Lyle Cheney can’t help but smile when talking about the Western Canadian Karate Championship.
“As far as I know its the longest running martial arts tournament in Canada,” he said. “Mind you there may be one in Eastern Canada that I don’t know about, but it’s definitely the longest in the west.”
The 32nd annual affair, run by the Red Deer Cheney Karate Studio, drew 300 competitors at Hunting Hills High School Saturday.
“That’s about normal for the last few years,” said Cheney.
“Years ago it was larger, but there’s more tournaments now and so the numbers are spread out more.”
The fact there are more tournaments has it’s positive and negative sides.
“You get too many tournaments it takes away the size and the quality from other tournaments, but then it’s never bad to have more competition,” said Cheney.
There are also more competitors as the sport is more popular than ever.
“There’s more clubs as the sport becomes more mainstream,” explained Cheney. “It used to be more of a select group involved, but now more people are putting their children in and more adults in their 30s and 40s are involved.”
One of the reasons is to keep physically fit.
“It used to be people would go to the gym, but now for something different and more stimulating they’re involved in martial arts,” added Cheney. “It’s a great form of exercise.”
And those interested in the fitness side of the sport make up the majority of those registered with the Cheney Studios.
“I’d say about 25 per cent are in to compete while 75 per cent are in for the fitness and the fun,” he said.
Although it’s not inexpensive, it’s not going to break anyone either.
“The major cost is the instruction, as there’s not a big cost for equipment,” said Cheney. “It’s not like golf for instance where it costs a lot for equipment. It’s more like soccer that once you have your equipment it’s cheaper to do.”
Cheney has one of the larger clubs in Central Alberta.
“We have a fairly large number and it’s stayed about the same for the last 15 years,” he said.
And a lot of the faces remain the same.
“It’s interesting as I have adults with me, who I taught when they were youngsters and not I have their children as well.”
And Cheney takes pride in seeing them develop into champions at all levels.
“It’s one thing to be a champion yourself, but it’s very rewarding to teach others to be a champion.”
He plans on doing just that for a years to come.
“I can’t retire for at least 20 years,” he said with a laugh.