Justin Jubinville-Mah likens his katas as a type of dance – preset movements that demonstrate form, grace, timing and power. Although this dance can involve swords or spears or canes.
The 17-year-old Mount Douglas student and Gordon Head resident has emerged as one of Canada’s top young martial artists after an exceptional year of competition.
At the World Martial Arts Games in Austria in September, he won eight gold medals for his katas (traditional forms), which placed him as the most decorated athlete at the tournament. Not long after, he came out on top in three divisions in the Western Canadian championships in Vancouver.
That earned Jubinville-Mah a chance to compete in the National Blackbelt League (NBL) Super Grands World Games, considered the peak of martial arts competition in North America. To get to the games in Charleston, South Carolina, Jubinville-Mah needs to raise $3,300 by Dec. 26 for flights and lodging.
“The NBL super grand is legendary in martial arts in North America. It is a long-established tournament and the best of the best go,” he said. “I hadn’t dreamed of going to the super grand. I was shocked to get the invitation.”
Jubinville-Mah is squeezing in fundraising and training for the Super Grands with high school, helping organize events like Mount Doug’s Fill the Foyer food drive and teaching muay thai and kickboxing. “I’m trying to juggle a lot of activities at once,” he said. “I love to volunteer and to be part of the community. I try to give back as much as possible.”
Jubinville-Mah’s mom started him in martial arts training at age 8 as a means to keep him physically active. He took to training with exceptional discipline, and entered his first kickboxing competition at age 9. At age 15, he was the youngest person to earn a first Dan adult black belt under the Tracy Kenpo system.
“To get ready for my first Dan I practised every day – I’d catch the bus to the dojo after school and not leave until after 9 p.m.”
After a hiatus from competition for a few years, he represented Canada at the World Martial Arts Games in Austria in katas.
“Katas remind me of dance – the sense of movement that is performed in a sequence. It’s sets of different techniques against an invisible opponent. It’s a way to show how different moves flow together and a way to keep traditional martial arts going,” Jubinville-Mah said.
Katas are judged on technique, energy and timing and can involve weapons or open hand. In Austria, he won first place in eight of the nine competitions he entered, despite being bumped up to an adult division.
“I was competing against people a lot older and a lot more experienced. It was really nerve-wracking. These are respected masters of martial arts and I had to compete against them,” he said.
“I got a lot of praise and was very humbled by it. Masters were saying it was an honour to compete against me. I was awestruck. I was very happy after Austria.”
He had planned to ramp down from 40 hours per week of training, before the invitation to the Super Grands. “Some people train their entire career for this tournament,” he said. “I’d love it if I could go.”
Jubinville-Mah is fundraising through gofundme.com/go4gold.