At 11 Phoenix Walker is already using karate as a vehicle to see the world.
The Grade 5 pupil at St. Patrick School has been selected by WAKO Canada to represent his country at the 2022 World Association of Kickboxing Organizations (WAKO) World Junior Karate Championships in Italy from Sept. 30 to Oct. 9.
The World Championship Martial Arts student will compete in forms, weapons and point sparring.
He qualified for the event at a WAKO Canada training camp in Burlington last month. Walker also qualified for the Ontario Winter Games in Pembroke in karate and kickboxing but the event was canceled by COVID-19.
The furthest he has traveled for a competition is Niagara Falls so this is a big treat for the youngster.
“It’s an adventure exploring the world so it makes me happy because I’m a nature guy,” he said.
When asked what he knows about Italy, Phoenix replied, “It’s beautiful. There are trees. It’s colourful. You travel in boats to get to your house and I know about pizza.”
He was introduced to martial arts at a WCMA summer camp at age seven and loved it.
“I like how we do jumps and spinning kicks in the air, flying tricks, punch’s, combinations, kata,” he said.
He also likes the self-defense aspect of the training.
“If somebody wanted to put their hands on me, I wanted to be able to defend myself,” Walker said.
Karate has helped Phoenix channel his energy, say his parents Cynthia Grant and Jamie Walker.
“His energy level is pretty high so it’s been a fantastic outlet for him to channel that little kid energy he’s got,” Jamie said.
That energy is one of his strengths as a competitor, says his coach and WCMA co-owner Jason Mancini.
“Phoenix is a very energetic young man,” Mancini said.
“He is vibrating with energy on a regular basis. When he gets the opportunity to perform he’s able to harness it in a way that he can showcase it on another level. “Another thing that makes Phoenix unique here to WCMA is not only is he the youngest going to this competition but he’s doing it specifically for the discipline of karate.
“In the past we’ve had young students go over there but more for kickboxing or fighting of sorts, combative competition. He is going there to do semi-contact point fighting, to use his weapon and to do performance martial arts.”
Mancini said it all starts at home.
“He is certainly a bit of an exceptional athlete for someone his age but he’s been training for a long time,” Mancini said.
“He has a very good support system in his mother and father. His dad actually tries right alongside him. They will be grading for their red belt on Saturday. I think his support systems have been really beneficial to his development.”
Phoenix, who also competes in Muay Thai kickboxing, has won a dozen medals of all colors at various tournaments over the years but this is definitely the highlight. Most of his karate medals are gold.
“It’s such a milestone to reach this early in life,” said Jamie Walker.
“I’m very excited for the competition. I’m glad I’m going,” said Phoenix.
Phoenix also plays soccer and he’s a member of the Eco Club and Lego club at school. He loves animals and is a big fan of Bruce Lee and Godzilla.
It’s an expensive trip to Phoenix and his parents. He does not get any funding assistance to cover his expenses.
A GoFundMe online campaign has been set up to try to raise $6,000 to cover air fare, accommodations, food, entry fees and equipment for Phoenix and one parent who is required to attend as a chaperone.
As of Friday afternoon, 19 donors had raised $2,910 toward a $6,000 goal. Visit gofund.me/fe226d99 to donate.