On March 22nd the 26th fighting Spirit Championships were held at the College Notre-Dame in Montreal Quebec. The team representing Vancouver included Jack Shiah and myself. We were joined Sensei Tats, as well as Sempai Johnny LeBlanc and his fighter Chrysat Allogho Ondo from the New Brunswick Dojo. The three of us were able to warm-up together as well as share advice and support throughout the tournament day.
For me this tournament was more than just a chance to test out my techniques and see where I stand amongst Canada’s best fighters. This tournament was a return to competition fighting for me after an almost 2 year absence following a very bitter first round loss at the 2012 All American Open Karate Championships. Following the All American tournament I moved to Montreal to attend McGill University, and as my work and study load increased my involvement in karate suffered. I attended karate class less and less and eventually stopped going, I would still work-out and train by myself, but the same passion and dedication just wasn’t there for me. It was at this point that I told Sensei Tats that I needed to take a break from tournament fighting, that I couldn’t put in the time to train, and that I didn’t have my heart set on winning. It was a hard truth to admit, and as a fighter I felt guilty for disappointing all those people who helped and supported me to get where I was.
Growing up as a kid I always had my parents, Sensei Tats, and Sensei Katrina there to motivate me to train and to fight even if I didn’t feel like it. Later I moved to Japan to train with Shihan Nakamura, and it was the fear of letting down the people that helped me get there that motivated me to train. I began to rely on external motivation too much, and when it decreased after I moved to Montreal, I had nothing to fall back on. It took me these two years to fully realize how much karate mattered to me, that I couldn’t just drop it, that I missed competing and all the people that I had met through it. There was a part of me that yearned for it; I just had to shift my perspective of karate to find passion in it once more. I started training for myself and decided to set the 26th Fighting Spirit tournament as my goal.
Even though I was anxious, I felt excited to be able to step on the mat again, to use the skills I had developed and use them to fight. I ended up placing third in the combined heavy and super heavy weight division after losing to Mohammad Chikh in the second round. Loses are always disappointing, at some point you are going to feel like you could have trained harder, took care of yourself better, or fought smarter, but I believe there is a lot more you can learn from a loss then from a win. You can set new goals and a new training strategy for yourself, and work on the things that you felt let you down on tournament day. For me it served as a reminder of how much happiness and sense of accomplishment I find in Kyokushin Karate and especially in tournament fighting. I have never felt more motivated to train and to fight, and to continuing my Kyokushin Karate career here in Montreal.
Jack’s first fight started off slowly but gradually built in intensity. Jack used low kicks and uppercuts to slow his opponent down and push him back. The fight was very close and went to an extension where Jack remained in control. His opponent received two warnings which meant Gentan-ichi, a deduction of half a point, which ensured Jacks victory. In the semi-final Jack faced Marcel Balan from the Montreal Honbu Dojo. Again the fight was very close, Jack effectively used straight jabs to knock his opponent off balance and outside heel kicks to weaken Marcel’s legs. Jack was moving forward, but his opponent was staying more active in the fight, punching and kicking almost non-stop throughout the fight. Jack was doing more damage per technique he threw, but the judges valued the quantity of techniques thrown more and awarded the victory to his opponent. For his 3rd place fight Jack faced a well-known fighter out of Montreal, Simon Deguire. Jack utilised a similar strategy from his previous fights using lots of inside low kicks and outside heel kicks, they were doing noticeable damage to Simon. The punching combos that Jack threw looked crisp and strong, his opponent was not able to keep up in the exchanges. In the last thirty seconds Jack was able to push Simon out of the mat and win the fight with relative ease.
For my first fight I faced a local fighter, Cedric Tang, from the Montreal Honbu Dojo. As this was my first fight back after a long absence I decided to stick to the basics, strong inside low kicks and uppercuts became my bread and butter. I was able to move around my opponent and land the techniques I wanted. I was able to push Cedric back and win the fight. My second fight against Mohammad Chikh did not go as well. We exchanged many attacks and I stuck to my strategy of throwing strong inside kicks, and trying to neutralize his attacks with my blocks. Around the minute and a half mark Mohammad was able to land a very strong back spin kick on my body; his kick was so strong it knocked the wind out of me even through my forearm block. Mohammad scored an ippon on me and won the fight. In my final and 3rd fight I faced Nicholas Mondion, a black belt out of the Anjou dojo, the same dojo that has produced great fighters such as Mohammad. My opponent threw me off guard a little bit when he started the fight extremely aggressively; it took me about twenty seconds to find my rhythm. As my opponent got progressively more tired I was able to work around his defence and score two wazaris with straight jabs to the solar plexus and capture 3rd place.
I would like to thank Sensei Tats, Sempai Johnny, Jack and Chrysat for all their support at the tournament. Also, I would like to thank Shihan Andre Gilbert for organizing the successful event and the IKOK-C for letting me compete in it.