Three Terrace brown belt fighters and two coaches are travelling to Ireland next weekend to compete in the largest martial arts tournament in Europe on March 4-6.
With over 30 fighters in every weight class and category, the Kickboxing Irish Open International tournament has competitors from over 20 different countries including Ireland, UK, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Germany, Spain, Netherlands, and USA.
Organized by the World Association of Kickboxing Organization (WAKO), the event will be run in Dublin, Ireland, in a huge exhibition centre with 14,000 seats and 26 fighting areas (compared to the usual eight).
Terrace shogun dojo coach Rajan Sangha says the Terrace club typically travels to tournaments three times a year, and this year the athletes were ready for a step up.
“Our fighters wanted to go out of Canada to fight, mainly to Europe,” he said.
“They wanted a tougher level of competition – they’ve won in Montreal… they’ve won in Edmonton. They wanted to go and, not only compete with the best, but watch the best and learn,” said Sangha.
The three Terrace brown belts Adrian Babcock, Robbie Cline, and Jenna Hoornenborg are all competing in the continuous category and in two different weight classes for point fighting. Babcock is in two weight classes for both categories.
Since the tournament is single elimination, Sangha says they want a cushion to be able to keep fighting even if they lose one.
“You’re travelling 5,000 miles, so you might as well fight as much as you can,” he said, adding that weight does not make a big difference in point fighting.
At age 15, Jenna Hoornenborg has been fighting four years, and has won several tournaments over the years.
“Her kicks set her apart,” said Sangha.
In the Canadian nationals in Montreal last year, there were no fighters in her division, so Hoornenborg went up to compete in the women’s category for her weight class and won first place.
At age 19, Adrian Babcock has been in ju-jitsu since he was very young, and joined kickboxing three years ago.
He won second place in his first tournament against 18 others, and since then, “everywhere he goes, he fights better people but he just stays with it and gets better,” Sanga said. “Adrian just has a will to win.”
Last year in Canadian nationals in Montreal, Babcock fought in a higher weight class and won.
At age 23, Robbie Cline started kickboxing in 2013, and that same year in Burnaby he was named grand champion, beating the winners of all categories in a western Canadian championship.
All three fighters, along with Nick Yasinchuk who cannot make the tournament, have been training five days a week, two to three hours since December to get ready for the tournament.
But they are fighting athletes who have been in the sport since early childhood, including some who could be considered semi-pro, and Sangha says it’s more about learning.
The Terrace team is also attending a seminar about point fighting taught by the USA All Stars and pro fighter Raymond Daniels during the tournament.
“I don’t expect any of them to win, but I do expect them to gain a ton of experience,” said Sangha. “Taking in the experience, getting to fight new people they have never fought before, getting to fight different styles, that’s the biggest accomplishment.”