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Fighters battle it out in Whistler

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Whistler fighters win first and third place in divisions

"The heart of Karate is real fighting. There can be no proof without real fighting. Without proof there is no trust. Without trust there is no respect. This is a definition in the world of Martial Arts."

That quote comes from Sasai Oyama, the father of full contact Karate, and the inspiration for the first annual Whistler Cup International Open Karate Championship on June 15.

Sure enough, the proof was in the pounding and the respect was tangible as full contact fighters from the U.S., Japan and Canada met in Meadow Park Arena – thawed for its annual spring maintenance – to show off their skills in the most hands-on way imaginable.

There were light, middle and heavyweight categories, plus junior and women’s competitions. In addition, there were K1 and stick fighting demonstrations, the old-foot-shattering-four-baseball-bats demo, and a performance by Vancouver’s Tokidoki Daiko taiko drummers.

The highlight was the fighting, however, which was intense.

Competitors wore cups, as well as optional shin pads and mouth guards. They were allowed to kick everywhere but the crotch, knee, and the back of the head. They were allowed to punch and elbow everywhere but the head, face, and neck. No grabbing or grappling techniques were allowed.

Within these parameters, spectators watched the competitors square off and battle one another at close quarters for up to six minutes.

If the referees determined that the fight was close after the first round of three minutes, then they would extend the match for another two minutes. After that time they could decide to add a third one-minute round, after which point the judges would select the winner based on intensity and the number of kicks and punches landed.

According to Joe Rankin, the sensai of Whistler’s Shinseikai Karate and the host of the Whistler Cup, the event was a success.

"It’s definitely going to be an annual event, same time and same place," he said. "The other dojo’s are coming back, we’re going to promote it in Japan and invite more full contact organizations from Canada and the U.S."

While the perfect weather likely kept some spectators away, Rankin hopes the turnout will increase as awareness of the sport grows through the competition.

"Most people don’t know what a full contact event looks like or what goes on, but people do appreciate it a lot more once they’ve seen it," Rankin says.

His own students from Shinseikai were solid in their events although many of them had never competed in a full contact event before. In fact, Rankin believes this was the first full contact competition on the West Coast.

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