2023 Almada (Portugal) Grand Prix – 28th January – 1st February
- Nathan Katz competed in U/66kg against the African Champion Pedro (Angola) in the Round of 64 (R64). This was a difficult match up with ANG putting on early pressure with attacks off the sleeve (Sode) forcing a Shido to Nathan. Subsequent exchanges were very grippy and both athletes conceded a Shido putting Nathan under further pressure. ANG did some poor attacks and Nathan worked on the ground. Changing his gripping to a left post, Nathan forced a poor attack from ANG across his arn forcing a disqualification to ANG and this is how the match ended. In the Round of 32, Nathan was up against Takabatake (Brazil) and opened up for a much better match which was quite even both trying to get the advantage. After a Shido conceded by each, Nathan worked his spinner attack and followed up attacks on the ground. He showed a clear intention to throw and with 20 seconds remaining feinted right and spun left for a drop Seoi-Nage but BRA was prepared and countered Nathan for Waza-Ari. This was a much better fight for Nathan.
- Josh Katz Josh competed in U/60kg and had a R64 bye. His R32 match was against Takaki (BRA) who beat Barroso Lopez (ESP) in his earlier round. BRA set the pace early with turns off the grip an off the sleeves. Josh then put pressure on him and BRA conceded a gripping Shido. Both athletes attacked and Josh followed up on the ground. BRA made a negative drop attack and conceded his second Shido. Again attacks followed from both but during another drop attack from BRA it was ruled that he went head-first and received a disqualification. Josh’s R16 match was against top 20 world ranked Revol from France. Josh put everything into this match. He had to work hard against FRA’s strong gripping and aggressive style but managed to keep up with numerous attacks at every opportunity. 1 minute into Golden Score, Josh conceded a Shido but then made some strong attacks and almost scored countering a Kouchi-Makikomi. At 2m24s into GS, FRA latched on for a high Ippon-Seoinage which he converted to Kouchi-Gake when Josh defended it. It was well timed and gave FRA the win. FRA went on to win the Bronze.
2023 Paris (France) Grand Slam – 28th January – 1st February
- Nathan competed against Rahimov from Turkmenistan (TKM) in the Round of 64 (R64). An awkward opponent who turned both sides immediately he had a hand on the sleeve or lapel. Dropping off one sleeve caught Nathan for Waza-Ari early and this put Nathan under pressure for the rest of the match. TKM continued with this strategy but conceded a Shido for a grip infringement. Shortly after, Nathan conceded a Shido. Nathan pressured with some good attacks but TKM was just ahead on the pace, finally dropping again with a double sleeve Sode which Nathan tried to counter, but was scored Waza-Ari nonetheless.
- Josh competed against world-ranked #11 and 6th seeded Nozadze (GEO), again a very unorthodox style opponent who constantly throws his arm cross-shoulder and does this both sides. Josh defended this style as best as possible with good movement and posture but was chopped to his knees on a number of occasions. This caused Josh to concede 2 Shidos in just over a minute. The referee seemed overly harsh but Josh continued to attack with whatever seemed possible in particular Seoi-Nages, Kouchi-Garis and Kata Gurumas all the while trying to fend off the offensive cross-shoulder gripping. With 45s remaining Josh attacked again and GEO retaliated, the referee giving Josh his third Shido, again a harsh decision.
A strong effort from both boys in both events, each competition followed by a massive international camp which provided huge benefits. The boys were able to do many randoris with the highest level athletes from many countries normally very difficult to access. Getting used to the very high skill level and some unconventional styles of gripping and play is frustrating and requires more exposure to these camps and overseas training, so the benefits are clear and this will see the small improvements needed to break through these close matches. It is clear that the margins between the boys and their competition is generally very small. Resilience, discipline, and trusting the process. Final training in Paris yeaterday followed by a couple of days off in Paris and one more session on Monday; then a flight to Tel-Aviv Israel for the Grand Slam in which they compete on Thursday night 16th February out time. As usual, access to Draws, Match Order and Video streaming will be at https://live.ijf.org/ and I will post details on the club facebook page when known. Wishing the boys all the best for their final major competition in this block.