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Whistler karate tournament goes full contact



Meadow Park arena to host region’s top fighters

Kicking in the groin is against the rules. So is grabbing or grappling with your opponent. Pretty much anything else goes.

Competitors may choose to wear mouth guards and shin protectors, but otherwise it’s bare hands, bare feet and one fighter against another on June 15 when Shinseikai Karate hosts Whistler Cup 2002, the first open full contact karate championships in Western Canada.

"This is the real full contact karate, with none of the fancy gear and pads. Competitors really just wear a cup and that’s it," says Joe Rankin, the tournament director and owner and operator of Whistler-Squamish Shinseikai Karate.

Between 25 and 30 martial arts students and instructors will participate in the championships, including competitors from Japan and the U.S. Rather than squaring off by their level of experience, fighters will compete in weight classes, moving through the ranks over several matches. Rankin will try to keep the contests equal at the beginning, but if a junior wins "then eventually they’re going to have to face a more senior competitor."

Fights go three rounds or less. The first round is three minutes, the second two minutes and the third just one minute.

A knockdown ends a fight, and a competitor that is doubled over gets three seconds to convince the referee they’re still good to go. Some fights will be over quickly, but some will go the distance.

After three rounds the judges, including an experienced master from Japan, will pick a winner in the same way they would in boxing – counting hits and factoring in aggressiveness and technique. If it’s still a tie, the win goes to the lightest boxer based on the principle that the heavier fighter has the advantage.

"A smart fighter will do the best they can to stay in the running for the three rounds and win by weight, but it’s pretty hard to hold off a heavier guy for that long," says Rankin.

Rankin himself won’t be competing, although he has had his fair share of full contact experience, when he lived in Japan.

"I’m 40 now, which is a little old for full contact," he says.

However, four of his Whistler students, plus one of his students from Japan, will be representing Shinseikai.

Whistler’s Clyde Bersky, Mark Alexander and Eric Hould are in the tournament. Catherine Bachelor will fight if there are enough women from other dojos at the tournament. The student from Japan, Koji Okada, is the team’s best chance as the only Shinseikai representative with some competitions under his belt.