The Oku Damashi Martial Arts Dojo sent 11 students to Nationals last weekend, and all 11 earned a medal and a spot on the Canadian National team.

Dojo owner and Sensei Tammy Thankachen was thrilled to see her students' hard work pay off in such a big way.

"They did phenomenal, I'm super proud. A lot of these kids, it was their first time, they went out, they trained hard... their skill set is incredible, the results of the medal standings speak volumes."

Earning a spot on the national team is definitely enough reason to celebrate, but for Thankachen the moment is made even more special when you consider that many of their fighters are from smaller communities like Carseland or Langdon. Having local community members step up to represent not only the province, but the entire country, is something Thankachen and the fighters don't take for granted.

"It's the best of the best for Team Canada, right? Every one of them fought hard, every one of them fully committed and fully competed with respect and honour and pride for Alberta, for their communities."

One of the most rewarding aspects of seeing her students compete at such a high level is witnessing their growth firsthand. 

"It's scary (competing at such a high level) and their nerves get to them. But then as soon as they step on the mat and everything starts, they think 'I've done this before, I'm prepared,' then to see their confidence grow... even the four that went last year compared to this year, completely different athletes. They were still nervous to go, but you could see the growth that they have done mentally and physically in their skill set."

This year was also special because they had fighters of all ages, including 61-year-old Kim Johansen. Thankachen loved seeing her older students excel alongside the younger ones, as it shows the value of hard work and proves that you don't have to start something young to be good at it.

Thankachen added Oku Damashi works very closely with the Silverback Martial Arts Dojo, which is run by her son Arek Thankachen, and Kim Johansen and Mateo Orr are students of Silverback, not Oku Damashi. Thankachen said martial arts is great in this regard, that different dojos can work together, collaborate, and lift each other up, as Oku Damashi and Silverback will often train together and attend events like the national team tryout together. 

As members of the national team, the fighters will now prepare for the world tournament in Orlando from October 21-27. Congratulations to all the athletes for their impressive showing:

Mateo Orr (11-12 boys -35kg)

  • Gold in Continuous
  • Silver in Point sparring

Kim Johansen 61 years old (Veteran Womens 48+ -65kg)

  • Continuous Gold
  • 4th In Point sparring making Team Canada

Sydney Lomenda-Segovia (Girls -10 -35kg)

  • Gold Continuous Sparring

Tristen Lomenda (Boys 15-17 -65kg)

  • Silver Continuous Sparring
  • 4th in Point Sparring making Team Canada

Carla Lomenda

  • Silver in Continuous Sparring (Women Veteran 42+ +65kg)
  • Silver in Continuous Sparring (Women Veteran 48+ +65kg)
  • Gold in Point sparring (Women Veteran 48+ +65kg)

Nathan Mutlow (-10boys -40kgs)

  • Silver Continuous

Gemma Alce (Girls -10 +45kgs)

  • Gold in Continuous

Zoe Neufeld (Age 13-14 weight +60)

  • Bronze in Continuous
  • Bronze in Point sparring

Logan Alce (+18 men’s -70kg)

  • Silver in men’s Continuous

Kaden Baker (13-14 boys 55-50kg)

  • Bronze in Point sparring
  • Gold in Continuous sparring

Safiya Chouinard (13-14 girls -55kg)

  • Silver in Continuous

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