Smithers might be a small community, but it keeps on turning out high level competitors and champions in a wide variety of sports.
While one might think of athletes from the north as being top candidates for a traditional sport such as hockey, the range is actually wide and appears to be broadening. Recently, for example, four members of the Shogun Dojo in Smithers kicked, punched and blocked their ways to the top ranking in the country as they took top spots in their divisions at the Canadian World Karate Union Championships.
The competition featured a wide range of youth and adult athletes. Local youth competitors Karim Abu Khadra, 17, Billie Flint, 10, Lando Ball, 12, and Kyra Abu Khadra in the adult division, all fought their way to the top of the podium.
The winners of the national championships are eligible to attend the world championships in Berengz, Austria in October.
This was not outside the expected by Marwan Abu Khadra, the head instructor-coach-teacher at the Shogun Dojo located in Smithers. Khadra is an experienced karate enthusiast whose seventh degree black belt has been wrapped around his waist so long that it seems more grey than black. Over the past few years, he has consistently produced national champions who have gone on to top results at the international level.
Abu Khadra has a philosophy that the sport is not about short-term results that may occur through participation in the sport but rather the long term benefits that involvement can bring. These include both physical and mental fitness. He feels that this traditional activity is not just about winning and losing at tournaments, but, far more importantly, about the benefits obtained by the change in an individual’s thought processes that will bring so many positive changes to their life on a daily basis.
At his dojo, there is a range of martial arts on offer as well as a variety of fitness-oriented classes.
He has coached and competed at a very high level and a mere peek into any of his classes will provide a demonstration of the respect that his students hold for him.
While many will think of karate as just another martial art with a lot of punches, kicks and perhaps a block or two, there is much more. The martial arts include forms such as karate and taekwando, which have those skills as a major part of the sport, but there are also forms such as judo and jiu jitsu that incorporate throws, chokes, holding techniques and arm locks. Each form tends to have very specific rules for how these may be applied in competition.
In WKU karate, there are a variety of forms of combat that test and demonstrate the participants ability in different circumstances.
There are also the kata, which are very specific forms of techniques that must be demonstrated in competition and in testing situations.
According to Abu Khadra, perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of these sports is there are many different factions which govern how they are run. Quite often these various blocs do not work well together and while someone might be considered a black belt in one group, for example, they might not have the same ranking in another group.
While not all of the recently named Canadian champions are planning to attend the world competition, there is plenty on the slate to keep them busy. Karim Abu Khadr, for example, has been named to the national squad which will go up against the Americans at a tournament coming up in the near future.
The martial arts have become popular activities worldwide and are becoming sports included at the Olympics. Western sports greco-roman and traditional wrestling as well as boxing have been included on the program since the modern Olympics have returned but it was not until 1964 that judo made it’s appearence. Taekwando made it’s debut in 2000 while karate is set to be contested at the 2020 games in Tokyo.