Karate has come a long way in the past two years in Eeyou Istchee, and judging by the success Cree Karatekas are having at competitions, the sport looks like it is here to stay.

Thanks to the Simba Academy, which employs traditional Japanese knowledge in its approach to the martial art, Crees of all ages are learning respect, honour and dignity and at the same time, progressing quickly in the ancient sport.

June 23 was an important day for Karate in the north as seven Karatekas headed to the Algonquin College Gymnasium in Ottawa to show off their skills in a friendly competition.

During the competition, which attracted 160 students from four provinces, only brown and black belts were able to fight, albeit in a friendly way so as not to inflict injury.

Jeremy Matches competed in the adult coloured belt category in the Kata discipline. In layman’s terms, he had to demonstrate control over the movements and routines he’s learned since he took up the sport. And he didn’t disappoint, winning gold, which was the only medal garnered by a Cree that day.

“I learned respect and discipline and I’m happy that I won,” Matches told the Nation.

He said that practicing at Wemindji’s dojo helped to prepare him for the competition. He is looking forward to the second annual Cree Nation Karate Championship in August.

He seems to have found a sport he truly adores. “I hope to continue forever in Karate and get my black belt and maybe one day become an instructor,” said Matches, 27.

“Karate is for everybody and I’m glad I got the chance to join,” added Matches, who admitted to falling in love with Bruce Lee and the old martial arts movies growing up as a kid, but sadly didn’t have access to the sport.

He also took home bronze last year at the Cree Nation Karate Championships. He’s hoping to improve on that in August as he vows to “continue to train hard.”

June 23 was the culmination of the five-day Karate camp held beforehand. During that time, the Cree students were able to compare their skills to others and take instruction from Japanese masters.

At the Canadian Karate Championships in Winnipeg earlier in the month, Cree Head Instructor and Director of the Simba Martial Arts Academy, Etienne Herady, once again took down the competition and claimed his fifth consecutive Canadian title.

“It feels good. I was a little nervous but everything worked out and I beat my record by winning three gold medals,” said Herady.

Herady won gold in individual combat, team combat and team Kata. He also won silver in Enbu, which is a series of synchronized moves performed with another person that demonstrates the skill and precision of both fighters.

As happy as Herady was at his victory he was happier for his Cree students.

“They train hard and have come a long way,” he said. “I am equally as proud of them all, whether they win a medal or not. I hope one day to hand the school over to a Cree and for one of their own people to become the instructor. That is my dream.”
For those interested in the sport, or are looking for alternative ways to get in shape, go to http://www.academysim-ba.com/cree.html for more information and to sign up for the August competition that welcomes people of all skill levels and ages. Best of all, it’s free!