German products of Lankan Sensei Athula dazzle in kata and kumite | Daily News


27th ISKF & JSKSS National Karate Championship:

German products of Lankan Sensei Athula dazzle in kata and kumite

The Germany karate team (from left) Philipp Klemm, Ebru Baytemur, Corinna Reiter, Juliane Stube, and Andre Lassen celebrate on the podium with their Sri Lankan mentor Athula Minithanthri.
The Germany karate team (from left) Philipp Klemm, Ebru Baytemur, Corinna Reiter, Juliane Stube, and Andre Lassen celebrate on the podium with their Sri Lankan mentor Athula Minithanthri.

Athula Dhammika Minithanthri, Sri Lanka’s leading Sensei in the world of martial arts will be marking 50 years in his karate career next year. But age has not mellowed the fighting instincts of the 59-year-old or dimmed his passion for the sport as he continues to churn out champions being Germany’s Technical Chairman in the art of Shito-Ryu. The squattily built Sri Lankan who began learning the art of karate on 31st January 1970, also holds the unique distinction of being the European Chief Instructor and a Permanent Director in the Japanese art of Karate-Do Sato-Ha.

Better known as Shihan Athula in the karate world, he brought a contingent of 15 from Germany out of which five competed producing four winners in the 27th ISKF & JSKSS National Karate Championship 2019 held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on Saturday.

Organized by the International Seishinryu Karate Federation (ISKF) Sri Lanka and Japan Karate-Do Sato-Ha Shito-Ryu (JKSS) Kokusal Rengo Sri Lanka Branch which is affiliated to the Sri Lanka Karate-Do Federation, over 600 competitors took part in this annual championship.

The Germans outclassed the opposition in their categories with only one participant failing to win a medal being disqualified for not bowing.

Among them was Andre Lassen, 54, a Black Belt 2nd Dan who beat his opponents pretty easily 8-0 and 5-0 to claim the Senior Males Kumite event despite the heat and jet lag.

“It was a good tournament because everybody had a unique and different style,” said Lassen, a Sensei himself. Philipp Klemm, a 19-year-old was elated after using his long reach to outpoint his rivals 5-1 and 8-0 in kumite.

“It was awesome. I got easy hits because they came close, unaware how long my arms are,” he said.

Juliane Stube, 39, has made a successful comeback to the sport after laying off for nearly two decades to win third place in Germany’s championship last year. “I am fit and always fighting younger opponents,” said Juliane who loved the hospitality of Sri Lankans and wants to come back again next year.

Ebru Baytemur, 27, was overjoyed after claiming victory in the Senior Females Kata event, with her previous international success being second place in a tournament in Portugal in 2009.

It was a learning curve for the youngest member of the squad, 18-year-old Corinna Reiter who lost on a disqualification.

“I will never forget that. I will never forget to bow,” said Corinna who was overwhelmed by the Sri Lanka experience.

“I really liked it. It was an amazing experience. It’s very different to tournaments in Germany. It’s great to see other people and variety of styles. Now I see different styles of karate or a different way to do it,” said Corinna, who is studying Economics at a university in Berlin.

“I started karate when I was eight years and it is my passion. My goal is black belt but I don’t think belts are that important. In the end you have a goal in your heart and if you reach it, you have achieved something. Right now it’s the German tournament in April for which I have to qualify,” she said.

Asked why she liked karate, Corinna said: “I like it because it’s kind of different sports combined. You get confidence. You learn about capacity of your body. I think karate is something that you never finish learning. You never stop learning. That’s just so great about karate.”

Ruwan Satharasinghe, Sri Lanka Karate-Do Federation member of coaching and selection panel said they planned to have a world championship but it was scuttled because of the Easter attacks. “I want to thank Shihan Athula for bringing a very good German team with a high level of technical skills,” he said.

Athula Minithanthri, national light heavy weight champion in kata or kumite between 1975 and 1979, before migrating to England in 1987, is now based in Stuttgart holding dual German-Sri Lanka citizenship.

“I am willing to offer my services to the country of my birth at anytime. People in Sri Lanka don’t know how to make use of my international experience. My heart is open to offer my knowledge to anyone willing to learn, especially at the highest level if I get the opportunity,” said Shihan Athula who is much sought after in Japan and Canada.

The German Karate Federation welcomed him with open arms after seeing his qualifications. “There are 16 districts in Germany. One district is bigger than Sri Lanka,” said Shihan Athula, who holds the Black Belt 8th Dan Kiyoshi apart from other martial arts.

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