A Chestermere-based martial arts studio, which boasts athletes from Langdon, Calgary, and Rocky View County, is sending four karate kids to an international championship in Killarney, Ireland this fall, after their respective successes at provincial and national competitions earlier this year.
Tammy Thankachen, head instructor at Oku Damashi martial arts studio (with locations in Chestermere, Carseland, and formerly Langdon), has been training martial arts for more than 30 years and teaching others how to master the mat for approximately 26 years.
Her students have graced the world stage several times and according to Thankachen, have been successful in their athletic endeavours.
“Between Carseland, Langdon, and Chestermere, we have lots of little gold-medalists walking around,” she said. “It’s pretty cool – the youth and the kids of these communities are really hard working and they really put their all into it.”
According to Thankachen, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of her students were apprehensive about getting back to competing with a level of uncertainty hanging in the air.
Additionally, public health restrictions put a hold on in-person classes and competitions, in turn hindering the progress of the martial artists.
“We were just doing virtual classes. It’s definitely not the same as in a class setting or being there to really encourage them and push them more,” Thankachen said. “Once we were allowed to go back in and teach and train, the kids just rolled with it.
“There was a new sense of excitement. Their minds were totally engaged, and they wanted to train so hard.”
She added seven athletes attended a provincial competition held in Edmonton last April, with all seven earning a place on Team Alberta as a result of their placements. Thereafter, four went on to successfully vie for a spot on Team Canada at a national competition held in Ottawa in May.
“They trained so hard in the dojo and then we went up to Edmonton and they did so well, and then we trained harder and got ready for nationals and they just blew my mind,” she said. “For them to be that young and want something so bad, and put their full hearts and everything into it, it was pretty cool to see.”
Athletes moving on to the international competition include 17-year-old Logan Alce, marking his second time competing at the national level and first time at the international level. The other three, Mateo Orr, 10 years old; Gemma Alce, nine years old; and Nathan Mutlow, 10 years old, are competing at this level for the first time.
“They put 110 per cent into their training and they set their minds to these goals,” Thankachen said. “The competition is tough and it’s elite. It’s the best of the best, especially when you go to Ottawa for Team Canada tryouts, so you have to be at the top of your game.
“You have to really full-in, be committed, and really push forward to those goals. All these kids exceeded those goals.”
Thankachen said once the athletes got their first matches out of the way at the national competition, their nerves settled and their confidence began to build, resulting in an impressive performance from each athlete.
“They really shined. They really stepped up,” she said. “These kids are naturally talented, so it doesn’t take a lot for them to train. And they’re young, so to put that much time and dedication into it. It’s so cool to see.
“It’d be much easier for them just to hang out for the summer and play video games but they’re in the dojo four or five times a week training hard for a couple of hours every day. Their passion and their eagerness to succeed is impeccable.”
According to Thankachen, the students will begin preparing for the international competition in mid-July, working towards improving their technique and polishing their skill set.
She added the dojo is also looking for local businesses to sponsor the athletes on their journey to Ireland this fall.
“To get to Ireland, it’s extremely expensive, so if there’s anybody out there that wants to sponsor them, whether it be at a fundraising tournament in September, or donating raffle tickets or monetary gifts, to offset some costs to get to Worlds would be outstanding,” Thankachen said.
For more information on the dojo, or to sponsor an athlete, visit Oku Damashi Martial Arts on Facebook.