PORT HARDY—Miwako Nicol is a 2nd-dan black belt who trains at a reputable karate dojo in Vancouver. But she enjoys her periodic trips to Port Hardy.
After all, there is a much higher level of instruction here.
Port Hardy’s Shotokan Karate-do school, or dojo, bolstered its resume in impressive fashion at the recent Karate Canada National Championships in Vancouver, when Jennifer Detoro became just the third woman currently in B.C. to successfully test for her 5th-dan (fifth-degree) black belt.
During the same event, her husband Ivan Detoro, instructor of the local school and another 5th-dan sensei, successfully earned his Level B judging certification, which qualifies him to judge top international-level competitions.
Additionally, Jennifer Detoro added Level C judging to her growing list of qualifications during the event’s testing.
“There’s a hell of a lot of talent here,” said Nicol, whose husband works in Port Hardy, allowing her periodic trips to the North Island. “There’s depth here, and commitment and passion and knowledge.
“Here, I can train with two 5th-dan masters. In my own dojo, I train with a 3rd-dan sensei.”
The most remarkable part of Jennifer Detoro’s successful ascension to Godan level was simply being able to take part after being sidelined for an extended time by injury.
“The number one good thing for me is that I’m able to train again,” said Detoro. “Now I’m free of injuries. I don’t know if it’s because of that, but I felt relaxed. And that’s the first time I’ve truly been relaxed at any of the levels I’ve tested for.”
Nicol said Detoro inadvertently created one of the weekend’s running jokes when she appeared before the master judging her test wearing a wrap around her ankle.
“The master asked her if she had any injuries,” Nicol said. “At first she was going to say, ‘No.’ But the way he looked at her and asked, ‘Do you have any injuries?’, she finally said, ‘Just a torn ligament. No big deal.'”
Detoro, according to Nicol, breezed through her chosen kata — a series of movements judged on their accuracy and timing — and followed that by acing a second kata chosen by the master judge.
The Detoros did not attend the nationals to compete, but they did take advantage of the opportunity of the West Coast venue to test, to watch many of the events and to meet with some of the top masters in North America.
“For me, I don’t really focus on how the competition is going,” Jennifer Detoro said. “For me it’s to reconnect with old friends. And we were excited to see these masters, because we don’t often get to see the top women masters.”
The fact that the Detoros specifically chose this competition for their testing is a mark of their ability and commitment to the sport, said Nicol.
“Whenever you attend an international competition, whether here or in the U.S., you’re going to see a highly esteemed panel of judges,” Nicol said. “People who want easy grading won’t choose to do their tests at these competitions.”