Candelo dojo wins big at karate tournament

Dominant display: Candelo dojo medal winners Isabel Gill, Tamarah Boffa, Mikayla Boffa, Alicia Gauld and (front) Kokoro Kai Shihans Peter Jackson and Robert Graham.
Dominant display: Candelo dojo medal winners Isabel Gill, Tamarah Boffa, Mikayla Boffa, Alicia Gauld and (front) Kokoro Kai Shihans Peter Jackson and Robert Graham.

Five members of the Candelo Kokoro Kai Goju karate dojo have swept the pool of medals at the Victorian Regional Championship round in Maryborough. 

Shihan Robert Graham said four girls took part, while he also surprised his students as a competitor and the group claimed the lion’s share of medals on offer from over 130 competitors. 

In a combination of kumite (fighting) and kata (a display of techniques) the group brought home a collection of 15 medals – eight gold, five silver and two bronze.

The group included 11-year-old Isabel Gill, Tamarah Boffa and Mikayla Boffa and Alicia Gauld, with just Mikayla experiencing one of her first competition outings. 

“You can’t ask for more than what they give,” Graham said of his students. “They train and try their hardest and I certainly like to let them know when they’ve done well.”

“They’re very humble, after a round they always walk right over to shake hands and to me that’s really important.”

“Just by going you’re automatically a winner,” he says. “You got up and gave it a try, it’s all about what you feel.”

But if they compete well, he’s not shy to test them. 

“If they perform, I’ll walk over and put them in the next division,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you lose, it’s just about having a go and seeing what you can do.”

He said competition was good because it offers new challenges and a bit of fun. 

“You’re against an opponent you don’t know and you don’t know what their package is,” Graham said. 

“But I teach them to just enjoy themselves, if you just focus on being faster than your opponent – if you’re quicker and have good form, you will score.”

Graham, a fifth-dan black belt and co-founder of the form, has been competing for years, but said people were still shocked to learn he has a prosthetic leg – after he lost his in a car accident as a teenager. 

Meanwhile, it was a rare opportunity for his students to see their instructor compete. 

“I’ve been having a few problems with my leg and I didn’t want them to know I was going to compete, so I told them I couldn’t make it,” he says with a laugh.

“I was actually on before them so when they got their I was on the mat competing – they were a bit shocked, but I think it got them pumped up.”

The team claimed medals in each of the events they entered. 

“They don’t brag, but I like to brag about them and rile up the other instructors,” he says with a laugh. 

For more information on the dojo, call Shihan Robert Graham on 0427 945 930.