By Marlon Munroe
Eight Dan Chief Instructor of the Guyana Karate College (GKC) Master Frank Woon-A-Tai was the recipient of Georgetown’s Mayor Hamilton Green Award yesterday for his sterling contribution to Martial Arts in Guyana and more particularly Georgetown
Yesterday at the GKC’s temporary training facility at the Malteenoes Sports Club (MSC) pavilion Deputy Mayor Robert Williams handed over the award to Woon-A-Tai, who has been practicing karate since 1963 under the tutelage of the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Tiriyuki Okazaki. Further, Williams assured the executives of the GKC that they have the support of the city now that the college is looking to commence work on its permanent structure at Liliendaal.
The Mayor’s award acknowledges outstanding people and organizations that, through their commitment and participation in community and voluntary activities, have made a significant impact on the quality of lives of the citizen and the community in Georgetown. And in one of the categories Arts and Culture, environment, Conservation and Heritage, Sports, Recreation, children and youth, Master Frank Woon-A-Tai was the mayor’s choice for this prestigious award this year.
“Let me take this opportunity of offering the city’s support in any way possible to its successful completion and realization”, said Williams.
The Chairman of the International Shotokan Federation (ISKF) in Canada and Guyana, first started with judo and then switched to karate after reading ‘Dynamic Karate’ by Masakushi Nakayama. After being inspired by the writings of Nakayama, Woon-A-Tai traveled to England to train with Kinuzuki Inoeda, a JKA instructor.
Subsequently, the most experienced sensei in Guyana sought membership with the JKA- the association his club in Guyana would later fall under. After another training stint in Tokyo Woon-A-Tai returned to Guyana and contacted Okazaki, then a Ninth Degree Instructor with the JKA in Philadelphia, and birthed the Guyana Japan Karate Association in 1968 and then the GKC in 2007.
Williams spoke on traditional karate, which is Woon-A-Tai’s forte, whilst paraphrasing the Dojo Kun that is used worldwide, “It is a means to character development attainable through hard training and sweat. This is achieved through the five principles of character, sincerity, effort, etiquette and self control”, he pointed out.
Woon-A-Tai is also an advocate of healthy living through karate, which means clean hands. He feels that this art form promotes a balance between academia and physical training. He is also of the belief it improves physical and mental conditioning to alleviate stress and builds confidence.
Williams also reminded the audience that with Woon-A-Tai’s involvement in karate in the capital city and Guyana, he has aided many of the youths to find physical and mental fulfillment rather than falling prey to crime, violence and other social vices that affect the youth in cities across the globe.
When Woon-A-Tai received his award, he declared.. “I am deeply honoured by this award from the Deputy Mayor and the Mayor of Georgetown but I am really impressed with how much you know of me. There is not much that I could say to top what you said but I do appreciate the award and I strongly believe that Karate is the perfect way to help the youth of Guyana.
“I am deeply concerned with the crime and violence that is part of our society and I believe through the discipline of Karate and the training that we could help in some small way to break the cycle of crime and violence and to help you, the youth, to find direction in life. To this end we have embarked on a very ambitious project to build the college to train instructors and everyone in the true art of Karate Dom- the way of Karate”, he elaborated.
On the other hand, 16-year-old Eric Hing, instructors Dr. Guy Lo and Chaitram Mortley received their Second Dan and Third Dan certificates respectively after the GKC’s grading session classes last week. Hing was also a gold medalist at last year’s ISKF championship in Canada.
Meanwhile, Woon-A-Tai, who is also the President of the Caribbean Karate College (CKC), was also hailed for his part in Guyana securing the bid to host the Pan-American Championships from August 12-15 of next year. Williams told the small gathering the Mayor’s office feels proud that Georgetown is the host city that will see over 500 participants from 25 nations converging on the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall (CASH).
“Again it is our considerable honour and delight to be the host city for approximately 25 nations that are slated to participate. The city is well aware of the potential benefits of sports tourism and I would commit the city’s co-operation in every possible way to making this tournament a memorable one.