Benjamin Thompson couldn’t have been prouder when he left CFB Shilo’s General Strange Hall Gym on Saturday.
The 23-year-old Brandonite surprised a lot of people, including himself, by finishing second in his senior men’s black belt kumite (spar) event at the provincial karate championships with a tight match in the final. Winnipeg’s Eric Zogbi quickly won his semifinal and held a 10-5 lead over Thompson with three seconds left when the Brandonite was disqualified for hits to the head.
That doesn’t mean Thompson isn’t proud of his silver medal, especially since he went up against a very tough competitor in the final.
"He was really good," said Thompson, who teaches karate classes at Shilo through the Japan Karate Association of Brandon and Area. "I’ve never fought anyone with that much experience, but I’m glad I can show my students. I had some watching."
Thompson is a late-bloomer in karate. He first took up the activity five years ago because his cousins were doing it. He’s worked his way up to a Level 1 black belt rank and he started teaching karate to kids, teenagers and adults at Shilo in September.
He got off to a rough start at provincials — which had over 100 competitors, 23 of which were from Brandon — on Saturday as he was eliminated from the senior men’s black belt kata competition — a solo performance of self-defence moves that includes series of kicks and punches — in the first round. Things got better shortly after that as his only student in the competition, Arthur Blakely, earned a bronze medal in the 11-year-old yellow to orange belt kata competition.
Thompson, who admits teaching has helped him as an athlete, is just as proud of his protege for earning a medal as he is for winning one himself.
"I was happy for him," Thompson said. "It was his first tournament for him. Equally (proud of the medals), but I was very proud of him to get his."
After a successful tournament, provincial officials have talked to Thompson about going to the national karate championships in Vancouver next year.
However, Thompson isn’t sure if he wants to go to nationals. He mainly does karate as a way to stay in shape and a trip to nationals would require monthly training trips to Winnipeg. He’s not sure if he’s willing to commit that much to karate.
"We’ll see how that goes," he said. "It takes a lot of dedication to go to that, but they do want me to go to nationals in Vancouver."