Three St. Albert-area karate warriors are off to Newfoundland next week to fight for the right to represent Canada on the world stage.
Matthew Blake of Sturgeon County and Maddy Anhill and Aidan MacLeod of St. Albert will represent the Desa School of Karate July 1 to 3 at the 2022 Karate Canada Junior and Senior National Championships in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Some 530 athletes aged 12 and up are expected to compete in the event, which is being held for the first time since the pandemic. Winners will receive medals and the chance to represent Canada at international tournaments.
Desa head instructor Manuel Desa said these three went above and beyond with extra training to prepare for this tournament. Win or lose, they will come home better students after facing some of the top karate fighters in Canada.
“It’s going to be quite the eye-opener for them,” he said.
Anhill, Blake, and MacLeod have all practiced karate since they were young and now hold black belts in the sport.
“My parents put me in karate because I was uncoordinated,” said MacLeod, 22.
MacLeod said he didn’t really take the sport seriously until people started teasing him about it in junior high. He started making social media posts about his training, and gained a reputation at school as “the karate kid.” Later, he won bronze at nationals.
Anhill, 17, said she took karate to learn how to defend herself.
“In elementary school I got a lot of, ‘Well, you’re just a girl, you can’t fight people,’” she said, but she learned to brush off those comments.
Blake, 15, said karate has become a lifestyle for him at this point.
“I can come to the dojo and not really worry about anything,” he said, and just focus on having fun.
The trio all practice the Uechi-Ryu style of karate — a very traditional style which uses repeated strikes to the limbs to strengthen the bones and body. Anhill specializes in counterattacks, Blake favours forward-moving combos, and MacLeod likes kicks.
This will be Anhill's and Blake’s first time at nationals and MacLeod’s seventh.
MacLeod said nationals typically involve hundreds of competitors from across Canada. The competition is way more intense than a local event, and you can learn a lot by watching your competitors.
MacLeod said he has been preparing for his bouts with cardio, weightlifting, and weekly sparring sessions.
“There’s a really big mental game at nationals, too,” he said, as you may find yourself fighting much bigger opponents or medallists.
Blake said he plans to use meditation and self-visualization to stay on target at the tournament. Anhill said she plans to focus on the experience of the tournament rather than the results. MacLeod said he has been working on his self-confidence in recent years and hopes it will help him be more aggressive this time around.
While he has yet to use karate in real combat, MacLeod said it is nice to know he could defend himself or others with it should the need arise.
Karate is a safe, all-ages sport that is great for strength and hand-eye co-ordination, Blake said.
“It’s honestly just good for you.”
St. Albert and Sturgeon County residents can watch the tournament via Karate Canada’s live-stream. Visit karatecanada.org for details.