2012-09-14 / Community

Karate kids cross ‘The pond’

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer


From left: Thomas Pender, 9, of Falmouth, Rachel Stanhope, 13 of South Portland, Shihan Andy Campbell and his daughter Drew Campbell, 18, both of Scarborough. Katie Jordan, 21, of Scarborough, also competed in the tournament but is not pictured. (Jack Flagler photo) From left: Thomas Pender, 9, of Falmouth, Rachel Stanhope, 13 of South Portland, Shihan Andy Campbell and his daughter Drew Campbell, 18, both of Scarborough. Katie Jordan, 21, of Scarborough, also competed in the tournament but is not pictured. (Jack Flagler photo) SOUTH PORTLAND — When a group of competitors from Dragon Fire Marital Arts dojo in South Portland traveled to England in August to compete in an international karate competition, one thing they noticed was a an elevated level of competition from what they were used to at home.

“They scream at each other and freak out. If the British kids are doing one thing, the Irish guys are having a fit,” said Shihan Andy Campbell, who led the group of five to Telford, England for the 2012 World Organization of Martial Arts Athletes games in August.

His daughter, Drew Campbell, 18, said even the younger classes of martial artists were intense, with coaches screaming and fists flying.

“It’s deadly over there,” Drew Campbell joked.

The intense competition makes sense considering the long history of violent conflict between Wales, Ireland and England that can’t exactly be compared to New England.

“We never tried to take over New Hampshire,” Andy Campbell said with a laugh.

But even among the group of more than 500 intense competitors from around the world, the group from Dragon Fire held their own admirably.

Thomas Pender, 9, from Falmouth, the youngest Dragon Fire competitor, and Drew Campbell each earned a bronze medal. Rachel Stanhope, 13, of South Portland, won two silvers and two gold medals, and Katie Jordan, a 21-yearold Bentley College student who works as an instructor at the dojo, took home three gold medals and two “grand championships” as the top international competitor in her 18-plus age class.

Andy Campbell said the benefit of the trip wasn’t restricted to just the hardware his students took home. The experience was also valuable for him as a teacher. Even though he recognized the forms from many of the competitors, each had a different slant that he could learn from and bring back to the states.

“They do it in a different way, the stances are different, the timing is a little different, some things were different,” he said. “Karate is karate, it’s a universal thing. But everybody’s got their own kind of spin on different aspects of it.”

Other instructors would sometimes approach Andy Campbell after a particular form, he said, to note a different approach. Unlike the competitions between the British and the Irish, he said those conversations were positive and constructive.

“I took some of their things, and say, I like that, I can reteach it to my guys maybe a little different, which is cool. You can play off each other.”

The Dragon Fire team was the only New England group at the tournament in Telford, a town 30 miles from Birmingham in the western portion of England near Wales. About 50 athletes at the event represented the U.S. from California, Georgia, and Ohio, among other states. About 40 athletes also came from Canada, including an especially colorful and extroverted German immigrant named Wolfgang who stayed in the same hotel as the Dragon Fire team.

Those groups were joined by representatives from England, Ireland, Wales, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and even the tiny islands of Jersey and Isle of Man.

“I think the island actually raised when they left,” Andy Campbell joked of the 15 participants from the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea with a total population of 80,000.

Pender also brought home more than his bronze medal. He was able to trade some of his American gear to build a worldwide wardrobe. Pender came back with a jacket courtesy of a Welsh competitor, a T-shirt from New Zealand and a backpack from Mexico.

The Dragon Fire group was also able to do some sightseeing throughout the week. They rode the famous London Eye on the River Thames and took a trip on the city’s famous double-decker buses and the Tube. They also took a bus through the countryside (“everything was farms and cows” Drew Campbell said) to visit Stonehenge.

Next year, the World Organization of Martial Arts Athletes competition will be held in Dublin, Ireland. Andy Campbell plans to bring a group of about 14 students from around New England that have qualified at tournaments on the local circuit.

But before the group leaves next summer, it will be Andy Cambpell’s turn to play host. He said a British organizer of the tournament plans to come to Maine next June to compete in a tournament Campbell organizes in Saco.

Return to top