Ursin Morrell will be taking part in the prestigious Kawata Cup Samurai Karate tournament in Queenstown this weekend. image central caught up with Ursin for a photo shoot around his home town, Alexandra, and a chat about his dedication to the traditional Japanese style of karate called Shukokai.
Words Adrian Morgan | Images Clare Toia-Bailey
The Kawata Cup competition is for 12 -17 year olds and is open to Samurai Stylists from Japan, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand and Australia. The event is held every two years in honour of the grandmaster sensei Shigemasa Kawata 9th dan.
Sensei Kawata is the international chief instructor of the Shukokai style of Karate that was founded in Kobe, Japan in 1949. Shukokai is a hard and fast style of karate with emphasis on self-defence.
The tournament in Queenstown this weekend will be Ursin’s second international tournament. He previously competed at the Kawata Cup in Melbourne in 2012. But this time he will be moving out of the kyu grades and competing in the ranks of those who wear a black belt.
Ursin is currently ranked as a black belt Shodan Ho. This is a junior or probationary black belt. As a 15 year old he is not able to hold Shodan rank until after his 16th birthday. He aims to go for this at a grading in September this year.
In Samurai Karate, everyone starts in the novice grades (white, red, yellow and orange belt) and progress through the intermediate grades (green, blue, purple belts) and senior grades (brown belt) at grading opportunities held four times each year. Once someone achieves a black belt they move into the ‘dan’ grades where they can further progress from Shodan Ho (junior black belt) to Shodan, Nidan and Sandan.
Ursin regards achieving the Shodan Ho black belt grade after a tough grading as his greatest achievement in his Karate journey so far.
He says that he has learned a lot since he first got involved in the sport as a seven year old:
“I walked into a dojo when I was about seven. I thought it was about back flips and flying ninja kicks but I quickly realised it was completely different, but I still loved it.”
Ursin is very passionate about Karate. He enjoys the fitness and confidence that training provides but also the friendships he makes at training and at competitions. He also enjoys the constant challenge that Shukokai Karate provides, as he says “there’s always something new to learn and improve on.”
INFLUENCES & INSPIRATION
Ursin was inspired to take up the sport after watching the movie, Karate Kid. Yep really! Not the 2010 version featuring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan but original 1980s movie starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. As Ursin says,
“When I was six, Dad and I watched the Karate Kid movie. And I thought that was so awesome! When I found out there was Karate in Alex I said ‘Mum I have to do Karate!’”
Since then Ursin has been joined by his mum, Gabriela Schmidt-Morrell, who is also black belt (Shodan), and his sisters Charis (11) and Jelena (7).
At the Alexandra dojo Ursin was inspired by his original sensei (teacher) Grant Norbury, an instructor for the Alexandra Dojo, who he holds in high regard. More recently, Ursin has been inspired by other competitor’s around the world, like five time World champion and one of Karate’s biggest stars, Rafael Aghayev, from Azerbaijan, who Ursin considers to be ‘on the next level.’
Ursin also acknowledges other instructors: sensei’s Pat Quaid and Chris McGregor. (Instructors at the Queenstown Dojo) and Hanshi Paul Mitchell (8th Dan) from Melbourne and his parents, Gabriela and Dion, who Ursin says ‘have got me off my butt to train’.
In the lead up to the Kawata Cup, Ursin is training every Wednesday (Cromwell dojo) and Friday (Alexandra dojo) for 1.5 hours, he also goes to the gym two or three times per week as well as practicing kata – a specified series of a variety of moves, with stepping and turning, while attempting to maintain perfect form. Traditional dojo etiquette and discipline are also important in training.
At the Kawata Cup this weekend Ursin aims to try and perform his best in combat and the Kata. He is also focused on doing well at the nationals to be held in Christchurch in late April.
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