I was eight months removed from the DNBK tournament at Queen’s University. I was set to participate in Crispin’s annual Super Shiai in Georgetown, Ontario in May. Unfortunately, the week before that event, tragedy had hit my family, my mother passed away and I withdrew from competing in that event. I sacrificed time from private weekend training to spend her last days in the hospital with her. Even after her death, I took time off from the dojo, but I still found some time to train myself. I know deep down inside of me that my mom never wanted me to give up Karate, it is something I love, but at the same time, I know that family comes first. I will never forget that over 10 years ago, my mom and my older brother enrolled me in Karate as a Christmas gift. My mom supported me, showed up to a few of my gradings, and tournaments. In November 2009, I will never forget that my mom and the rest of my family were there to see me receive my black belt after performing a four hour grading. Many memories I had with my mom was at times she sewed up the dojo’s crest on my gi, and ironing my gi when it appeared to be wrinkly. Now my mom will be with me in spirit, always. I had the will to come back to the dojo as I promised everybody instead of leaving it all behind.
The year had been a dark cloud hanging over me, but it was a test from above to persevere through thick and thin. Going into this tournament as always, I knew I was the underdog loved and looked up to by many people. I was viewed as the man who would never give up and the man who is willing take on challenges. I didn’t want to think for one second to say to myself that I am going to win this tournament for my mother because I would put myself in that position to put all the pressure on myself and my mother don’t want that, she prefers more of me thinking of having fun and performing the best katas I can do in this tournament for her.
Later in the day, the black belt division began. My rival, Michael Toms was getting warmed up to compete, I was getting warmed up too, practicing my kata. In my mind I was saying “This man is going down.” When it is the 30-39 division’s time to compete, my only disappointment was that the audience has lessened, only a few of Michael Toms’ students and a couple other students and instructors, especially two hockey boys that walked in after hockey practice next door to check out the black belt division were left. It would’ve been nice that some more young kids that me and Michael judged recently that day would hang around and watch how we can steal the show, especially that little girl who came and asked me for advice on how to improve her skills after judging her weapons kata. However, most of the kids are tired after a long day and that it was on a Sunday and they needed to go home early and into bed for school the next day. Despite the regularly low crowd numbers in the latter part of the competitions, there is room for one fan in the heavens looking down on me performing at my very best.
The weapons division was only me and two other competitors, one of them was Michael Toms, he was doing an XMA style double Nunchaku kata, the other was doing a traditional Bo kata and I was doing a traditional Tonfa kata Matsu Higa no Tonfa. The judges was an elderly lady who is a Kung Fu practitioner, my Sensei as the center judge, and the tournament promoter Debbie Crispin. I was up second to perform before Michael. I did an intense weapons kata. Then Michael Toms did his kata performance which is not bad for a man in his late 30’s. While watching him perform I was hoping that he would drop his weapon (the small humourous part of it), but he didn’t. The scores for that was close, but Michael got 1st place and I got 2nd place. Several minutes later was the kata division. I was competing against 5 other black belts in the 30-39 division. I knew I had no sort of competition rust after a 9 month hiatus from competition, since training was always in my mind. Originally, I was planning to do Heiku, a kata that this territory hardly sees. However, within a few weeks prior to the tournament I decided to do a Goju-ryu kata Shisochin, 27 hands because I was working on that kata mostly with a fellow classmate. I performed a very nice kata with such intensity, with a determination to win or go out in a blaze of glory, if this was going to be my defeat…so be it. Michael Toms did Seiyunchin, Attack, Conquer, and Suppress, and in nearly midway through the kata I noticed that he bobbled a bit. The result was that me and Michael tied for 1st, and Debbie decided not to have a sudden death tie breaker to determine an undisputed 1st place winner maybe because she sees us as the biggest competitors in her division.
There is no doubt that Toms’ students were in awe of our performance, we tore the roof off. We told a story of a mere underdog Senior Student representing Durham Martial Arts vs. a regular competitor, dojo owner, and promoter from Orangeville. I am a well-liked guy by Toms’ and his students, they like seeing my traditional katas and the power I put into it. There is one thing in my heart that I do know, my mom who is in heaven would be proud of me for continuing his journey in the Martial Arts, and bring home some trophies this that night and bringing inspiration to my up and coming Martial Artist.