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California trip proves fruitful for pair of young martial artists

Breslau’s Hannah Wright and Ayr’s Kate Slater will have plenty more opportunities to show off their martial arts skills in April and May. [Submitted]

Martial arts may be a fiercely competitive sport, but for Breslau’s Hannah Wright, it’s a way to make lifelong friendships.

Wright met Ayr’s Kate Slater after she joined Shamoun Generation Martial Arts in Waterloo. The two became inseparable within months, always cheering each other on from the sidelines. That’s something that crossed international boundaries when the pair travelled to California to take part in the Compete International Martial Arts Championships from February 22-24.

“It was awesome,” said Wright, of the results. “Yeah, I think I did well. One highlight was having my friends there to support me. They know what I’m going through both physically and mentally so they can always help me if I need to go through a form.”

Wright competed in 12-13-year-old advanced divisions, bringing home a second-place finish in traditional weapons, second in traditional forms, second in sparring and third in extreme forms.

Slater competing in the 12-13 junior black belt division walked away with a first in traditional forms challenge, third for traditional forms, and fifth in weapons. She also made it to first-ever junior black belt NASKA (North American Sports Karate Association) runoffs. This was a huge milestone in her martial arts career.

“Hannah is my best friend,” said Slater. “It was always fun when we did compete against each other. I’m going to do it. It’s such a confidence booster for me, and it’s just amazing. I’ve met a lot of people through it;  it’s my second home.”

“Well, it’s cooperative and competitive,” said Wright, of the training atmosphere. “Like if Kate is at the side of the ring yelling at me, I know it’s to get me motivated to push me further rather than to get frustrated with myself.”

One of the trainers, Julian Shamuon, noted the rapid skill increase in both martial artists.

“Their skill has been exponentially increasing, literally,” said Shamuon. “It’s incredible how quickly these kids have been getting better and better.”

Slater is a junior black belt, which took her nearly seven years to achieve, while Wright is a brown belt. California is one of many locations the martial arts team gets the opportunity to visit; previous competitions have taken place in Jamaica, and all across North America.

“We’re going to Buffalo next week for SMAC Internationals,” said Shamuon, of upcoming competitions. “Then April we have around three events, then in May, we’re going to have the GMA Championships, which is actually my family’s tournament, our local tournament. It’s going to be very big this year; we’re planning on having quite a lot of competitors come out for it.”

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