Art of Taekwondo and Kung Fu Club students, back row from left, Elena Brand, Chad Strickland, Tristan German, Lucas Van Assem; middle row, Zane Burry, Joshua Balenga, Ciarra Taylor, Reigan Phillips, Elijah Balenga, Micah Balenga, Savana Balenga, owner and coach Eliza Ma; front row, Naomi Brand, Ryleigh Taylor, Zoe Buyan and Rachel Brand, missing is Callum Burry, combined to capture 28 medals and a Grand Champion trophy at the 40th annual Western Canadian Karate Championships in Red Deer late last month. JAMIE HARKINS LLS PHOTO
The goal was to peak at the end of May.
That nine-month focus was realized by 14 Lloydminster Art of Taekwondo and Kung Fu Club athletes during the 40th annual Western Canadian Karate Championships at Red Deer’s Hunting Hills High School on May 26.
It has been extended to late October for two more of the group’s martial artists thanks to a strong showing at the World Karate Championships (WKC) Canadian finals in Ottawa the weekend previous.
Art of Taekwondo and Kung Fu Club students Rachel and Naomi Brand captured a second-place finish and championship title, respectively, in hand forms at the WKC Canadian finals.
The result earned the sisters a chance to compete in the WKC World Championships in Dublin, Ireland, from Oct. 27 to Nov. 2.
“I have had a few people qualify for worlds, but they’re the first ones this young who have qualified,” said Art of Taekwondo and Kung Fu Club owner and coach Eliza Ma. “Nationals, it’s just black belts, generally, and they’re coloured belts who ended up competing against black belts and placing. That means when they go to worlds it’ll mainly be against black belts again and they’ll still be coloured belts.”
Ma said the girls have committed to extend their training schedule through the summer months and into September and October in order to prepare. She said they’ll be practising for approximately 20 hours each week at the club in the lead up to worlds.
“If you’re going to get ready for a big event like worlds,” she said, “you have to be training pretty much every day.”
Rachel, 12, said the WKC Canadian finals were stressful, but it was still an incredible experience. She said the martial artists there were all very talented, which provided an opportunity to see how she compares and to learn a few new tricks.
“It helped me a lot in sparring because I watched some girls who were my age spar and they were really aggressive,” said Rachel, a Grade 6 student at Winston Churchill School.
“I did that. I was really aggressive in Red Deer, so that helped me place.”
The third-year taekwondo student captured a top-three finish in team kata, hand forms, musical weapons and sparring at the Red Deer competition.
She also bested 15 other first-place competitors in weapons and hand forms to win a Grand Champion title.
“I really like the sport that I do,” said Rachel, who wears a blue stripe belt. “I like to watch (Ma) and (former taekwondo student Megan Jeffery) compete. They did really good and I want to do the same.”
Ma said the 16 Art of Taekwondo and Kung Fu Club athletes who competed at the Red Deer tournament brought home a total of 28 medals as well as the Grand Champion trophy.
She said that’s the award they’ve earned for training five days a week at two to three hours each practice since the club hosted its home tournament in late April.
“They did excellent,” said Ma. “With kids it’s hard to get through their minds that in eight months from now you’re going to have to compete. But, lots of them have trained for eight or nine months to be ready for this competition and they knocked it out of the park.”