THUNDER BAY -- Keira Purdon reached a point where she decided she needed to learn to physically defend herself.
After what she describes as a few scary situations, the recently turned 17-year-old turned to martial arts, specifically karate, to gain the confidence that she can hold her own in tough situations.
“I said that’s enough. It’s time to take control and I started karate,” she said. “There is a bunch of mental discipline and character development that you learn through this art.”
Purdon was one of a couple hundred martial artists who attended the city’s first Isshinryu Karate Expo, a three-day workshop and seminar session that wrapped up at the West Thunder Community Centre on Sunday.
The expo provided lessons in specialties including mixed martial arts, kickboxing and wrestling, weapons defence and children’s tutorials.
During the expo, she primarily focused on fighting drills and sparring sessions while under the tutelage of the many experts providing teachings.
At first it was a little overwhelming trying to learn so many new skills and disciplines in such a short period of time but Purdon was able to make quick adjustments.
“It’s a little bit crazy. The first day I was here I was a little awestruck but then you realize they’re all here to help you and spread the knowledge,” she said.
The expo was put together to honour Hanshi Albert Mady, a ninth degree black belt from Windsor and one of the world’s leading Isshinryu instructors, who has spent 30 years working with martial artists in Northwestern Ontario.
He travels to different parts of the world sharing his knowledge of the art but visits the region twice annually.
“They’re my students. I’m coming up to help them so they can enhance and advance their training,” Mady said.
The expo attracted attendees from across the region with participants ranging in age from five-years-old up to 70 plus.
The weekend was a family affair for Lei Chisholm, who participated along with his wife and their three children.
The children, ranging in ages from six to 10, were all enrolled in karate at the age of three despite the parents not having any background in martial artists.
After many hours of sitting and watching the children, Chisholm and his wife decided to give it a shot.
As a father, his favourite part about karate is how it teaches physical combat as a last resort and equips students with the knowledge of how to avoid coming to blows.
“The first thing they learn in this discipline is the best way to deal with a situation is to not be in the situation,” he said.
“They’re picking up on cues from maybe an attacker and if the situation starts escalating, how can I get away without there being an altercation.”
For his oldest son, Max Chisholm, karate is an activity the whole family can enjoy together.
“It takes the entire sport to a whole new level,” Max said. “It’s way more fun.”
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