Perhaps Australia’s best full contact fighter, Sensei Garry O’Neill, returned to the matt at this year’s New Zealand Nationals, taking part in a special one match exhibition match against the New Zealand Heavyweight champion and now kick boxer, James Eades.
Hosted by Shihan Chris Gower, the New Zealand Kyokushin Nationals for 2012 took place on the 11th of September at the iconic Westpac Stadium, located in the city of Wellington. In addition to the typical kata and kumite divisions Shihan Chris included the Karate Games which is an innovative format for children which encourages participation and is made up of such events as point sparring, kata, sumo and tameshiwari (board breaking).
With over 160 competitors from across New Zealand in addition to participants from Australia and Japan, the event was a massive highlighting the strength of Kyokushin in New Zealand and the hard work put in by Shihan Chris’s organising committee.
In the men’s kumite the Australia fighters performed well with fighters from the North Bondi dojo taking out the men’s heavyweight, and super heavyweight divisions and placing second in the lightweight division. Sensei Garry has been a regular guest instructor at the North Bondi dojo under the guidance of Shihan Trevor Tocker, assisting the North Bondi fighters in their fight preparation. It paid dividends for the fighters with Reece Henderson from North Bondi taking out the Yokozuna (grand champion) title for the tournament.
The highlight of the day though was of course the one match event, 3 x 2 minute rounds, featuring Sensei Garry O’Neill. The crowd closed in on the matt in anticipation of witnessing Sensei Garry’s return to the matt after a 9 year break.
A shake of the hands and Shihan Chris Gower got the match started. Within a few seconds it was obvious that Sensei Garry had not lost anything over the years, landing several axe kicks and almost landing his famous spinning back kick. James knew that he had to keep his guard up for the rest of the match.
The crowd cheered as Sensei Garry moved around the matt with the “Garry step” landing punches and kicks catching Jamie off guard. The same impeccable timing which lead Sensei Garry to the top 5 in the 1995 World Tournament.
Although it wasn’t only one way traffic, with Eades pushing hard with strong rips, knees and low kicks, showing why he was New Zealand champion for the past years and now a successful kick boxer.
The match continued with Sensei Garry demonstrating his strong movement based style enabling him to move around the larger fighter and force James off balance and pushing him back into the crowd even though Sensei Garry was giving up over 15kg. A principle of Sensei Garry’s style is to strike when the opposition is moving and not grounded.
After 3 rounds of great fighting Shihan Chris declared the match a draw which led to a massive cheer from the New Zealand audience and big smiles across both fighter’s faces, a successful return to the matt for Sensei Garry and a great experience for Jamie.
Jamie summed it up in an interview with the local TV sport show, The Crowd Goes Wild, saying “Kyokushin is all about getting a hiding and then having someone pick you back up, give you a hiding, pick you back up then give you another hiding and then tell you you did good.”
With Sensei Garry returning to Kyokushin and opening his own dojo in Brisbane we can expect to see more big things from him in the Australia martial arts community. The dojo is open for classes Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and is a great opportunity to learn Kyokushin from a master technician.
Additionally Sensei Garry will be hosting a seminar on the 22nd September open to all people, giving you the opportunity to learn new karate and fighting skills that will enhance all aspects of your karate. Further information is available via the O’Neill Kyokushin Brisbane Dojo’s website – www.oneillkyokushin.com
Youtube video footage of Sensei Garry’s fight below: