Date: January 19, 2014
Place: Antwerp, Beligum
Organizer: Branch Chief Koen Spitaels, WKO Belgium Branch
Shinkyokushin, a sport for everyone!
On Sunday, January 19th in Antwerp, Belgium the “1st Diamond Cup I-Karate” (Integrated Karate) has been held and organized by Karate School Niji Yama of Belgium Shinkyokushin Branch led by Shihan Koen Spitaels. I-karate is for people with disabilities who do karate. This contest is part of a new project that is still in its infancy. The “Project Lenny “, a Belgian initiative, is the intention to offer karate lessons for people with disabilities.
We have created a system for different types of disabilities and for each there is a way of doing Kata and kumite (self defense style).
In this tournament, people from all provinces of Flanders participated in the following categories : People with autism, people with mild mental disabilities, people with physical disabilities, people in wheelchairs, and finally a blind karateka. Shihan Koen Spitaels indicates that it was the first time in the history of Shinkyokushin that there was a competition for I-karatekas, and the results where great and gave everyone a heartwarming feeling. The sparkles and happiness in the eyes of our 50 participants spoke for themselves. The I-karatekas where so happy to show what they can and they have proved that they are real karateka with a lot of courage and spirit. In both parts Kata and kumite, they have shown that they have the same drive and mentality like ordinary karatekas, maybe even more. Our Antwerp participants, Lenny Lootens Jensen Van Geyt, Stijn Van den Berg, Jorrit Goetmaekers, and Frank Van Geyt received several medals and trophies. The coaches, Wesley Lootens and Shihan Koen Spitaels were therefore extremely pleased and proud of their courageous pupils.
We’re going to hear a lot about “Project Lenny ” and “I-Karate”, which has already put down a quite successful competition. We seek to prove that karate is a sport for everyone regardless of their disability, and that Shinkyokushin is a big family where everyone is welcome. Integration means that we want take these karatekas with disabilities in our karate world. Therefore, we work together sometimes with the ordinary karatekas, who we call a buddy. So we teach our buddies to work with the I-karatekas together to help them during training but also for the self defense exercises and tournaments. The respect they have for each other is a tremendous value and great friendships arise. The twinkling in the eyes of these I-karatekas when they do karate is so great and the happiness they have, being part of the big karate family is fantastic.
The fact that these I-karateka’s belong somewhere and can move towards planned goals gives them wings. Karate offers them some weapons that makes them stronger, gives them self-confidence and ensures that they can carry their handicap better.
Karate is not directly the sport that you would think of when it comes, but the games and all the happy faces showed everyone that this project is a hit. Everybody was convinced of the fact that the I-karate is a tremendous value for Shinkyokushin karate.
The world is watching with great wonder at what is happening in Belgium, with the result that there is a lot of interest from abroad. The fact that other countries are interested includes that in the future we also can come to international tournaments for Karatekas with disabilities. Eventually, the ultimate goal in the future is to introduce I-karate to the Paralympics.
The performance of our I-karatekas left no one untouched and let the hearts beat faster for everyone.
You can find all info of this new project on the website www.projectlenny.be and the FB page Project Lenny
With this project we prove that Shihnkyokushin is a very hard sport but with a very big heart. Osu!
Koen Spitaels Shihan