Local dojo owner takes three NASKA titles
Shihan Mark Yates in league all his own following successful 2013 World Tour
BY DAN MCNEE
LISTOWEL – At 54-years-old, Mark Yates is showing no signs of slowing down.
And like a fine scotch, Yates is only getting better with age, as the Promar Karate owner and fifth-degree black belt recently wrapped up his first North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) World Tour by taking three world championships in three different categories. The “Shihan” (master instructor) took top honours by accumulating points in traditional weapons, creative weapons and creative forms in competitions throughout North America over the past several months.
“The quality of competition is very, very high,” said Yates of competing in NASKA. “It’s everything you could want as a competitor.”
Taking part in the age 50-years and over division, Yates traveled to 10 of the 15 NASKA World Tour stops over the spring and summer. The world ranked #1 in his age bracket, Yates competed in tournaments ranging from Philadelphia, to Orlando, to Texas and New York, collecting points that ultimately gave him a total of four world championships, after winning a past title in 2002. And more often than not, Yates would find himself in direct competition with past or current world champions, ensuring that each event would be no cakewalk.
“You don’t worry about who else is there – I just focus on getting my forms and ‘katas’ (detailed patterns of movement) right, and everything falls into place.”
While creative forms involve only the body and the fluent motions made with each different kata, Yates turns to the bo when it comes to creative and traditional weapons. The bo is typically a six-foot long wooden staff that can be maneuvered in a number of intricate ways.
“I can use other weapons, but I’ve had a lot of success with the bo,” said Yates.
The Shihan got his start in martial arts at the age of 18, when a friend took him to a judo class at the Belfountain Judo Club. That first year saw Yates taking in one class per week, but then found himself joining other dojos so he could get in more practice time. Pretty soon he was traveling to nearby Orangeville, Georgetown and other locations just so he could take part more in an activity that would quickly become both his passion and life’s work.
“I’ve been at it ever since, and he quit three months later,” laughed Yates, referring to the friend who initially got him into martial arts.
Yates would ultimately switch to karate from judo, which involves more striking motions as opposed to judo’s throwing techniques.
“Once you learn one art, it’s not too hard to learn others,” he said.
Yates, a father of four, opened his Listowel Promar Karate location in 2007, after formerly running classes out of Memorial Arena and Branch 259 of the Royal Canadian Legion. He and his assistant “sensei’s” (black belts) now on average instruct over 100 students annually, all at different experience levels and skill sets.
Yates keeps in shape using a number of different workout techniques, including standard weight and cardio exercises. His primary conditioner is practicing his katas and routines however, which can be a very vigorous undertaking. Yates practices each form for 15 minutes, stretches for five minutes, and then repeats his forms for another 10 minutes each.
“You don’t want to lose because you’re out of gas or out of shape,” he said, adding that displays of power in addition to correct and fluent katas contribute greatly on judges’ scorecards.
Yates is looking to defend his three world titles next season on the NASKA circuit, which he says is far and beyond the best organizational and competitive karate association he has ever taken part in throughout all of his years of attending tournaments.
“It’s the best martial arts experience I’ve ever had,” he said.