Dabawenyos Bacolod sisters, Buenna Mikaela and Paula Brianne, clinched one gold medal each while Rafael Ponce de Leon salvaged a bronze for the Philippines in the recently concluded IMGKA World Karate Tournament in Naha City, Okinawa, Japan. They are members of the Mindanao Meibukan Gojyu-ryu Karate-do Dojo and represented the Philippine Meibukan Gojyu-ryu Karate-do in the karatefest.
Ten-year-old Mikaela, a Grade 6 student at the Ateneo de Davao University (AdDU), annexed the Grade 6 kata gold over Japanese competitors.
Mikaela shared her joy, saying, "I didn't expect to win gold in the first-round kata match, considering how skilled the Japanese are in kata. I felt very happy since my mom was watching the event."
Her dedicated one-month training, three times a week after school, proved fruitful.
Before the Okinawa event, Mikaela secured a gold in the intermediate kata (11-12 years old) at the 7th Zen Okinawan Karate Kobudo Tournament held at Robinsons Otis, Manila. She also bagged two golds in the 2nd Shorin Chi Invitational Inter-Regional Interschool Friendship Game 2023 held in Davao City in July 2023, and another gold (full-contact) in the 2022 Grandmaster Casimiro Grandeza Cup Int'l Martial Arts Festival.
Eight-year-old Paula, a second grader at AdDU, won a Grade 2 kata gold in the second-round kata match.
The younger Bacolod put up an impressive performance and was acknowledged by Grandmaster Meitatsu Yagi, the chairman of the Okinawa Karate Kobudo Federation.
Paula, who previously won a bronze medal in the intermediate kata (11-12 years old) at the 7th Zen Okinawan Karate Kobudo Tournament, said, "I felt very happy since I always practice for the event. And my family was with me during the event."
The Bacolod sisters extended their gratitude to their supportive parents, Benjie and Michelle.
Meanwhile, De Leon pocketed the bronze in advance adult blackbelt kata for the 3rd dan and up category, facing formidable opponents from Japan, India, Canada, and Chile.
"I did not expect to win bronze since Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate and I expected tough competition which I did," De Leon said. "I felt very happy since I started martial arts when I was five under the tutelage of my dad so this achievement is very special for me."
De Leon, the youngest among three children of Frederick Paul and Elvira Grace, dedicated his bronze feat to "God, my wife, my daughter, my family, and my country."
He trained twice daily, dedicating two to three hours per session from Mondays to Saturdays over the past two months. In addition to his rigorous training, he paid careful attention to his diet to ensure he was in good shape for the tournament.
Having previously won a gold medal in the 7th Zen Okinawan Karate Kobudo tournament, De Leon was chosen by Sensei Leo de Mesa, the Philippines representative of the International Meibukan Gojyu-ryu Karate-do Association, to represent the country in both the tournament and seminar.
His Okinawa stint was partly funded by the city government of Davao, the 1st Congressional Office of Paolo Duterte, Interworks Manpower Services, Inc., Money Mall Rural Bank, Payantog Sports, and the Office of the Vice Mayor of Davao City.