friend helped me with a book signing, and he let me know that the Ozawa Cup needed volunteers.

 

I was hesitant to help, but only because in real life I’m a bumbling idiot. I am Jerry Lewis meets Kramer meets Mr. Bean. I can’t learn Karate because I’d hurt myself. C-Jane is coordinated and spectacular, I’m pure dumb-ass – full throttle.

 

I did volunteer to be a score keeper. I can calculate fairly quickly and accurately. The job still intimidated me. Why? Let’s say I accidentally give a competitor 21-points when they actually were awarded 22-points? Can you say flying dragon kick to my mouth? That equals one dead BigJ.

 

But someone upstairs still likes me. I was assigned to the Special Needs ring first. In fact, this was probably the greatest blessing I’ve ever received.

 

Special Needs? Yes, I was allowed the privilege of being score-keeper for adults with autism, Downs Syndrome, and other handicaps. I had a helper who was an Ozawa Cup veteran. He handled all communication between the contestants and the judges. All I needed to do was keep accurate score.

 

Normally, there are five judges per ring, and at the Ozawa Cup there are eight rings, including the Special Needs ring. The competitors would be scored on one, two, or three possible events. Kata is the Japanese name for the dance-like exhibit of conditioned moves. There are several katas that are learned, and as mastery of karate improves, more challenging katas are learned. Kumite, pronounced coo’mah’tay, is sparring. And the third event is weapons, and I can’t remember the traditional name for weapons exhibition. It is only a small percentage of schools that offer weapon training, partially because karate means ‘empty hand.’ (This is why yesterday’s post is so funny.)

 

For the first event, kata, the judges sit in the corners of the ring, and the lead referee sits facing the competitor. But here at the special needs ring, all three judges sat facing the challenger. Our first competitor in the division of kata was a young woman in a wheelchair. She rolled out to the center of the ring, looked the judges in the eyes, and announced her kata. She rolled right, performed the complicated hand moves, then rolled left, showed her skills strapped into her chair. When she was done, she bowed respectfully to the masters who scored her moves.

 

The next competitor was a shy woman with a mild case of autism. Her teacher stepped into the ring with her, and together then performed the complicated moves of her kata. She stood nervous, hiding behind her mentor, who in turn nudged her out from beneath a protective wing.

 

I was most impressed with a young man with Downs Syndrome, and his incredible ability to perform his kata. His timing was fantastic, and his spirit was unaggressive.

 

Four of the men, and the two women in wheelchairs showed their skills with weapons, both women and two of the men showed their ability with bo stick.  A bo stick is a quarterstaff. The girls in the wheelchair were fun to watch. With superior agility, they worked the quarterstaff over their heads, swirling the narrow weapon from hand to hand, (with some help from their mentor.) Two of the men showed their skills with tanka, dual weapons like old-school police batons.

 

All the competitors placed. Everyone within the special needs group received a medal. It wasn’t a hand-out – they each earned their medal through their skill and courage. We only arranged them in groups of three, so everyone would place, but they all earned their glory. Lovingly, they shared their joy, giving each judge a heart-felt hug upon receiving their hard-earned medal.

 

Once the special needs ring was finished we closed it down and I was relocated in hell – Intermediate Boys Group, ages 8-10. Tomorrow’s post will be titled Ozawa Cup Part III – Boys vs. Girls.

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