Two Pune players shine at first Okinawa International Karate and Kubodo (weapon) Tournament

Shripad Mahajan (48) and Neeraj Kulkarmi (32), secured the seventh and ninth position. They were part of a 10-member contingent of Isshinryu Karate and Kubodo Association of India (IKKAI) from Pune.

pune Updated: Aug 19, 2018 14:49 IST
Prachi Bari
Prachi Bari
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,players,Karate and Kubodo
(From left) Neeraj Kulkarni, Sensei Sharmila Nadkarni, Sensei Salil Nadkarni and Shripad Mahajan at the Okinawa International Karate and Kubodo (weapon) tournament held in Okinawa, Japan. (HT PHOTO )

Two residents of Pune have made it to the top 10 in the world at the first Okinawa International Karate and Kubodo (weapon) Tournament held in Naha city, Okinawa, Japan, during the first week of August 2018.

There were 1,200 participants from 40 countries around the world.Shripad Mahajan (48) and Neeraj Kulkarmi (32), who secured the seventh and ninth position among the top 10 list, were part of a 10-member contingent of Isshinryu Karate and Kubodo Association of India (IKKAI) from Pune. While Shripad Mahajan was selected in Kubudo Sai (three-pronged weapon) in the Adult II (40 to 60 years of age), Neeraj Kulkarni was chosen in Kubodo Bo (a six-foot wooden staff) in the Adult I (18 to 40 years of age) category.

It was an open invitation tournament with no limit to the number of participants from a particular school. Therefore, karate enthusiasts from across the world thronged to it. The Indian contingent was the largest with around 104 participants from across states, like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra.

“The tournament was the first ever world tournament held for Okinawa karate and kobudu. As many as 1,200 participants from across 40 countries came over to be a part of the prestigious event as it also marks the first time Okinawa masters have opened up the forum to the world, thus giving us all the opportunity to get deeper insights into the art form. Most important differentiation about the tournament is the inclusion of weapons (kobudo), a very traditional aspect of Okinawa karate which does not get much representation across the globe,” says Shripad Mahajan who has been studying the Isshinryu and Matayoshi kobudo Okinawa karate styles for the past 25 years, training under Sensei Salil Nadkarni of Isshinryu Karate and Kubodo Association of India (IKKAI).

Mahajan further stresses on the weapon Sai, which is a traditional piercing melee weapon used in Okinawa, and the Bo, found a place of honour.The 10-member team that went for the tournament have been dedicatedly training for over a decade. Besides having trained for over the years in the styles, the build up to the tournament began a year ago with extensive training sessions extending up to four to six hours of actual daily practice in body conditioning exercises, actual kata practices and breathing techniques. It was usually followed up by video sessions of Okinawa maters and leading practitioners.Mahajan took a break from work six months prior to the tournament as the practice sessions needed unhindered dedication and complete mental overhaul.

Okinawan and mainland Japan karatekas had an initial selection in March where the top four from each category were selected and got a direct entry to the main tournament quarter finals. All overseas participants had to go through preliminary rounds held from August 1 to 3, from which the top 12 were shortlisted and the four Okinawan finalists formed the final 16. “I made it to the quarter final and lost to a worthy Okinawan opponent,” recalls Mahajan.

There are various parameters for judging, namely stances, perfection of kata, power, stamina, discipline and authenticity of the chosen kata. According to Mahajan, a big achievement for them was that they did well enough to impress the traditional judges and make it to the top ranking, clearly indicating that they are on the right track.

He also highlighted the scope for development and the seminars and training that the team participated in post the tournament under the 10th Dan Okinawan masters.

“I have always been aligned to sports having also played cricket at the district and club levels. It was the body toning aspect first that drew me to chose taekwondo, which was the popular choice. I trained for many years in the same and received a black belt and also won at many state-level competitions. It was in 1993 that Sensei Salil Nadkarni started his dojo for Isshinryu karate and kobudo. I wanted to go deeper into the art form and thus began my journey with karate and kobudo. Sensei Salil has been a selfless practitioner of this art form and has kept up the traditional aspects of the same, never once giving in to the commercialisation of the same,” says Mahajan.

Mahajan won the gold in kobudo (Bo) and bronze in sparring (Kumite) at the International Sports Karate Association of Australia’s world championships held at Sydney in 2001, and in 2003 he bagged the first place trophy (kobudo-Bo) and second place in kata at the International Isshinryu championships held at USA.

First Published: Aug 19, 2018 14:48 IST