Students at Cheney’s Zen Karate and Kickboxing were focused and prepared Thursday for a unique opportunity on the horizon.
Some of the best martial arts and karate athletes from across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and parts of B.C. will be in town this weekend for the 40th annual Western Canadian Karate Championships.
Master Instructor Lyle Cheney said from his studios between Red Deer, Lacombe and Calgary, Cheney’s will have approximately 150 students competing.
More than 300 karate athletes total between the ages of five and 65 will gather at Hunting Hills High School Saturday for the long-running tradition.
Eve Stange, 13, a karate student at Cheney’s said Thursday she’s been competing at the Western Canadians since she was seven-years-old.
She explained that it is the opening ceremonies and seeing how she measures up against her peers that has her excited for the competition.
“The opening part is cool, it shows what Martial Arts really are– the spiritual part of it, which I enjoy. I also like the sparring,” Stange said.
The teen got her start rather early in the sport, at age 5, when she was practicing in her living room and proclaimed to her mom that she wanted to do karate.
“I just really enjoyed it, and now I’m a brown belt. It’s just a great community and I love it so much,” she said.
Stange added that through her nearly eight-year journey in karate, what has kept her going is the confidence it helps her carry. Whenever there is trouble at school, she knows there is a positive environment at the karate studio to fall back on.
“I always found it safe here. I struggle at school socially but here I felt at home and I could be myself. I could be accepted,” she said.
While Stange takes comfort in the collective, Owen Gadiano, 11, said he loves to learn from others in the karate world.
“I think the most fun part is meeting new people and you are able to see what they can do and it pushes you to do more,” he said.
Gadiano not only hopes to better himself at the Western Canadian Championships this weekend but also hopes he can pick up a few tips along the way.
“When I match with someone close to my size and my own level, so it’s more of a challenge because they could get the point or I can get the point at the same time,” said Gadiano, who has been doing karate for the last four years.
Karate action starts at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday at Hunting Hills High School.