The top Kyokushin karate fighters across the country attended the National Kyokushin Championships were held in Huntly. It is a form of the karate that has steadily grown over the years with more than 150 entries in the junior section alone.
Lucas McKinnon, one of the event organisers says "It's huge. It's a privilege as well. In saying that, our humble little town is well deserving of this event I feel."
The gymnasium at Te Wharekura o Rākaumanga was full on Saturday with Kyokushin clubs from across the country, and even a contingent from Illawarra in Australia.
McKinnon says the full-contact martial art has experienced growth in recent years. "Maybe the popularity of it is starting to become a favourable thing for the kids," he said. He also highlights the added health benefits of young people taking up the sport, and says the benefits are not only seen by the youth, "the discipline that the parents take a liking to."
New Zealand branch representative to Japan, Shihan Stephen Takiwa, who has 35 years experience in Kyokushin says, "we started with like fifteen dojos, now we've got 30 dojos." He also says the future looks promising with the number of junior competitors on show.
One aspect of the tournament is the Kata, where the competitors display traditional movements of karate.
Shihan Takiwa says it can be difficult for "for young ones to get out in front of all of these people and to perform." As always, however, with practice comes improvement, "the more experienced have been doing it since they were little and now they're a bit older you can see the different levels," he said.
As well as national championship trophies up for grabs, there will be a group selected to represent NZ in Japan next year. Shihan Takiwa says a men's and teams squads will be selected and announced later in the year, and it is hoped that the junior winners, as well as the masters and women's champions, will travel to Japan.
Lucas McKinnon was one who has competed in Japan and says the group can expect to experience many cultures from around the world while there. He singles out the Japanese culture itself, which he says, "aligns very closely with kaupapa Māori."
He adds that when it comes to Kyokushin, "pretty much got every country covered except from maybe Antarctica and South Pole."