Kai Watts will be competing in his first Canadian Junior Taekwondo Championships that is taking place in Alberta this coming weekend.
The mere mention of it gets this young man, who trains at Cascadia Martial Arts Parksville, all excited.
“I am really looking forward to it,” said Watts, who has been in taekwondo since he was seven years old. “I have never been to nationals. I have competed in local tournaments and provincials so this is really exciting for me.”
Watts is only 13 years old and he enjoys the sparring component of the sport that originated in Korea.
To become the best, this young martial artist made a personal commitment to absorb as much knowledge as he can and to dedicate most of his time honing his skills.
While other youth his age may prefer video games and hanging out with friends during their free time, Watts trains four to five times a week.
Watts travels to the mainland every Saturday to train with the B.C. Team. It’s a huge sacrifice but Watts said he needs to do it to improve and prepare him for the nationals.
“I have learned a lot,” said the Grade 8 student from Ballenas Secondary. “They do a lot of KP&P [electronic scoring system] drills and it’s going to help me score during fights. So it’s very helpful.”
Since training with the best in the province, Watts has noticed the positive changes in the way he fights.
“My speed and accuracy have improved a lot,” said Watts.
“When I was younger, I just kicked, kicked and kicked. It worked I guess because I won a lot. But at nationals you have to be more precise when your fighting and actually set up your plan.”
Watts was able to apply the skills he has developed at the recent Island Open Taekwondo Championships that was held in Parksville last month.
Watts won gold. It was a good tune-up for him because it has helped him identify the weak areas of his game plan and get to work on them.
At the nationals, Watts wants to win but he is not putting much emphasis on it.
“I am hoping to learn a lot there,” said Watts. “If I lose, I hope to learn so I can do better the next time I go to nationals. It’s going to be a good experience in general. He added, “it would be amazing to win gold as well.”
Watts is not a big young man physically. He is lean and slim, and doesn’t look like someone who loves to spar. But don’t let his appearance fool you. He is fast and does not back down.
There are two tenets of taekwondo that Watts follows sincerely. Perseverance is one of them.
“It has taught me never to give up,” said Watts. “Whenever I am fighting I just keep going even when I am down a whole bunch of points.”
Courtesy or respect is the other principle that Watts adheres to.
“I have learned to respect my instructors and also the people that I spar with,” said Watts.
Taekwondo, said Watts, has moulded him to become not only good in the sport but also helps him become a better person .
“Over the years it has given me confidence in taekwondo, socially and also in school,” said Watts. “It has an impact on all the things that I do.”
Competing at the highest level is Watt’s long-term goal in the sport.
“My goal is to win nationals,” said Watts. “I will keep trying if I lose. It will be cool to go to the Olympics.”