For the first time in 20 years, karate in Fernie will be represented at the BC Winter Games, to be held in Fort St John from February 20-23, 2020. Fernie Karate Club’s small but mighty Games contingent consists of athletes Dylan Annis and Bea Blocksom, both aged 13, and each competing in at least one of karate’s two divisions: kata (pre-set forms) and kumite (free sparring). They will be supported by assistant coach Dan Ashe, himself an active practitioner, and coach and Kootenay zone rep Wynne Cairns, a third degree black belt in traditional Shotokan karate (and also Bea’s mom).
“We’re just getting started,” noted Cairns. “This is only our second year of training here in Fernie, so it’s really exciting that the kids have this opportunity to participate in an event like the BC Games. It’s been informally dubbed ‘BC’s kids’ Olympics’, and for us the focus is really on challenging ourselves, having fun, and supporting each other. Dylan and Bea will be competing in the intermediate category, so they’ll be with other athletes who have similar levels of tournament experience – they each medalled in a tournament in Calgary in the fall against very experienced competitors, so I’m excited to watch them give it all they’ve got in Fort St. John!”
After moving to Fernie in 2017, Cairns was surprised to learn that there was no karate club here. “In terms of martial arts in a small town, Fernie is very lucky to have several well established clubs, including judo and Tae Kwon Do. I’m a firm believer in ‘the more the merrier’, and that everyone should have the opportunity to find the thing that moves them (literally!), so when I couldn’t find a karate club here, I decided to start one! Since then I’ve learned that there are so many folks in the valley with karate experience – my hope is to use this opportunity with the Games to help bolster karate participation throughout the Kootenay.”
Getting established takes time, however. “It’s great that there are so many rec clubs in Fernie; we’re all out here jostling for limited, affordable recreation space and times that are appropriate for all ages and the karate club has already benefitted so much from the support of the community, including the Fernie Legion (which provides training space and contributed funds in support of the BC Games athletes) and the Fernie Community Fund (which has also provided support for coach training and protective equipment for the team). We’re so grateful, and I can’t wait to watch these kids shine.”