Their numbers were modest but the results were anything but (modest) as a quartet of Hanmer Wado Kai representatives all returned home with medals from the 6th Annual P.O.P. Wado Kai Tournament in Timmins late last month.
The family trio of Alexie Pilon (1st place kumite; 3rd place kata), Gabrielle Pilon (3rd place kata; 3rd place kumite) and instructor and competitor Richard Pilon (3rd place kata) were joined by Kalèb Plante (3rd place kata) in making the very successful journey north.
With Plante appearing in his first ever event and the remaining trio competing for the first time this year, the club head coach was more than a little excited about the ability of his athletes to incorporate the priorities that they have been working on in their regular practice sessions.
"There are two aspects of the kata that I really try and drill into my students: be sure to start strong and finish strong," noted Richard Pilon, the 40 year-old father of two who has operated the Hanmer group for some five years now at Ecole St Joseph.
"There is a beginning and an end. Most of us are strong at the start. We really explode and show passion. But when we get to the last move, we forget there is also a wind down."
Ascending to his first black belt at the age of 16, Pilon values so much of what his time in martial arts has offered, with little surprise that he now wants to share the same with his own children and other students.
"The takeaway for me when it comes to martial arts is all about balance," said Pilon. "Balance physically when it comes to doing certain skills - but also a balance in life. This translates into self-discipline and harmony and helps them become a better person, more adaptive in life."
On a more individual basis, Pilon easily identified the sources of his greatest pleasure as a coach:Kalèb Plante: "was able to control his nerves in his first tournament; was very precise and finished strong"
Alexie Pilon: "took control of the ring; displayed fast hands; good stamina"
Gabrielle Pilon: "had just a month to learn a new kata (Pinan Yodan); she was able to anticipate techniques and counter attack with great speed and accuracy (in sparring)"
Even on his own self-assessment, Pilon was pleased with his ability to perform a more slow and controlled kata (Seishan) when most other katas demand speed and power.
All in all, with limited competitive opportunities available in recent years, Pilon was thankful that his crew quickly acclimated to the environment in Timmins with some 95 participants on hand including almost 20 black belt recipients.
"I've been doing this for many year but going into a competition, I still get nervous," he admitted. "When you perform a kata, all eyes are on you. The kids have kind of learned to manage their nervousness."