Original Published 04:43 Jun 05, 2022

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Several students from Oku Damashi Martial Arts have returned from their National competition in Ottawa, having qualified for Team Canada.

Sensei Tammy Thankachen, who runs Oku Damashi Martial Arts, said her students have shown that despite their lack of tournament experience, they are in it to go all the way.

“I was super proud of them, obviously … they have worked their butts off, (they) really trained hard for this and their skill set definitely showed out there,” said Thankachen. “The competition was intense, there was some really heated sparring competitions … that came down to the wire. It was pretty intense watching these kids.”

The team of four students that went to Ottawa consisted of Mateo Orr, Nathan Mutlow, Gemma Alce and Logan Alce. Each of the youths placed on the podium for their continuous sparring category. 

In point sparring, Orr qualified for Team Canada as first alternate, with the other three youths making the podium.

“I am still a little bit overwhelmed and … all the adrenaline is still up there. This is a very young team that we took – a green team that had never been to Nationals before,” said Thankachen. “It could have gone either way, but their hard work, their perseverance, dedication to training hard to get to this level, it definitely paid off.”

Thankachen’s students will be headed to Worlds to compete exclusively in point and continuous sparring. None of her students qualified for their Kata.

The Worlds competition in Ireland will take place in October. Until then, Thankachen intends to continue pushing her students to improve and refine their skills. 

“We (have) just got to get the kids moving a little bit differently with the point sparring. Point sparring is a lot quicker than continuous sparring,” said Thankachen. “With point sparring, you have to be more calculated in the way you move … and quick, so we just have to work on timing issues with the kids. Once we get that down, they are going to be amazing.”

Throughout Nationals, the top four competitors in each division were selected for Team Canada, being the three medalists and the fourth position as an alternate.

Prior to Worlds, Team Canada aims to have several sessions for its representatives to train together and become familiarized with each other, as the team consists of students from several different provinces.

“What is going to happen is, we have somebody coming out from Ottawa who is going to come here and work with our teams in Alberta,” said Thankachen. “In Alberta and in BC, what will happen is Team Canada will try and get together at least a couple of times and to a team training session.”

As travel expenses are not cheap, Oku Damashi intends to host fundraising events over the next several months to help cover the costs of going across the pond and back. Businesses are also encouraged to reach out if they might be interested in sponsoring the team.

This item reprinted with permission from Strathmore Times, Strathmore, Alberta