Zachary Burton was your typical seven-year-old when he first tried karate with the Canadian Martial Arts Academy in Vernon.
Not much of an attention span, but keen on learning the basic moves of karate.
Now in Grade 11 at Aberdeen Hall in Kelowna, Burton is a world-class fighter for Team Canada and still a sponge when it comes to gaining more karate knowledge.
Burton, who last fall successfully completed his Shodan black belt test, was one of seven Vernon students qualifying for the North American Cup in Orlando under sensei Chris Harper.
“I was like a bratty little kid so I needed something to do,” recalled Burton, of his initial karate experience. “I enjoyed it right away, all the moving and learning the katas. It was a fun thing.”
After two weeks of training in Okinawa, Japan with Harper and 23 fellow black belts, Burton took his Shodan black belt exams in Chilliwack.
“It was 90 minutes of vigorous exercises; I was panting and out of breath. You do all your katas from start to finish without stopping.”
In Orlando, Burton, 16, fought in his own age group and one older category, taking gold in kata and weapons, silver in sparring and bronze in team sparring.
“I moved him up an age group and he was asked to spar for Team Canada and ended up fighting a 10-time champion from the U.S. and he did well, losing by just one point,” said Harper.
The Canadian Martial Arts Academy’s athletes combined for a total of 11 gold, 15 silver, and 17 bronze between the Vernon and Powell River (sensei Frank Clayton) locations.
Harper and Clayton are assistant coaches under Team Canada head instructor Conrad Copeland, and will take Burton to the World Karate Championships this October in Hamilton.
Burton trains for Team Canada under Harper and competes in a Kelowna comp starting Saturday.
“He was one of those kids who made up for a lack of focus with tons of energy,” said Harper, of Burton’s first year. “He progressed at his own rate like all of the kids do. He had patience and he was always up for what was thrown at him next. He’s always been a terrific kid.”
Burton qualified and joined the Vernon academy leadership team (Blue GS) at age nine and earned his Red GI senior leadership membership at 11. He completed his junior black belt test in October, 2011.
He has been to competitions in Washington State, Florida and Hawaii.
“Chris has helped me in so many ways,” said Burton, who trains three times a week in Vernon. “More mentally than physically. I have learned discipline and respect and to never quit.”
A solid 5-foot-11, 175-pounder who weighlifts regularly, Burton also teaches three classes a week.
Burton says his strength is balance which helps in katas where he can stay on one foot and keep his body perfectly still go on to another move.
The CMAA has been training students in GoJu Ryu Karate since opening Vernon’s location in 2004.
The academy is located at 1710 Kosmina Road. Alicia Hill-Turner, who was named Queen Silver Star the 55th last February, is a member and performed a board-breaking routine for her talent portion of the pageant.