A team of 11 children from Bolton participated in the World Karate Commission (WKC) World Championships in Niagara Falls, and they brought home a total of 14 medals.
The team of kickboxers, who train at Gouldings Martial Arts Centre of Excellence in Farnworth, travelled as part of the 100-plus England representatives to compete in the esteemed tournament.
For a number of the group, this was their first competition of this scale, but Jamie Goulding, the owner of Gouldings Martial Arts, said he prepped them well to be able to hold up under the pressure of the occasion.
Goulding said: “The competition has a kind of Olympic feel with all the other countries there. It has a really high buzz and a lot of people crumble under that pressure.
“I’d versed our lot already and prepped everyone ready so that they didn’t get fazed by any of it, as the results show.”
He went on to discuss the preparation the fighters had gone through to be ready for the tournament.
He said: “Because I had quite a few ‘newbies’ who had never competed at this level before, I did a 10-week fight camp, which I don’t normally do.
“It was a gruelling 10 weeks, we basically trained like professionals in an amateur sport. That’s how I look at it.
“ You’re going to shine if you train like a professional in an amateur sport”
Clearly, the fight camp had worked for the young ones, with their impressive medal tally being a starting point for what they could achieve in future tournaments.
The 14-year-old James Gregory came away with the most success of the group, being crowned a triple world champion, picking up one gold medal in the open weight three-man team event, before coming away victorious in the under-60kg categories in both point sparring and continuous kickboxing.
Alongside Gregory’s success, Lee Smith and Daniel Naylor both came away as world champions, taking home the gold medals in point sparring and under-35kg continuous kickboxing respectively.
Kayley Naylor, aged 13, Nathan Morris, also 13, and Madison Buxton, who is 10, also came away with two medals, with all three bringing home a bronze and silver medal each.
Bradley Pollard, aged 12, also came away with a silver medal, while 13-year-old Zak Hutchinson and Logan Rose, aged seven, came home from the tournament with bronze medals, both in continuous kickboxing.
Unfortunately, not everyone returned home victorious, as 16-year-old Caden Shakeshaft and Nathan Rose, who is 12, missed out during the tournament, although Austen Naylor, father to now world champion Daniel and his older sister Kayley, said both fought brilliantly.
Goulding shared his pride in how well the fighters from the school had done and said his view was shared not only among the England camp but around the whole tournament.
“Every fighter from Gouldings Martial Arts stood out. Not just by a bit, but by a mile,” Goulding said.
“All the coaches from all the top countries who compete were coming up to me and saying, ‘your guys are the guys we want to be fighting to get better’, and that’s a testament to our gym and what we do.”
With the tournament being held in New York state, parents had to self-finance the trip.
Naylor said it was long and expensive but feels the experience made it all worthwhile.
“It was a long day of travelling,” he said. “We were up 24 hours so by the time you’re at the other end, you’ve been up for a full day and you’re really tired.
“We had to go to Amsterdam first, and then get another flight from there.
“We were sat there for two-and-a-half hours, even that takes it out of you.
“It was long, but it was definitely worth it.”
The competition involved 13 different disciplines of kickboxing, but the Gouldings team competed only across the team events, continuous kickboxing and point sparring.
Point sparring is a discipline in which competitors score points by landing clean hits on one of the legal target areas, which include the front and side of the body and the front, back, side and top of the head.
In addition, point sparring involves minimal contact, showing that the fighters can aim a strike and control it to cause no harm.
Continuous kickboxing is similar, with points being scored for successful strikes on the target areas.
However, unlike point sparring, the clock is not stopped to award points, and strikes can be landed with more force than in point sparring.
Team events involve two teams of three, facing off in individual bouts of continuous kickboxing. Whichever team wins two of the three bouts is declared the winning team.
Goulding concluded by encouraging anyone who was considering getting involved, to do so, but to ensure they looked into it first.
“Do your research on the club you’re joining first,” he said.
“Don’t just go to the nearest club to you, do your research, make sure they’re a quality club that offers what you’re hoping they offer.”
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