Karate prodigies Ruby Martini and Joe Bougen, pictured with their Sensei Nathaniel Wilks of The Dojo, Maclean. Image: contributed

Maclean “karate kids” off to World Champs

Rodney Stevens

Two karate prodigies from “The Dojo” Maclean are hard at work practicing techniques and perfecting new moves in preparation for the World Martial Arts Championships in Portugal after enjoying success in regional, state and national titles.

Sensei Nathaniel Wilks, who has been practicing karate for 23 years and trained under multiple coaches in different disciplines, said he has been teaching the martial arts for 10 years, which led to opening his own academy in 2017.

Mr Wilks said 16-year-old Ruby Martini, who he has been training on and off for 10 years, and 10-year-old Joe Bougen, enjoyed success at three regional championships which continued to the national titles.

Both Ruby and Joe competed in the Kata, a choreographed pattern of movements, kicks, punches and techniques, and Points Sparring, which Mr Wilks described as “fencing with hands and feet” requiring finesse, speed, and skill.

“There were three regionals they both competed in, two in Queensland and one at Coffs Harbour, and they both placed earning a spot at the state titles,” he said.

“Ruby and Joe placed third or above to earn selection for the nationals.

“Ruby and Joe flew to Sydney to compete in the nationals, which were held over a weekend of competition, they both competed in Kata and Points Sparring against more than 20 other competitors from around the country and they both placed, earning them a spot on the Australian Team to compete at the World Titles in October in Portugal.”

Mr Wilks said both Ruby and Joe performed exceptionally well at the nationals, placing in Kata, Points No Contact Sparring and Points Contact Sparring.

“Both Points Contact and Points No Contact Sparring are the same concept, but in the Points No Contact sparring you have to land the punch about 2cm from the contact area,” he said.

Recently Mr Wilks attended an Australian Team Day with Ruby and Joe to meet their fellow competitors and review tips and tricks of what judges are looking for, as he said referees from different countries judge differently.

Joe’s mother Tanya Priest said her family was extremely excited about him competing at the World Championships.

“For a 10-year-old to be on an Australian squad team is pretty big stuff,” she said.

“I think for two students from a small dojo in Maclean to be in the Australian squad is amazing.

“Nathaniel does a fantastic job with all of his students, so hats off to him.”

Look out for an upcoming story on fundraising to help Ruby, Joe, and Nathaniel get to the world championships.