In the early 1980’s The Martial Arts Commission (MAC) was instrumental in bringing the various associations together, but over the years’ things have changed. The MAC no longer exists, something that has led to disunity instead of unity among the martial arts community here.
With that in mind, the Karate-Do Federation Saint Lucia recently hosted the first ever National Martial Arts Festival at the Beausejour Indoor Facility.
This event was geared towards bringing members of all martial artists groups on the island together under one roof once a year, to share their knowledge, expertise and build camaraderie. Though there are various styles of martial arts, they all share common principles that contribute towards developing the youth and overall social fabric of a nation.
Members of the general public were invited to celebrate martial arts with the Karate-Do Federation, and to participate in the various activities such as Shotokan, Ishin-Ryu, Self-defence, Taekwondo, Tai chi, Aikido, Mixed Martial Arts, Sambo, Capoeira and other disciplines.
Technical Director of Karate Federation St Lucia, Sensei Ezra Jn Baptiste who delivered the opening remarks, referred to the festival as a very special event, and a momentous occasion in the history of martial arts in St Lucia.
“In the past we have attempted to bring all martial arts disciplines together,” he noted. “Some may recall the days of the Martial Arts Commission in the late 1980’s up until the early 1990’s. During that period of time we saw a heightened interest in martial arts. The commission was able at the time to mobilize and enthuse in particular karateka’s, judokas and some element of Taekwondo.”
Though times have changed, officials hope to rekindle interest in the various disciplines and feel the Martial Arts Festival is a step in the right direction.
Jn Baptise congratulated the leaders of the various organizations who dedicated themselves to the festival and said: “Today we do not want to celebrate individual organizations but to celebrate unity. That has been part of the challenge over the last decade or more – Karateka’s not coming together. We find ourselves in a situation where there is always this push and pull. We want to avoid that.”
In closing Jn Baptise said: “Today marks a beginning of a new dispensation and we are hoping this activity will turn out to be as I envisioned it. Something I want to call the St Lucia National Games.”
He thanked participants and urged them to greet one another, exchange ideas, show some love and social respect.
During his brief remarks President of the St Lucia Karate Federation, Sensei Oliver Lawrence said: “This is a very important day in the history of karate in St Lucia. I want to welcome you. Enjoy yourselves, it is the beginning of things to come. Let us look beyond today and see the beauty of martial arts and see how well we can serve our country.”
Attendees were treated to a martial arts demonstration called Sambo, which is a self defence system that was formulated in the former Soviet Union that incorporates boxing, judo, jujitsu, taekwondo, kick boxing and wrestling. Thaddeus Francis and Saryozha Cenac put on quite a show during this demonstration.
Commenting on the day’s activities Jn Baptiste said: “This was a fantastic atmosphere. As I said in my opening remarks, it’s a long time we have not had this coming together and I believe what we saw here today augers well for the future. I am hoping that next year it will be bigger and better and that we will have a lot more
organizations coming forward.”
Jn Baptiste was especially pleased with the youngsters who participated.
“They were very impressive,” he said. “This is the future of martial arts and we are always of the view that whatever we do we have to leave a legacy behind, for those persons who are young and coming up.”
Keeping in mind that the martial arts community is planning and hope to be represented at the 2020 Olympics, Sensei Jn Baptise views festivals like this one as “fertile ground for identifying talent and ensuring we groom the young ones so that they can take their rightful place on the national squad, and hopefully, to participate in the various events organized by the World Karate Federation.”