Training in karate has been life-changing for Malakwa residents Chris Evans and Natalia Suk as well as the rest of their family.
Now the pair who train as part of PMA Karate’s Malakwa class have qualified to compete as part of PMA’s Team Canada at Stan Witz’s USA World Championships, a martial arts event in Las Vegas at the end of June.
Melissa Fallis, Suk’s mother and Evans’ wife, said Evans has qualified for the Las Vegas tournament in the past but now that Suk can come with him he has finally decided to make the trip.
Karate has transformed Suk and Evans’ lives for the better since they started training together five years ago.
Twelve-year-old Suk has epilepsy and the medication she was taking for it caused co-ordination problems. Fallis said they were hoping to put her in dance when they moved to the Sicamous area, but it wasn’t offered so they decided to try karate. Both Suk and her younger sister Ella, who also joined, were apprehensive at first.
“They were terrified and they asked Chris to stay, but he was all for it, he did the first class,” Fallis said.
Fallis said Suk may not have immediately noticed the co-ordination gains but her and Evans saw huge improvements in her balance within the first couple of months.
Evans, a heavy smoker when he took up karate, quit cigarettes completely after about a year. Evans said he knew it was time to quit smoking when he was having trouble breathing while training in karate. He said he felt like he was waking up every day with a cold that wouldn’t go away and finally decided to make a change.
Five years after taking up the sport, Evans has his second-degree black belt and Suk will be testing for her first-degree later this month. Fallis said she has been seizure-free without medication for some time now.
The Las Vegas competition Suk and Evans are travelling to features a variety of events in karate and other martial arts. Evans is competing in Japanese forms, point sparring and continuous sparring; Suk will be doing forms and point sparring. To qualify for the competition, the two had to place top three in their division at two of three recent tournaments, two in Calgary and one in Salmon Arm.
Evans and Suk train almost every day, both in PMA’s Malakwa classes – which Evans now teaches, and through additional work such as cardio and yoga.
Also cause for celebration among the Shuswap martial arts community, Holly Raczynski who coaches the PMA classes in Salmon Arm and Sicamous, is being recognized as International Coach of the Year at the tournament.