44th NZ tournament
THREE TIMES a week, almost religiously, Jesse Wall became a punching bag at his primary school.
He bit his bottom lip, endured the bruises and pain but it was more the impact of the psychological blow that was beginning to take its toll.
People often told Wall if he ignored it the systematic bullying would eventually go away but it didn't.
As the then youngster walked past a shop in Havelock North one day a poster promoting karate caught his eye.
Oddly enough, martial arts appealed to him so Wall found himself at the Wooster Karate Club, which has relocated to St Aubyn's St in Hastings.
Later, at intermediate school when the bullies confronted him, a karate-savvy Wall simply told them to back off.
They did. It had little to do with recoiling in a classic karate pose and contorting his face. No, the bullies detected something in his voice and that was enough to ward them off.
"Random people were picking on me so I decided I wasn't going to take it anymore," explains Wall, who was aware of the values of the martial arts discipline that promotes self defence.
The 18-year-old former Havelock North High School student will be among 130 competitors during the 44th New Zealand Kyukoshin Karate Tournament at the Hastings Sports Centre today and tomorrow.
Shihan Solomon Purcell, QSM, of the Hastings Karate Club, is organising the annual tourney which starts around 9am both days and will have kata (patterns), ippon (fighting but not full contact) and full contact bouts.
Wall has found his discipline in martial arts so fulfilling that it has inspired him to join the New Zealand Army in Waiouru from April 8.
His coach, Sensei Richard Wooster, puts the first-degree black belt through two two-hour training sessions each week.
"I never start a fight," says the teenager who was the colts (U16-17) full-contact champion last year but faces the daunting task of taking on the seniors this year.
Listening to Wooster and "not mucking around" is vital.
"Richard's help me with my mental ability and how it should be."
Taradale bank employee Janice O'Neill will also be competing in the kata division.
Also a first-degree black belt (the highest is 10), the 45-year-old Hastings mother was involved with the 20-member club based at the Hawke's Bay Racecourse as an administrator for 15 years while taking her two children to karate lessons with Purcell and son James Purcell, a fifth degree black belt.
That changed in 2006 when daughter, Briana, then 6 years old, got her thinking.
"Briana said, 'Mum, instead of just dropping us off, why not just try it', so I did.
"I was addicted before I knew it and I was entering tournaments," O'Neill says, enjoying the physical and mental benefits of the discipline.
It also taught the customer services consultant how to deal with stress at work.
"I never dreamt I would go on to become a black belt."
A dojang can start with 30 members and end up with just three who persevere to go on to become elite athletes.
Having won a full-contact title in 2010, O'Neill is content with kata (patterns) this weekend because fulfilling her roles as a judge and club secretary leaves little time to slip on a gi (whites).
A person who loved horse-riding and waterskiing, she didn't realise how competitive she could be with karate.
"It's quite normal to be aggressive and no one really likes to come second in anything, do they?"
O'Neill says karate is a regimented and repetitive sport but provides a shift from sports of leisure to a more disciplined art.
"It's important as a woman to remain safe and I'm pleased my children are doing it, too."