Karate kids shine on the world stage
AS KENSEIKAN Hanshi Mark Passmore casts his eye over his karate students, his pride is obvious.
While Passmore talks about the group of five students who returned triumphantly from the World All Styles Championships in Portugal, he's forced to halt his quivering speech and hold back tears of pride.
The group of Daniel Ingram, Ja-Lissa Simpson, Anastasia Golden, Owen Buhler and Leon Sullivan returned to the Toormina dojo with five world titles, four silver medals and a bronze between them.
"They were the underdogs because they went to compete against the best that Europe and America had to offer," Passmore said.
"These guys are all national champions in their own right here, I said to them though you're good here but when you go over there guys, you're going to be way down so if you can get in the top 20, 25, 30 in your division, count that as a plus."
It's at this point Passmore reflects on the enormity of the teenagers' success and his emotions get the better of him.
"They smashed it," was all the proud teacher could say.
Training for four hours a night every night prior to the tournament, the quintet's traditional Japanese karate skills were clearly superior to the rest of the competition.
Aged only 12, Ja-Lissa won a gold medal in weapons and a silver medal in forms, while Anastasia was the most successful, with three world titles next to the 16-year-old's name in weapons, forms and sparring.
Daniel and Owen actually competed against each other in a forms final, with the former winning the world title.
Owen won a silver medal in weapons competition.
Leon won a silver medal in forms and a bronze medal in weapons.
After such an exhaustive period in the ring and a trip home that took two days with a couple of long layovers included, the teens could be forgiven for taking some time off but Passmore said the opposite was true of this group.
"They came in the next night for training and I just sent them home," he said.
"They're so dedicated."
While Passmore is thrilled with the standard of martial artists they are and is looking forward to seeing compete in Hungary and Japan later this year, the Hanshi admits he's even prouder of the type of people they are.
"They are so respectful, these kids. To everyone," he said.
"They come and help the little kids. They go out of their way to come in at times when it's not their class to help anyone. We've got people coming up from Kempsey and these people train them for competition. They're not our style, nothing to do with us.
"There's people from local clubs here that are doing black belts and they're helping them even though they're their opposition. They are brilliant role models."