Martial artists win trophies, earn belts

ELLSWORTH, Maine — Forty-four students and instructors from the eight ranches of Graves’ Institute of Self Defense recently attended an awards ceremony and Karate and Ju-Jitsu tournament in Bucksport, along with black belt testing in Ellsworth hosted by Tracy’s Karate. 

During the awards portion of the event, one youth and one adult student from each of the 19 Maine Ketsugo and Karate Association dojos were selected in a specific annual accolade. Categories included: most improved, most dedicated, best attitude, and student of the year, as well as most supportive parents. 

Along with the normal sparring and ju-jitsu divisions set up by gender, ages and colored belt levels denoting experience, team fighting and the 2019 grand championship point fighting finals were included. This tourney hosts the only team fighting event in Maine, and this year there were 46 under belt and 12 black belt teams. Five-person teams were randomly built from all competitors, using all ages from 5  to 75 years old and white to brown belt levels, and assigned a team number.

Eight fighting rings were in use all day and when two team numbers were randomly called, the pair of five-person teams went to their ring. A chief referee and four judges then paired the five fighters on each squad by size and belt level to assure as much fairness as possible in each match. Points scored with kicks and punches were called for each fighting duo and accumulated for their team, and the team with the most points moved on to the next round of the single elimination matches.

Only the final two teams of under belt and two teams of black belts won the 3-1/2-foot tall trophies. Only 20 trophies were presented for team fighting. There were two Graves’ students on each of the four winning teams, accounting for eight awards and 40 percent of the big awards.

Following recent testing in Ellsworth, three students of Graves’ Institute of Self-Defense earned their black belts and the title of Sensei. With head instructor Sensei Bill Graves, second from left, are, from left, Sensei Taylor Curtis of Caribou and Sensei Jack Philbrook and Sensei Joel Philbrook of Island Falls.
(Courtesy of Bill Graves)

Only one large grand championship trophy was presented to the best fighter in each sparring division. There were 28 individual fighting divisions for ages 5 to 75 and white belt novices all the way up to black belt levels. Graves’ students and instructors enjoyed remarkable success, winning over 50 percent of the trophies with a total of 15, including a sweep of all three black belt men’s fighting sections as well as the female junior black belt award. 

In the Ju-Jitsu competition, there were 10 divisions in which pairs of throwers were set up by age and belt level, with two first-, second- and third-place awards to be won. Competitors from Graves dojos were in the top three 10 times for a total of 20 trophies. In all, the eight Graves branch schools accounted for 43 tourney trophies traveling back to The County.

Testing overseen by the Maine Ketsugo and Karate Association (MKKA) promotion board took place in Ellsworth Saturday evening and Sunday after the tournament. Twenty individuals tested for various levels of black belt from first to ninth degree. Three Graves  students — Joel Philbrook and his son Jack from Island Falls and Taylor Curtis from Caribou — passed the grueling test, earning their first-degree black belt and the title of Sensei. 

The Maine Ketsugo and Karate Association requires a minimum of five years practice to test for first-degree black, and an old adage states that of every thousand students who begin martial arts classes, only one will finally earn a black belt.

Graves Institute of Self Defense operates nine dojos from Island Falls to Fort Kent with one in Old Town and Perth-Andover, New Brunswick, as well, all overseen by 23 certified instructors teaching weekly classes in Karate, Ju-jitsu and self-defense. 

For more information, check out their Facebook page for stories and photos or contact Grandmaster Bill Graves at 551-5777.

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