Highlands Summer Festival president Jack Brezina speaks during the announcement of the upcoming season's lineup on Nov. 18. /DAVID ZILSTRA Staff

Martial arts tournament honours Chapman

By Sarah Vance

Kai-Shin North Branch Haliburton’s Chito-Ryu Karate Club hosted its annual tournament on Sunday Oct. 4 at the A.J. LaRue Arena. It was a poignant meeting of martial artists from across the province who gathered to share their skills in memory of Roku-Dan Michael Chapman.

In fact some travelled from out of province the farthest journey made by Glen Slauenwhite a sergeant with the Canadian military who made a 955-mile trip from Saguenay Que. to represent the 8-Wing Trenton Air Base club.

“It was a great turnout great efforts strong skill sets and good sportsmanship on the part of all the competitors” said Sargeant Slauenwhite. “In light of recent events it is especially encouraging to see North Branch persevere and put on a great day.”

Chapman established Haliburton’s only martial arts club 15 years ago and he left a long line of students behind when he passed away in August. He was a coach who maintained close ties with many clubs such as the Bancroft Snow Tigers where students train above the North Hastings Community Centre on Thursday nights.

Bancroft’s Snow Tigers were amongst the participants who travelled to Haliburton to demonstrate kata and participate in friendly no-contact sparring competitions and weapons demonstrations.
Hunter Pilgrim a Grade 9 student from North Hastings High School travelled with his father to perform Heian Sandan a kata which translates into English as a peaceful mind.

“It is a very technical kata with elbow and wing blocks and three sets of crescent kicks towards the end” said Hunter. “I became an orange belt in June and I chose this kata because it is the first one in my belt level.”

Katas are individual training exercises that are passed down from generation to generation. Depending on the style of the school and the lineage of the teacher also known as a sensei  each student will present a different variation of these traditional skills.

“I like the responsibility that comes with learning the history of karate” said Hunter.
There were many schools of karate represented at the A.J. LaRue Arena which was packed to the brim on Sunday. Peterborough’s Jyui-Shin Club the Silent Tigers of Bowmanville Bolton’s Phoenix Club and Coboconk’s Shizuka Na Arashi Bujutsu were just a few of the clubs who came to tell the history of their style. Sensei Kyle Seabrooke a Haliburton native and a longtime student of Chapman brought his students from Ottawa.

“We have more than 30 black-belts in attendance and approximately 60 competitors” said Christopher McCaragar a Haliburton black-belt. “It is our largest tournament to date and Sensei Chapman would have been proud because his friends came out.”

While each student has his or her own reasons for studying martial arts many of the students at Sunday’s tournament spoke of Chapman as being their primary reason for travelling to Haliburton. Families packed into the Pinestone Resort they ate lunch at McKecks and  they fueled up at the local service centre. There is an economic value to sports tourism and Chapman’s contribution to Haliburton’s sport economy continues to be an important and long-standing one.

Having made Haliburton a destination for martial artists students continue to flock to Chapman’s club largely due to his lineage. His students were privy to stories about the likes of Wally Sloki and George Chuvalo in the context of Toronto’s Cabbage Town “blood and guts” days when Canadian martial arts was in its infancy. Chapman kept that old school style alive with stories of “having to eat a bowl of rice” just to get inside a door that might not be too easy to get out of and where poker games were played in darkened corners under a heavy film of cigar smoke.

Lineage is an important value for martial artists because each student’s skills and style is presented differently  depending upon where they come from and who they train under.  For those who knew Roku-Dan Chapman it is fair to say that his lineage put him right up there near the top of the family tree.

“It was a remarkably moving day not only in terms of it being Mike’s tournament but to see the overwhelming support and commitment from everyone” said Mitch Maxime who helped officiate the tournament. “It was the first tournament since Mike’s passing and it was very gratifying to see so many clubs turn out in support of Haliburton’s martial arts tradition.”

Kaleb Pereira a brown belt student who has been training with Chapman since he was three years old said “I sure miss Sensei” before he went on to place third in his performance of Nijushiho an advanced kata from the Okinawa tradition.

York River Public School student Miguel Hilts who trains with the Snow Tigers in Bancroft performed Kata Ni Dan mentioning that he practices at home and makes time for the sport between his school work and working on the family farm.

“I feel comfortable in front of people and competed in tournaments before as a student of Sensei Walther when I lived in Tweed” said Hilts who now lives in Hermon. “I came to karate to learn self-defence and it has helped me feel safe.”

As Hilts performed his kata he was watched over by Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductees Angelo and Gino Egizii and Glencoe’s Randy Horton.

“A kata demonstration should be a nice balance of fire and water” said Horton addressing the young students. “And if you don’t know what that means you need to train more.”

John Black a long time student of Chapman’s who continues to lead to the Kai-Shin North Branch club gave a humble bow of respect as the tournament came to a close.

“We cannot thank our fellow clubs enough” said Black. “And a very big thank you is deserved by the families of our members who support our students and who’ve spent countless hours in preparation of today.”

Martial Arts provide skills that are transferable and can bring measurable gains to students from all walks of life and of all ages.
“It truly is a family sport” said Sensei Wayne Lord who teaches at the Snow Tigers Club in Bancroft.