Father honours son with black belt in Karate

Ian Cowie
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Shihan Wolfgang Manicke has helped many martial artists reach their goal of becoming a black belt, but perhaps none were as special as the one he gave to his 17-year-old son Matthais on Sunday.

“I think I was harder on him than anyone else because he is my son,” Wolfgang said.  “I’m honoured today he is getting tested with other black belts from around the province, and hopefully he does good. I think he will.”

Not only did Matthais earn his black belt on Sunday, he was given the belt that his father was given decades ago from his former karate master Hideo Ochai.

“That is an honour that I hoped to one day give to my son; I kept it for him.”

Matthais might not look like your average martial artists, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving. His long goldy-locks hairstyle and wiry frame almost seem to lure his opponents in like a venus flytrap.

With both his parents being black belts in karate, Matthais was a martial artist before he could even ride a bike. While other kids were out playing hopscotch, Matthais was learning the finer details of the “shinai” or bamboo sword, samurai swords and nunchucks. He entered his first tournament at age two, an experience Wolfgang said, he would never forget.

“The other kid was twice his size, but he (Matthais) really wanted to do it.”

It can take decades of hard work and dedication to earn a black belt, and for Matthais, it’s a process he knows all too well.  Several years ago, when Matthais first earned his brown belt, his father decided to take it away from him because he was doing poorly in school.

“He never asked me for being a black belt; he was content and knew that one day he would be ready,” Wolfgang said.

Having to start all over again as a white belt was not enough to deter Matthais from learning martial arts.

“Getting my black belt means that I have finally learned enough to start my martial arts journey,” Matthais said.

The grading for the first to third Dan black belts was held at Wolfgang’s Aurora Karate Martial Arts Centre, and it follows the Canadian Bushido Kan Ryu Association standards.

As you walk into the Aurora gym, you are greeted by what appears to be a fake white tigers head that is mounted on the wall above the entrance. The small room has a distinct sense of symmetry with samurai swords running parallel along the walls, square mats padding the floors and a set of 16th century traditional samurai armour, which seems to counterbalance the plethora of trophies that are stacked to the ceiling. Traditional Japanese music plays in the background as Wolfgang prepares his pupils for the grading.

“This will be the first time that we’ll allow the students to see the black belt tests because we don’t want to see anybody cry, and they will cry,” he said.

The grading consists of a physical test -- 200 push ups, 200 sit ups, 200 knee bends, 200 pull ups and a two mile run (among other things) -- then a set of basic techniques followed by sparring, which ranges from one point to as many a four attacks at a time. Next, students must demonstrate their proficiency with weapons sparring and breaking tests, where they have to break a one inch piece of wood or a two inch piece of brick.

“The wood is sometimes a little bit harder because wood flexes, concrete does not.”

One of the unique aspects of training at the Aurora Karate Martial Arts Centre is that they train all different styles of martial arts, including Ninjutsu, Karate and Sambo.

“We do open-sparring, so when we go to the world championships, we compete against Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, anybody.”

Wolfgang said he prefers open-style because “you learn more.”

“Bruce Lee, look at him. He went and took the best from each style and made his own style. I think a lot of martial artists these days are closed minded.”

Martial arts is a way of life

According to Wolfgang, there’s a big difference between fighting and sparring.

“We don’t fight; we spar,” he said.

“You’re a good black belt if you can evade a fight on the street. When I grade my black belts in sparring, I know they can defend themselves.”

Wolfgang holds an eighth-degree black belt and has been running the dojo at Prince Albert's Aurora Karate Martial Arts Centre for more than 20 years.

After the grading was completed, families and friends of the martial artists got together for a steak night fundraiser.

Wolfgang is also the national coach and has taught several world Karate champions such as Shawn Silver and Austin Ermine.

In August, Wolfgang will lead his team of martial artists as they head to Dublin, Ireland to compete in the World Martial Arts Games XIV.

Matthias placed second in the under 18 open karate division last year at the World Martial Arts Games XIII, but maybe with the new black belt around his waist, he will improve upon that result this year in Dublin. 

Organizations: Aurora Karate Martial Arts Centre, Canadian Bushido Kan Ryu Association, Prince Albert World Martial Arts Games XIV World Martial Arts Games XIII

Geographic location: Dublin, Ireland

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