By Andrew Mitchell
A group of 12 students at the Whistler Martial Arts Centre headed to BCIT campus this past weekend to compete in the annual Western Canadian Martial Arts Championships. Only two of those students have competed in tournaments in the past, their ages ranging from five to 16.
Athletes competed in three different events. In the point sparring event, athletes lined up against one another and the action stopped whenever the judge ruled there had been a clean hit. The first athlete to earn five points moved on to the next round.
In continuous sparring, athletes racked up as many points as they could in one minute of fighting.
In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes grappled and earned points for keeping their opponents in submission holds.
Kanta Onishi, 5, competed in point sparring, earning a silver medal in his first ever tournament.
Ken Champion, Carson Leigh and Cole Demers all competed in the same category of point sparring, advancing to the medals. Leigh, 8, is in his second tournament and won gold, beating Champion, 7, in the finals. Demers was third, beating Whistler’s Jackson Bathgate in the consolation final. Cooper Bathgate, Jackson’s twin, did not make the finals along with Caden Belisle, both in their first tournament.
Rachel Brett, 12, won gold in her category when the only other girl dropped out, but decided to compete against the boys. She lost her first bout in the single elimination format, but scored three points.
Shanek Fairweather, 14, competed in Brazilian Jiujitsu and point sparring, losing both matches.
Shawn Clarke, 16, is the only other Whistler fighter with past tournament experience. He placed third in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and continuous sparring, but was eliminated in point sparring.
eliminated. He also entered a freestyle grappling competition where he won his first match in Israel Trab, 14, competed in Brazilian Jiujitsu against Clarke and was 10 seconds on the strength of his takedown. He went on to the gold medal match, but came away with silver.
Whistler Martial Arts Centre instructor Cole Manson says he usually only travels to tournaments with his adult students because most events are early in the season before his students can be trained. “I’m glad I did this time because the kids did just awesome, coming away with 12 medals,” he said. “It’s a fairly big event with a couple hundred kids, and most schools around the Lower Mainland send somebody so it was really impressive to see the way most of them handled their first tournament.”
Manson may enter a team in the NBR World Games in November, but his main focus is bringing a team to the Tiger Balm Invitation in March, which attracts competitors from across North America.