Imagine being at a big expo, where thousands of martial artists can meet, compete, train, have fun and exchange ideas.
Sounds great, right?
This weekend I went to London, to visit Seni 2010, the International Combat Sports Show, one of the largest martial arts sports festivals I’ve ever been to.
With thousands of exhibitors, competitors and visitors spread out over six zones, offering something for everyone (seminars, demonstrations, tournaments and open-mat sessions) it was truly a thrill-packed weekend.
Let’s see what I remember…
Arriving at the super huge ExCel Exhibition and conference centre in London Docklands (which my sources tell me is often used for global weapons trade fairs), the first thing I noticed was the absence of martial artists.
Had I really come to the right address?
Something wasn’t right…
Continuing up the stairs to the entrance, my doubts grew even stronger as my first sight consisted of this:
Okay, stop the press, something definitely isn’t right here!
A huge evil chicken leaning against the rail?!
Needless to say, it got worse.
This thing was even armed with a katana!
And these guys had even heavier weapons! (Look, he’s even pointing at me!)
As I later found out, I had managed to end up in the middle of something very special – London Movie Comic Media Expo to be exact.
Held at the same venue, at the same time!
And yes, I survived.
And to be honest, a part of me felt like sneaking into their part of the centre…
I mean, somebody even built the most incredible Transformer costume ever!
Anyway, after finally making my way through all the ‘Free Hugs’ signs, Pokemons, Power Rangers and zombies, I found what I came for.
All I had to do was get my entrance ticket, and I was ready to enter!
Flashing my ticket to the security, I rushed in with my camera ready for action.
And I got some!
Beginning my round at the tournament area, the first thing that struck me was how many different areas there were.
And how funny everyone looked. Apparently I’m too fixed with the idea that a gi is supposed to be white.
First of all I spied at the Judo tournament, which apparently started way before I arrived!
I don’t know if any famous people were there, but it was fun to watch anyway.
Next to the Judo mats we had some BJJ.
‘Gracie Invitational‘, I think.
Pretty high standard, I reckon.
Of course, we had the Wushu competition too, with this kid doing a really cool Drunken Monkey routine:
The crowd just went wild.
Modern and traditional martial arts were very mixed at SENI, which was fun. In the ring we had some amateur Thai Boxing going on, wich was pretty intense!
Of course the cage was there too, with the UK MMA League drawing people from near and far.
Oh, by the way, do you remember Viktor, who I always force to demonstrate bunkai (like here, here and here)? Well, he was with me, and he kicked ass – winning in less than two minutes by armbar (figure-four).
Continuing my trip around the tournament area, feet now beginning to hurt, I found some Capoeira.
And don’t ask me why that guy was doing ‘the crane’…
Next to the Capoeira was Taekwondo. They had both full contact fighting and forms
Kids going hard on each other.
But, hey, wait a second!
Do you see that?
What’s that red thing in the background?
Just an urban ninja.
Let’s move along...
Looking for some beef? Look no further. SENI had brough in the 8 strongest men in the world, who did some demonstrations and stuff. But I’m not sure, since you had to buy a separate ticket for this area.
I took some sneak photos anyway:
There were some strong women too.
(By the way, have you ever heard hundreds of guys turning their digital cameras on at the same time?)
At a nearby stand we had another strong guy.
All those muscles and he’s still not happy…
A guy who was happy though was Buakaw Por Pramuk. Two time K-1 World MAX Champion, with a record of 190 wins and 12 losses (!), he was sitting at a booth, signing pictures and shirts.
Remind me to buy glasses like those. If I can afford them.
And you should have seen his watch…
Speaking of celebrities, there was quite a few of them.
Like Fedor Emilianenko (universally considered the best heavyweight fighter in the world of MMA for the last seven years). He was standing right there, with his belt and all, and nobody even cared!
No, I’m just kidding.
It’s a sign. Made out of cardboard.
(But it looks real, right?!)
Seriously though, there were some real celebrities there.
Like Gegard Mousasi (Strikeforce, Dream and Cage Warriors Champion), the sixth best light heavyweight in the world of MMA.
He was basically just sitting there playing with his iPhone, since nobody really seemed to recognize him. And I promise you, he was not made out of cardboard!
Then we had the king:
Living legend and UFC Hall of Famer Royce Gracie.
Holding seminars in this secret room all day…
…but eventually showing his face in the cage…
…where he held a passionate speech on how everyone need to have a style as a base, instead of trying to do “everything” from the beginning.
Now, what else did I see…
Oh, that’s right we had the stands, where you could buy basically anything!
Actually, these guys did a demonstration too.
But there were other demonstrations too.
Which I won’t comment on…
And don’t get me started on the Kobudo demonstration!
Let’s just say I didn’t see the whole thing.
I actually thought this guy’s tattoo was more exciting:
So instead, I went to look at some of the free workshops.
Everything from Functional Jeet Kune Do and Aiki Ju Jutsu to Pressure Point K.O.’s and Urban Krav Maga could be tried for free, and it was quite fun to see how the teaching methods differed between the styles and instructors.
An incredible 34th generation warrior monk from the Shaolin temple was also present (Shifu Shi Yanzi) and let me tell you, you could easily tell that he was eight times Chinese National Sanshou Champion and two times World Champion!
The fun thing was, his seminar participants consisted of middle aged women who thought they were going to learn Qi Gong and Tai Chi! Instead they got full contact Chinese kickboxing! It was hilarious!
You should have seen their faces!
Other fun stuff I saw was…
The Karate competition (‘Kata Clash’)
But it was more sad than fun, really (only six participants in the male senior division).
Full size samurai armor.
And Jhoon Rhee, the ‘Father of American Taekwondo’, who did something like 150 push ups just to show that you can be 80 years old and still fit for fight!
He was signing pictures of himself kicking Bruce Lee in the face.
Oh, and I almost forgot!
There were some soldiers there too:
Some kind of commando team.
And they weren’t too comfortable around kids. Well, at least not kids with submachine guns anyway.
And lastly, we even managed to catch some premium Thai Boxing on Saturday night:
There were some really superb knockouts, including a spinning reverse elbow!
The fights were non-stop action.
Superstar Buakaw Por Pramuk had the biggest entrance I’ve ever seen by the way.
And I think that’s basically everything I have to say about SENI 2010!
Possibly the most inter-active martial arts extravaganza on the planet is over, and in two years I’ll definitely return!
Walking out of the ExCel Centre I could help but remembering what I had seen earlier in the morning.
And judging by what I had seen during the day, these comic book nerds are not that different from us, really. They use strange words and wear pajamases just like us – they just have scales on theirs.
I say, they seem to at least have just as much fun as we do, if not more!
So next year I’m bringing my Mr. Miyagi costume!
Wax on, wax off...