Freeland martial arts studio holds first competition

Young martial artists had their first competitive showing Saturday at the Tiger Martial Arts studio in Freeland.

The pint-sized athletes demonstrated Kata (forms) and Kumite, which are two person pre-arranged sparring drills.

“This was our first tournament, but we plan on making it an annual event,” said Sensei Wendi Barker.

“We only had it for the grades 1-5 classes and will expand it to other ages next year,” she said.

Twenty competitors registered in seven divisions of competition. Seven students walked away proudly with bragging rights and a trophy, she said.

Each student presented their Kata to a board of three judges and the audience. So many people came to watch that there was standing room only.

“The confidence these 5 to 10 year olds showed was inspiring,” Barker said. “All of the students are winners for their confidence and sportsmanship and received a medal for it,” she said.

First-place winners received 14-inch trophies.

It was a great experience for the young martial artists and for many it was their first time showing their sport in front of a large audience. The hardest part for many was waiting their turn.

“I was really nervous, but it was fun and now I am really proud of myself,” said Jesse Smith, 6. He won first place in kumite with Connor Ryan, and won first place in grades 1-2 boys beginner kata.

Connor Ryan, 6, said, “It was a lot more fun than just getting a trophy — it was great.”

The judging was done by an experienced panel.

“We had a friend, John Page, from back east (Massachusetts) who is a soon to be Sandan, a third degree black belt, visiting. He is the tournament coordinator for the International Uechi Ryu Karate Federation and was one of the judges for the event,” Barker said.

“What a tremendous event. It was so well organized and conducted that I never would have known it was TMA’s first tournament,” Page said.

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