Through hard work and dedication, dreams can come true.
That is the adage of Sensei Michael Roe of Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing, who at the young age of 18 has competed against some of karate’s best athletes in the world.
“If there is something you dream about or you want to achieve, go after it,” said Roe. “Because 20, 30 years down the road, you’re going to regret it if you didn’t.”
Born in Red Deer, Roe started studying zen karate under Sensei Lyle Cheney at the age of six and earned his junior black belt at the young age of 13. Now Roe trains and instructs at Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing. He added he recently tested for and received his full black belt
As a child, Roe remembers being given the option between doing karate and hockey. He said his dad particularly encouraged him to go the martial arts route.
“According to my dad’s memory, when I was younger I used to run around the house kicking,” said Roe.
So, Roe went to watch a karate class. He said it immediately grabbed his interest and he started training for the sport himself.
It wasn’t long before Roe started competing in karate as well. He said he went to his first competition at the age of seven after earning his first yellow belt (there are two yellow belts in zen karate’s nine-belt system).
There are three events Roe regularly competes in – kata, point sparring and continuous sparring.
In kata competitions, karate practitioners perform certain moves in a set order. The order and number of techniques varies depending on which kata is being performed.
Judges then decide who performed the kata most accurately based on certain criteria and award scores to the competitors.
In sparring, practitioners face off one-on-one and attempt to score point by striking target areas of the body with little to heavy contact allowed, depending on the division. With point sparring, the match stops whenever a point is awarded but in continuous sparring competitors can rack up multiple points without a break in the action. Roe said that there tends to be more contact in continuous sparring than point sparring.
Roe said he has always particularly enjoyed the sparring events.
“I love the fighting,” said Roe. He added that those events have always intrigued him more it is lest subjective and the competitors are more in control of how they perform.
Most notable in Roe’s competition career are competing in two global competitions, the 2010 World Martial Arts Games in Las Vegas and the 2011 World Karate Championships (WKC) in Cádiz, Spain.
For the Las Vegas competition, Roe was fortunate enough to place in a straight qualifier in Alberta, meaning he advanced directly to the world competition in Las Vegas. While he put his full effort into the competition and trained hard for the games, Roe said he was doing the competition more for the experience and didn’t know if he should expect to place.
“I didn’t really know what to expect going to worlds, I knew it was going to be high level competition.”
As a fan of UFC and in particular, a big fan of Georges St-Pierre, fighting in Mandalay Bay, where so many of the UFC bouts are held was also exciting to Roe, he said.
“That was a dream,” said Roe. “Even just to compete there. Just the experience alone that I would gain from that competition is kind of what drove me to chase after that.”
In the end, Roe did end up placing. He took first in continuous sparring, second in point sparring and third in his kata competition. He said his teammates also did well in the competition.
“We put together a pretty good Team Canada,” said Roe. “I think we ended up finishing with the most medals.”
For the WKC, Roe’s path was a bit different. He had to qualify at provincials in Alberta, then again at nationals in Ontario where Roe fought the two-time world champion and won. Finally, he was ready to train for worlds in Spain.
For this competition, Roe was fortunate to train under Sensei Manuel Juarez, whose hometown happens to be Cádiz. Roe approached Juarez for assistance in training knowing that Juarez had trained some of the top fighters in Spain. Conditioning for the WKC was brutal, but well worth the effort, said Roe.
“I wanted to be in shape,” said Roe. “I don’t want to be the guy who gets in there and is tired and can’t hold his hands up.”
It would seem Roe’s hard work paid off. He competed in the point and continuous sparring divisions in Cádiz and came away with a bronze medal in continuous sparring. He said there was a lot of tough competition in Spain and again an invaluable experience.
“It was an eye-opener.”
Roe said he enjoyed how karate always challenged him to better himself. Now that he has his full black belt, his looking forward to a new challenge as he shifts his focus to kickboxing training. He said he is looking forward to seeing how he perform in the sports’ full-contact environment.