Shinkyokushin EC 2022

Saturday 2, April, in one hectic day – the European Championship Shinkyokushin was held in Tarnów, Poland. Trough the difficult times recovering after Covid – and now with the attack on Ukraine, many assumed that it would have an impact at the championship – how much? Some podium was untouched as others turned up side down.

All picture used in this article, taken by Svein Olaf Bennæs / NKO Shin Norway

The venue Sportshall „Arena Jaskółka” was very well suited, and was rigged nice to the event. The location close to (one of the) hotels also made it more effective transporting people – as you could walk the distance in 5 minutes. One could wish for better connection or access to net/WI-Fi, specially since the fight progress could be followed (as usually) The LIVE stream, a simple rule: one camera per fight area (Good work) but it will unfortunately never work when one of the cameras switching between (in the middle) of the fights, lock the camera on each tatami, zoom, maybe replay – never switch. When two cameras suddenly are streaming the same tatami, and one tatami can not bee seen, that’s not so lucky. And last, same suggestion as in Georgia: international event – why not use international commentary?

Going trough the categories and the line up, one could see that the number of fighters (as expected) was lower that usual. We all missed our friend from Ukraine, and in the end of the day one could for sure see that they also was missing on the podium – comparing to last year with seven spots on the podium in Fight and top spot i the mix team Kata + 3rd place Kata men – in total being the 3rd best nation in EC 2021

So what about the level this time? Well, if we look away who was missing and could been there, it is safe to say that top 4 in each category holds a very high respectable level. As mention, some categories had miner changes in the top 4 – others turned the tables.

Women categories had a nice mix of newcomers, established and veterans in the line up. One can not get away from the records that one can see into the field, that contains EC champions from different organisations – and not only that, World Champions as well! In the three lightest categories, -50, -55 and -60 kg, one could notice a great spread of the nations. In each category there was 4 different nations.

-50 kg Category Women

Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Greece on the -50 kg podium. Brigita Svinkūnaitė / Lithuania 1st and Natalia Chrzanowska / Poland 2nd – was also on the podium last year, behind Alona Veresniak / Ukraine. Now they moved up a spot, and got company from Germany Anastasia Mikhalova, who had moved down from -55 (as she took third place last year) The last podium spot went to Greece and Rafaela Evangelia Tsakiri. Tsakiri advanced trough 3rd place holder last year Maria Adria / Spain and Viktorija Dambrauskaitė / Lithuania before getting stopped by Chrzanowska.

The final between Brigita Svinkūnaitė / Lithuania and Natalia Chrzanowska / Poland became a statement from Svinkūnaitė. Taking control of the fight from the start, and not letting the pressure of a second, secured the EC tittle. Many waited a scoring during a sequence of blows to the body, which lasted for many seconds without being answered. A very convincing win for Brigita Svinkūnaitė.

-55 kg category Women

From last year, the two top spots was the same: 1st place Teona Gazdeliani / Georgia, with Nika Jakobović / Croatia runner up. Into the 3rd places Valentyna Kurmin / Lithuania and Anna Bielska / Poland. Bielska vs Jakobović is a really good semifinal to follow, and we can see a battle of the styles. Jakobović forward fighting, strong drive with a dangerous roll-kick – Bielska highly movable style, technical far beyond the ordinary. Jakobović pulling out the victory in a very close – good and highly entertaining fight! The other semi-final became a win for Gazdeliani, and one can say that it was a favorite win – as expected. As mention – the final this year went the same way as last year – so top level was confirmed again.

-60 kg category Women

This category had some very strong fighters, some of the most merited in matter of fact. If we look at the top 4, Lili Mezo / Hungary, Marta Lubos / Poland, Inga Mikštaitė / Lithuania and Mirjam Björklund / Sweden. And if we look further in the top 8, podium holders as Sandra Nowak / Poland, Camille Haddouche / France (moving down in the categories) Justina Šišaitė / Lithuania all came into the the second round.

Lubos taking on Camille Haddouche, two very skilled fighters and always going all in. The fight is very intense, mainly at close range, and the punching skills becomes a factor. Both mix the punches with kicks / knees, but it seems that Lubos have a little sharper tools. Also being close with a roll-kick. Into the last part of the fight, Lubos raises the pace, and the all ready rapid strikes really finding their way. Haddouche, not far behind – but behind. A strong finish by Lubos secure the win, and she moves on to the semifinal.

This semifinal was a match that naturally brought with it high expectations. It goes without saying when you see such highly ranked athletes lined up against each other. When the met in a dramatic EC final back in 2018 – we could assume that the last word in this set-up was not said – but after this match now, it may be that the last word is said.. Inga Mikštaitė was convincing in the two first fight, and it looked good and “business as usual” But In the semi-final it could only be one boss: The Lubos(s). A very convincing win, showing a top level against a top opponent. Lubos sharp as a whistle, gives no opportunity to her opponent to take control of the match – increases everything in the last part, and Inga can do nothing but take it with a smile

From the other side of the draw, Lily Mezo moved trough the tournament wit 1st round WK, second round with a win vs Justina Šišaitė / Lithuania, then in the semifinal vs a strong Mirjam Björklund , advances also in this case. Björklund 3rd for the second time a row – good achievement.

The final between Lily Mezo and Marta Lubos was really a final. This fight had everything one could ask for, and the tension was from start to stop. Mezo with reach (height) advantage, and always dangerous with her legs, especially the knees. Lubos intensive – with very good high pace combinations. The stamina, and drive are amazing, it it have to go down to the last round to decide the winner. And to be honest – it could not been easy being a referee! 3-2 to Lili Mezo.

-65 kg category Women

This category came up with some of the biggest surprises when it comes to who advanced to the finals and early exit. Champions and heavy favorites as Ivanka Popova /Bularia and Aneta Meskauskiene / Lithuania did not reach the final this time, Popova eliminated in the second round by the champion to come, Berta Szalay / Hungary. This was Szalay’s first fight of the day, and what a feeling it must have been! In the semi-final Ieva Budrytė / Lithuania was eliminated – and the final could offer a real veteran of the game: Anna Bojda / Poland

Anna Bojda took the semi-final vs Aneta Meškauskienė / Lithuania, and even though this match was decided on warnings, it was Anna who had the lead and showed better fighting than we have seen her do before. More variety, still the strong drive forward – but significantly higher pace in everything that was done than before.

So, there we have it: Berta Szalay vs Anna Bojda in the final, we must admit that this was a surprise! But things like this also keep the interest alive – if you know 100% for sure who will win – whats the point then? As you know, it was Hungary, Szalay who took the tittle – full speed forward right from the start, attaching constantly. Bojda even this out in the end of the fight,and did look stronger – but to late said the referees, and Berta Szalay secured the second gold to Hungary in the tournament.

+65 kg category Women

As usually had this category several highly merited fighters t the lie up. Did loos some fighters to sickness and of curse like the rest of the categories, fighters from Ukraine was missing. Even in this category some of the top merited fighters where forced an early exit.

Brigita Gustaitytė / Lithuania, the KWU World Champion, lost her first fight against polish newcomer Katarzyna Jaśkowska. Newcomer maybe, but very well prepared and does a good figure on the tatami. We add that it fore sure help to have sparring partners back in the Lamot Dojo as Anna Bojda and Agata Winiarska. As we mention Winiarska, one a the profiles, did also get an early exit this time. Marija Sekunda /Lithuania got a big win against Winiarska, after pushing forward in three minutes. We did get a little flash back from older fights, solely physically, right on for as long as possible.

How long this was possible to do could last year 3rd place holder Csenge Tóth / Hungary answer. Tóth did the right thing standing against a much heavier opponent. With perfect tactic and skills to back it up, using patience, movements, good angels – using good Karate! This style and tactics drained her opponent totally for all the power, and alter the extension Csenge Tóth was ready for the final.

Monika Zielińska / Poland – the reign champion, and new champion as well now in 2022. No one could threaten her or put her in trouble. Showing like last time skills and a drive that most could only dream about. Mixing it up in the final, powerful punches and kicks, and following up with rapid punches close after the kicks, adding heavy knees and spices this again with a back-kick or two! When the “turbo” kicks in – you get all that – just with more power and in a higher speed. Best fighter (again) in the EC – we could agree more!

-65 kg category Men

Lightest category for men had some big names, but did also miss some. Georgia was the favorites, with reign champion Andrei Zinchenko in the lead. Unfortunately did Azerbaijan reduce their team close to the tournament – and again, looking at last years results, with Bohdan Lemishko and Taras Havrylets / Ukraine at 3rd place, then we could sense a somewhat less sharp setting than last time. But what is good, new strong fighters appear and thus take responsibility for quality and good fighting.

Andrei Zinchenko / Georgia added one more tittle to his all ready impressive collection, after facing country man Mindia Mgeladze in a very hard and tough final. But earlier on, we had a very good fight in the 2nd round between Eltaj Humbatov / Germany vs Daniel Sternik / Poland. Many might remember Humbatov fighting for Azerbaijan – always kept a significant high level. Up against the technician Sternik – this was one of the better fights in the category. Not only was it a good fight – it was very long and demanding, and the one who moved on wold be marked. Sternik made it to the end, earning a scoring close the the last second out in the extensions. Moves on, and loses to the upcoming champion Zinchenko in the next fight. But Daniel Sternik / Poland and Mantas Laurinaitis / Lithuania – both did enter the EC podium for the first time, far as we know.

And for Andrei Zinchenko, if we count right this was his 5th EC tittle Shinkyokushin – impressive!

-75 kg Category Men

Even with some withdraws, the category had over 20 fighters. Among these, there was some real quality fighters with merits to back it up. The podium become almost identical with last year, also in the same order. The only change was last years 3rd place holder Milán Móczó / Hungary, was replaced with Kamil Berkowicz / Poland.

Once again Lasha Ozbetelashvili / Georgia becomes the champion, and does it with style. Starts his path to the top with a strong knock out victory against Domas Sutkus / Lithuania – Sutkus being one of the veterans in the category, and many guessed him to reach further on in the tournament. Another name to point out would be Igor Lamot / Poland – took his 2nd 3rd place in the EC this time. Had an remarkable fight vs Jeyhun Yusifov / Azerbaijan – very hard fight indeed. But in the semi, it looks like an injury (twisting the knee? ) appeared, and Lamot had to stop the fight vs Ozbetelashvili.

Last year runner up, Ali Hayder / Sweden did also look impressive on his way to the final. Ending fights before full time as he moved on to the final when we got a reply from last years final. The final looks good, both fighters starts of with strong explosive technics, and seems good to go whatever pops up in their way. Hayder lands some strong punches to the upper body Ozbetelashvili, and it seems to work. Ozbetelashvili working with short punches – and that will be the key to the victory. Just as the pace raises, and the ordinary round almost are over – a single punch from Ozbetelashvili connect to the lower body of Hayder, and the case is closed!

-85 kg Category Men

In this 18 fighters category, there was some well known names that would collide – as usually, Salahat Hasanov / Azerbaijan, Juras Sokolovas / Lithuania and Valeri Dimitrov / Bulgaria. The fights between these three has been harder and harder for every year – this time no exception.

Three above mention names stands out with exceptional high level, right behind fighters like Gergely Fekete / Hungary, Justinas Kvietka / Lithuania. We move on to the semi-finals, Salahat Hasanov / Azerbaijan vs Juras Sokolovas / Lithuania. Sokolovas do really have a size advantage, looks close to the size of Marek Wolny and Edgard Sečinski – only thing is that they fights in the category above..

Sokolovas are unpredictable and mix everything into the game – Hasanov incredibly tough keeping the pressure on – and of course trying to keep the distance to his advantage. But this is a very hard game to keep up, and with (after what we heard) coming in to Poland same day as the tournament – the task will only be bigger. Sokolovas have so great reporter, and especially when it comes to kicks. He does very well in infighting as well – but his kicks give his opponents great challenges. Hasanov has to “eat” several good kicks and knees, both to the body and also someone who connects to the head. All this sends the fight in favor of Sokolovas – after 2 extensions

Valeri Dimitrov vs Gergely Fekete. First of all, Fekete shows why he has advanced tot this semi-final. And that after wins against notable fighters as Justinas Kvietka and Erekle Pirveli. Some good exchanges between the fighters, Dimitrov pulling of a couple of axe-kicks that almost clips Fekete. With a minute left, Dimitrov raise the pace and put really on the pressure – Fekete, defending well – but can not stand trough this pressure that only increases into the last 30 sec – and inn. Victory for Dimitrov, and final.

Valeri Dimitrov vs Juras Sokolovas was a final – a real final! The pattern could be compared with the semi-final Sokolovas vs Hasanov, same size advantage in this case, and with those dangerous kicks you do not want to be at that distance. Sokolovas also uses the heel-kick numerous times, Dimitrov seems to turn his leg/hip in to avoid damage – comes back with some low-kicks to Sokolovas back leg – and it looks like they are finding their way.

The kicks are constant a factor – and after a restart Sokolovas connect to the head of Dimitrov, as he pushes in to close distance again. It connected but it is hard to tell if Dimitrov was hurt by it. Pace raises, time fly and the ordinary round ends – and ends in a draw. So a long break, after some attention to Dimitrov’s arm (some blood) and wiping the tatami (and we hoped that no one would slip) the fights in on!

Same pattern, and Dimitrov pushes into close distance – Sokolovas answer with heels and knees. The round goes fast, and the pace raises – as always, Dimitrov more aggressive than before and a little change we could see in Sokolovas, now he is adapting more than fighting his way. 5 draw – and here we go!

Dimitrov working his way in, “fishing out” Sokolovas’s kicks, and this time he is close to clip Sokolovas with a high kick as well. Heels form Sokolovas – Dimitrov sets some good lowkicks ad some stiff deep punches to the lower stomach of Sokolovas. So comes an very interesting setting: Sokolovas raises his pace to a very high level, and clearly he is doing the most – but Dimitrov does not back on inch, he is, unlike Sokolovas, very heavily grounded – and moves forward with inside lower punches. A good roll-kick attempt be Sokolovas at the end break the pattern for a while. This gives Sokolovas 1 flag the rest to draw.

The start shows how insane strong Dimitrov is, now one can see that the stomach punches and the lowkicks really hurts Sokolovas, taking his balance as well. But the fight is not over – the spirit of Sokolovas keeps the fight alive. The last part of the fight becomes a little as seen before, much movement by Sokolovas – grounded fighting from Valeri – at it seems that this contributes to better accuracy – and thus better effect. Anyway the referees gives 4-1 flags in the favor of Valeri Dimitrov – EC Champion for the 21st time!

-95 kg Category Men

Edgard Sečinski / Lithuania achieved his third EC tittle Shinkyokushin, and it seems that it is not so many that can challenge him at the time. One who can, and did was Marek Wolny / Poland. The fought in the Semi-final, a long fight as we have seen before. Ordinary round quite even, mostly the fight goes on close distance, short punches and knee – Wolny adding some good lowkicks to it as well.

This counties in the extra round, and at the end it is not easy to see who will pull this of. And the round goes, without possibility to separate them. Next extension, Wolny opens with a good back-kick that connect good to the body. One could wish that the fight changed pattern, because at times it looked somewhat locked in one and the same pattern without anyone getting anywhere. After extension Edgard Sečinski was awarded the victory, and the right to fight in the final.

The other semi-final between Artur Dymarczyk / Poland and Levente Magyar / Hungary was not held, due to an injury of Dymarczyk. That mean that Levente Magyar was ready for the final. Levente Magyar got a very good low kick that will give result if it cam hit. Edgard Sečinski with his style neutralizes this, and it becomes another battle at close range, in favor of Edgard. And so it will be – even if there is an extension in the final, the final will be decided somewhat early.

+95 kg Category Men

When Maciej Mazur pulled back from competing Kyokushin, this category has been dominated by Eventas Gužauskas / Lithuania. One of his strongest challenger, Paulius Žimantas / Lithuania, could not fight when they was facing each other in the final due to a hand injury. So one can only hope for fast recovery for Žimantas .

Both showed incredible punching power earlier on in the tournament. taking on Máté Dávid / Hungary (vs Eventas) and Lasha Kamarauli / Georgia vs Paulius Žimantas. In both fights, the Lithuanian fighters was to strong from the start, and “choked down” their opponent.