On October 27 – 28, the 50th All Japan Open Karate Championship (IKO) was held in Tokyo, Japan, in which Aleksandr Eremenko took part. As a result, Aleksandr became a prizewinner and entered the top-8 fighters of the championship. Immediately after returning home, we asked Alexander to share his impressions and tell us about his performance in the anniversary openweight championship.
Congratulations, Alexander, on your successful performance at the 50th All Japan Open Karate Championship. Despite the fact that you have 8th place, this is a very high result in one of the most prestigious tournaments. What are your impressions of the tournament and the result?
Thank you for your congratulations, for understanding the significance of this tournament and for not asking this standard, idiotic question: “Why not the first place?” as some people would. There was a lot of stress from the very beginning of the competition. All the participants will tell you the same. When your teammates start to lose their fights one by one, it causes small jitters. But this time I was very motivated, and my thoughts were only about victory and the first place. I’m a little upset with the result, although somewhere deep in the subconscious I knew this could happen. In fact, I’ve changed my opinion on the victories and defeats, it’s been a while now. It became more thoughtful and mature. Defeat is a big motivation to work harder, to question yourself, to find mistakes, fix them. I think if a person is not a fool, defeats make him progress.
The new IKO rules are being completely respected now. What is your attitude to such innovations, do you consider them progressive, and what do you think can spoil Kyokushin?
In terms of entertainment and intensity of emotions, Kyokushin in IKO has become much more spectacular than it was. Our Kancho Shokei Matsui is a very intelligent person. I consider him a man who looks forward and who has given Kyokushin a new life. Remember these tournaments when two fighters could stand opposite each other, with their foreheads pressed and exchange two punches for 9 minutes. It was not interesting not only for the spectators, but also for the fighters themselves. Such fights are even boring to watch in replays on the video. Now we’ve got dynamic, unpredictability, interest of the audience. To win the IKO tournament became even more prestigious, although back then it was very cool too. It seems to me that we are reaching some higher level of skill. I respect our Kancho very much and since I am a member of his Organization, I accepted the rules of the game. Yes, it is difficult to adapt, and unusual too, but at the same time you can feel the drive, a desire to show beautiful karate, not “horn butting.” I love Kyokushin and always wanted to show its beauty, so that people who first saw our fights were delighted with our style! Now I hear from people from the stands that watching tournaments has become more interesting. The competition day passes in one stroke. I also want to add an important fact that, I’ve tried to spar with fighters of other styles and, honestly, nothing worked. I felt comfortable only in my field. Now, thanks to my sensei Max Dedik, I practice sparring with guys from MMA and even with Alexander Volkov from the UFC. I try myself in Boxing, Kickboxing, Muay Thai. And you know what I say? Thanks to the new rules, I began to feel more confident in another styles. I will not say that everything works and that I am taking these guys out, but I feel comfortable. I feel the distance, the timing, I am ready for throws, ready to fight on the floor. It is great for street fighting. You are always ready. New rules develop thinking too. I would advise parents who do not know where to send their child, to give it to IKO Kyokushin. It has a huge arsenal of techniques that will be useful in every person’s life.
You dominated over Japan’s top fighter Kamada (Shohei Kamada) in the match for the semifinals, but according to the new rules, you missed two Waza-ari. Please comment on this fight and the validity of the result.
After our last meeting, I made a lot of conclusions and removed all flaws. I was ready to win and knew that I should. But I lost by the new rules. I will not blame anyone or find excuses. I am the one to blame. I accepted the challenge, I went out to fight by these rules, there is nothing more to say. I respect Kamada. He was smarter this time.
After the championship, there was a queue of Japanese kids for autographs and photos. How long have you been so popular in Japan?
I have long known about my fan club in Japan, but at this trip, I felt a real power coming from then, and I have also seen their real number. They are so many, that you cannot even simply walk down the street. In Japan, fighters have always been respected, and every time I came, there were many children-fans. But this time there really was an ocean of them. Probably more than a hundred. It even seemed to me that there was a million of them and it will never end. I will even say that after the tournament, these children attacked Yulia Grigorieva and me, so we gave them autographs till the hall closed. There were so many fans that people with loudspeakers had to disperse them. When we were the last to leave the complex, my entire fan club, the children and the adults stood at the door and waited for us. When we passed by, they greeted us with ovations. It was then that I felt the recognition of the people and realized that I did not lose. It was an enormous pleasure! Even after the tournament, Alejandro Navarro and I could not peaceably eat in a restaurant. All nearby establishments near the Ajinomoto Stadium (the venue of the tournament) were full of our fans and they all looked at us, pointed at us, filmed, took photos and overall did not let us eat peaceably. I tried to give everyone attention, give an autograph, take a photo, make a joke and cheer them up. It is very pleasant that even when you are eight thousand kilometers away from home there are people who appreciate and respect the work of your life. I thank all my fans for believing in me and supporting me!
What was the support of the fans in this championship?
My Kherson student Nikita Zherdev also participated with me in this tournament. He is currently studying and living in Poland, and also stands for the Polish national team under the guidance of Sypien Senseis (Agnieszka Sypien and Sylwester Sypien). In the first fight, he met the champion of this tournament, Mikio Ueda. I was with him during the fight. Nikita has grown a lot over the years of training in Poland and worthily stood up against the eminent Japanese. Julia Grigorieva also took part in the tournament in the women’s openweight. As a result, she entered the top four of the women’s championship. She showed a great karate in my opinion!
It is difficult of course. You have to worry twice, or even more for each battle of close ones as for your own. On the one hand, I would not want more of such “happiness”, but on the other hand, I felt better and calmer when all my close ones were near. All of them supported me and I felt a feeling of being home. This is very good feeling! My friends Alejandro Navarro and Ksenia Zasorina were always with me and supported me. Alejandro always gives very useful advice. During the preparation, he advised me as much as he did at the tournament itself. It worked! Thanks, bro! There were fans in the stands who specially came from Ukraine to support me. I heard them shouting: “Kherson is the best!” For the second year in a row, a representative of the Ukrainian Embassy in Japan with his wife and children was present at the competition. His children also do Kyokushin in Japan and they support me every year. This year I heard from the stands: “Sasha, this is very cool!” (with Ukrainian accent). We met after the tournament and he told me that he was following me on social networks. He says that even in Japan there is no such karate school, such attitude towards students and upbringing as in my dojo. He also said that he would like and practice himself in my dojo and bring the children with him. This makes me very happy. It means we are on the right track!
Thanks to all the families and friends for your support!
I felt calmly with you!
You are strong! We are strong!
Thank you for the questions.
I wish you prosperity and glow in your eyes!
Aleksandr, we thank you for the interview and wish you big victories!
Interview by Yuri Cherednichenko