Dante Morais, a 15-year-old martial artist from Burford, is excited to represent his region and dojo at the Ontario Summer Games in Toronto later this month.
Morais’ coach and mentor at Bushido Karate in Brantford, 18-year-old Brett Reed, thinks his soft-spoken protégé has the skill and determination required to bring back some hardware from the games, an amateur sports showcase and the largest multi-sport event in the province.
The Ontario Summer Games sees young athletes compete in 21 sports ranging from archery and ball hockey to golf and skeet shooting
“Dante’s got more than enough potential to come home with the gold,” Reed said. “It’s just a matter of putting it together at the right time.”
Morais, a green belt, is the first martial artist to represent Brant at the games after qualifying in preliminary grand prix competitions. He is also the first Bushido student to reach that level of competition.
There is pressure involved in squaring off against the best martial artists in the province in his age group, but Reed says Morais’ “grounded” and “mellow” personality keeps him on an even keel.
When a match begins, however, the young fighter turns on the jets.
“Dante’s very capable and motivated,” Reed said. “Regardless of whether he’s down in points or not, he’s able to push through and keep up 100 per cent effort from beginning to end.”
Morais will compete in the under-70 kilogram kumite, or free sparring, category. Matches last for two intense minutes and the fighter who scores the most points for technique, form and sporting attitude wins.
“It’s not only physically draining, but it’s mentally and emotionally challenging,” Reed said of the adrenalin-fueled matches. “We’re confident that (Morais) is physically capable of pulling off what he needs to do, regardless of the opponent.”
Karate runs in the Morais family, with his father and brother also taking part in the sport.
“I wanted to try something active,” Morais said.
Now, he trains seven hours a week and has his sights set on attaining his black belt.
The discipline and dedication karate demands have helped Morais become a more self-assured person.
“As an observer, I’ve noticed that Dante’s developed a lot of self-confidence since he joined karate,” Reed said.
Learning a martial art has practical benefits, too.
“It helps me be safe,” Morais said. “And there are no bullies, of course.”
Bushido coach Howard Crocker will accompany Reed and Morais to Toronto from Aug. 16 to Aug. 19, but the promising fighter will also have the entire local karate community behind him.
“You’re in it for yourself, not by yourself,” Reed said. “We’re a big family here.”