For the Marchuk family, fighting and bonding go hand in hand

The family that fights together, sticks together. Five of the seven members of Red Deer’s Marchuk clan, including mom Christy, are heavily into karate, a pursuit that has helped shape their lives.

The Marchuk family

The Marchuk family

The family that fights together, sticks together.

Five of the seven members of Red Deer’s Marchuk clan, including mom Christy, are heavily into karate, a pursuit that has helped shape their lives.

“The one thing about karate and other martial arts is that it is mind, body and spirit — it goes beyond just sports,” said Christy, who is a blue belt. “Their principles involve all parts of your life, just being responsible and being at peace and doing the right thing — it’s all integrated into the program. I love the different sensais being awesome role models for my kids, and when I’m a part of it I’m also adhering to the same principles.”

The oldest son Nick, 15, was the first to get involved and is a junior world champion, a national champion and a Pan Am champion, competing around the globe.

He was drawn into the martial art nine years ago while watching the children’s TV show Power Rangers and has been hooked ever since.

A few years later, in an effort to understand the sport better, Christy joined Nick at Cheney Karate and Kickboxing, and since then three of his brothers and sisters have taken the plunge as well — Michaela, 14, Jack, nine, and Tori, seven.

“To coach him at different tournaments, I really needed to know what I was talking about, and from there I just really enjoyed it,’” said Christy, 47.

Sensai Lyle Cheney said there are other families who do karate together but the Marchucks are probably the biggest.

“It’s an activity the whole family can participate in together, they can go to tournaments together . . . and I think it creates a lot more cameradere in the family.”

For dad Doug, hockey was always the sport and at first it was a little “disheartening” to watch Nick shrug off the game he loved for something entirely different — although he says martial arts is a solid option and is proud of what Nick has accomplished.

“As a father it’s quite a thing to watch your son compete all over the world,” said Doug, 46, who is happy to be an observer.

Nick has trained in Zen Karate for nine years under Cheney and in the last couple of years he has branched into Muay Thai and kickboxing. He also focused in weapon training with Cheney — particularly with the bo staff and the katana, or samurai sword.

To this point, Nick has only had one major incident with the katana — cutting off half a thumb nail — and has escaped further injury with just a few “close calls.”

“When all the other kids were collecting Pokemon cards, Nick wanted to collect swords and my wife and I had quite a discussion over that and agreed we’d let him collect, but they are secured to the wall where you’d pretty much have to use a jack hammer to get them off,” said Doug.

Christy, Jack and Tori are all working with the bo staff as well.

Nick also trains at Black Dragon Martial Arts under the direction of Master Gil Lafantasie. There he studies Haribon Dumog — grappling — and Rutano Estokada kali — Filipino knife and stick fighting.

Nick is already passing on what he has learned to his siblings. When they are at home, they often train together in the yard or their basement studio.

Nick’s brother Jack is already following closely in his steps.

“Jack follows Nick around, he even looks like a little Mini Me version of him,” said Doug. “The harder Nick goes, the harder Jack goes.”

It gives Nick a little extra pride when watching his brother or sisters competing to know he has had a hand in their development. But he also benefits from helping out his family.

“One of the best ways to make sure you know how to do something is to teach someone else how to do it to. So it’s helping me with my training just by showing them how to do stuff,” said Nick, adding his favourite Power Ranger was the red one, but his taste in TV has morphed to more mature programing with shows like Deadliest Warrior and Mantracker.

Nick’s future is burning bright in martial arts.

He is already a member of four different Team Canadas — the World Karate and Kickboxing Council (WKC), World Martial Arts Association (WOMAA), World Karate Association (WKA), and the Canadian National Martial Arts Association (CNMAA) — has fought in the United States, Portugal, Wales, Ireland, Australia and will be headed to Spain for the WKC World Championships in Cadiz, Spain, on Nov. 5.

“It’s great to go to other countries and Canada gets a lot of respect from other countries, were seen as a great country . . . and I’m proud to be a Canadian,” said Nick.

Cheney says Nick is known for his focus and intensity in competition while being one of the most dedicated and coachable young athletes he’s worked with.

“Some people are good at one area of martial arts or another. . . . Nick’s been lucky enough to be successful at all of them,” said Cheney. “He’s a real force to be reckoned with. In the tournament circuits we compete in, everybody knows his name — he’s one of those kids that can do it all.”

This was a point hammered home when he was awarded the Chris Canning Award at the World Martial Arts Games in Australia in 2009 — an honour that is given to the top martial arts all-round competitor at the event.

To help pay for his many trips, he works at Alberta Springs Golf Course as part of the maintenance crew, does bottle drives, is part of the Alberta Sport Development Centre program and has contributions from sponsors.

His future options are many: he could open his own dojo, he could just continue to train and compete, or he could take his shot at movies or TV like his Power Ranger heroes of years ago.

“I’m definitely going to keep training, I’m going to go my entire life with this, but it definitely would be real cool if I could get into a movie or something in Hollywood,” said Nick.

His big dream, though, is to one day compete in the Olympics — where the biggest challenge would be to get karate accepted as an official sport.

“I see that it could happen, but what it will take is for people to put their politics aside. But I’ve been hearing that since I was a little kid,” says Cheney, noting the biggest political problem is the fact there are so many styles of karate and agreeing on the style that should be used for Olympic competition.

Judo, an Olympic sport, for example, has just one accepted style.

In the meantime, martial arts has helped him keep him on track academically. Nick finished Grade 9 with a 93 per cent average and is excelling at Japanese at Notre Dame High School.

His horizon will be broadened further when he goes to Japan for two weeks in June as part of a student exchange.

“I would love to go to a karate dojo or train in some other martial art while I’m over there — it would be great just to see how the things they do over there compare to the way we do things here in Canada,” said Nick, who is also looking at a career in dentistry.

While the five kids do have the odd spat, as any set of siblings will, they get a long very well together, relying on each other for entertainment, living on an acreage outside of Red Deer.

But martial arts is just one aspect of the Marchuk’s busy lives.

Michaela, who just started karate a few months ago, is also a competitive cheerleader, Tori is in gymnastics and while Jack’s twin sister Jaimie is a competitive dancer. Nick is also big into snowboarding, baseball and soccer and Jack is also into gymnastics.

“My idea of sport is personal development. I didn’t plan on (Nick) competing internationally originally, I just wanted him to have something that he really loved to do and that’s with all my kids,” said Christy, who was a competitive gymnast growing up.

“They all do very different things but they all seem to be straying towards martial arts as a secondary thing and then sometimes it has kind of taken over them, too.”

For Christy and Doug, life is often a marathon relay in dropping off kids for training sessions and co-ordinating for weekend tournaments and competitions — often relying on grandparents and aunts and uncles to help get everyone where they need to be on the weekend.

But they make sure they still have regular time together at home as a family.

“The balance that we are always looking for is the home time,” said Cathy.