Chestermere dojo sends karate kids to world championships

Students begin preparing for the international competition in mid-July, working to improve their technique and improve their skills before heading to Ireland in the autumn.

A Chestermere-based martial arts studio, which includes athletes from Langdon, Calgary and Rocky View counties, is sending four karate kids to an international championship in Killarney, Ireland this fall, following their respective successes in regional 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 about 26 years.

Her students have appeared on the world stage several times and have been successful in their athletic endeavors, according to Thankachen.

“There’s a lot of little gold medalists walking around between Carseland, Langdon and Chestermere,” she said. “It’s pretty cool — the youth and the kids in these communities work really hard and really give it their all.”

Thankachen said many of her students were apprehensive about returning to competition in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, although there was a degree of uncertainty in the air.

Additionally, public health restrictions have held up in-person classes and competitions, which in turn impedes the progress of martial artists.

“We just did virtual classes. It’s definitely not the same as being in a classroom environment or being there to really encourage and challenge them more,” Thankachen said. “As soon as we were allowed to go back in and teach and train, the kids just went along with it.

“There was a new excitement. Their minds were so busy and they wanted to train so hard.”

She added that seven athletes competed in a provincial competition held in Edmonton last April, and all seven earned a spot on Team Alberta based on their placements. Four then successfully vied for a place on Team Canada at a national competition held in Ottawa in May.

“They trained so hard in the dojo and then we went to Edmonton and they did so well and then we trained harder and prepared for the nationals and they just blew my mind,” she said. “For them, being so young and wanting something so bad and putting their heart and soul into it, it was pretty cool to see.”

Among the athletes making the move to international competition is 17-year-old Logan Alce, who is competing at the national level for the second time and at the international level for the first time. The other three, Mateo Orr, 10 years old; Gemma Alce, aged nine; and Nathan Mutlow, age 10, are competing at this level for the first time.

“They put 110 percent into their training and set these goals,” Thankachen said. “The competition is tough and elitist. It’s the best of the best, especially when you’re going to Ottawa for Team Canada’s friendlies, so you have to play at the top.

“You really have to give it your all, get involved and really push those goals. All of these kids have exceeded those goals.”

Thankachen said as soon as the athletes got their first fights 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.

“You really shined. They’ve really stepped up,” she said. “These kids are naturally talented, so it doesn’t take much to train them. And they’re young, so putting so much time and dedication into it. It’s so cool to see.

“It would be a lot easier for them to hang out and play video games over the summer, but they’re in the dojo four or five times a week and they train hard for a few hours every day. Her passion and will to succeed are impeccable.”

Thankachen says the students will start preparing for the international competition in mid-July to improve their technique and hone their skills.

She added the dojo is also looking for local businesses to sponsor the athletes on their trip to Ireland this fall.

“Coming to Ireland is extremely expensive so if there is anyone out there who would like to sponsor them, whether that be at a fundraising tournament in September or by donating raffle tickets or cash gifts to offset some travel expenses Worlds to equalize excellently,” said Thankachen.

For more information about the dojo or to sponsor an athlete, visit Oku Damashi Martial Arts on Facebook.

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