41st Annual Western Canadian Karate Championships ready to hit the mat in Red Deer

It is one of the longest standing traditions in martial arts in Alberta.

Saturday will mark the 41st running of the Western Canadian Karate Championships, now the longest running martial arts event of its kind and competition in the province.

“It’s always been one of the bigger tournaments in Alberta, now there are a lot more tournaments to go to,” said organizer Lyle Cheney, who is Master Instructor at Cheney’s Zen Karate and Kickboxing.

“We haven’t seen it grow perhaps, but it remains strong. It used to be there were maybe only three or four tournaments to compete in, now there’s numerous. It still managed to stay strong despite that.”

For the past 39 years, the event was run on the May long weekend, but this year the decision was made to move the event a week later.

Cheney said competitors range in age from 5, all the way up to 70. Typically, between 300-400 athletes from all over Western Canada compete at the tournament. He added it’s a good measuring stick for competitors to see how far they’ve progressed over the season.

“It gives my students as well as the other ones an opportunity to compete, especially in their own home city,” he said.

“Our tournament is kind of the last one of the season as far as the big tournaments. We do it mainly as a platform for our students to have a good local place to compete.”

The event includes form and sparring, kickboxing and modified Muay Thai as well as weapons form work. Some of the province’s top black belts will also attend the competition and battle later in the afternoon on Saturday.

This year, in addition to a wide range of divisions, they will also have two Junior coloured belt Grand Champion events as well as an Adult coloured belt Grand Champion event.

“We have a really, really strong competition scene in Alberta, particularly the black belt division. The up and coming divisions are very strong. Alberta has a real strong sport karate scene,” Cheney added.

The competition gets underway at 10:15 a.m. at Hunting Hills High School on May 25.

Email sports tips to Byron Hackett

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