THE odd combination of karate movies and “Beef Week” started Lawson man, Reece Cummings on a 19-year martial arts journey before earning a top place at the Australian Martial Arts Championships in December.
He was 10 when he watched a karate demonstration at Beef Week in his hometown Wingham, NSW, and thought: “That’s what I’d like to do.”
Now, the 28-year-old holds a national title for advanced black belt forms after he competed in the Gold Coast against 30 skilled competitors from karate, taekwondo, kung fu and other martial arts.
“There were many competitors from different states at the National Titles, but in the advanced black belt forms division, I was the only person representing the ACT, so to take home the title for Canberra was a proud achievement,” he says.
Reece says he feels lucky he came across his practice, Okinawan karate, which is an old-style karate, based around civilian self-defence rather than sports karate.
“Considering [Wingham] was a small place, I’m lucky that I found a good [style of] martial arts and a quality instructor,” he says.
But that wasn’t the case when Reece moved to Canberra in 2009 to join the military.
His discipline wasn’t practised here and Reece had to ask himself: “Do I look at doing another discipline or do I continue this on my own?”
He decided he wanted to continue training in his discipline and was encouraged by his instructor to start his own dojo.
“When I opened I put an ad in the paper and advertised for the day I was going to be training but I didn’t have a venue and I didn’t have people,” he says.
“For the first year we trained in a green room in a film studio in Mitchell.”
In that same year Reece started going to Japan to train, which was where he was granted his instructor licence, and is where he continues to go for training.
Ten years later, the non-profit school now operates out of a fully-dedicated centre with more than 180 students.
Reece, who has since changed careers and works full-time in communications and public relations, spends an extra 25 hours a week running Karate Canberra – Cummings Karate Dojo.
His instructor said it should be something that comes from the heart and it should be a passion that Reece gives back, which is why he runs the school as a non-profit.
“I’m in the fortunate situation where I love my occupation and I also love my vocation,” he says.
“This way I can share my passion without being reliant on student numbers.”
But in saying this, Reece admits that Karate Canberra has become one of the largest full-time karate schools in the area.
“Being a non-profit means we can offer two scholarships every two years so our students can go to Japan and train,” he says.
“It also funds taking me to Japan every year because the more skills I have means the more skills I can share with students.”
Reece says the karate practised at the school is about character development as well as discipline, confidence, focus and fitness.
“While we predominantly focus on teaching practical self-defence skills, the attributes of traditional karate can transfer to tournaments,” he says.
“[Tournaments are] another way to challenge the martial arts practitioner and put yourself out there for external critique and evaluation, and assist in developing discipline and confidence.”