When Randy Huard held the first Battle of Maine Martial Arts championships at Winslow Junior High 34 years ago, about 80 competitors showed up. It’s grown considerably since.
Saturday, about 400 competitors are expected to take part in the 34th annual Battle of Maine, the largest martial arts tournament in the state, at Sukee Arena and Events Center in Winslow.
Action in over 120 divisions begins at 10 a.m. and concludes around 5 p.m. Competitors are as young as 4 and as old as 70 with the majority of them under age 16.
“A lot of the percentage of martial arts tournaments are kids,” said Mark Huard, one of the directors and an instructor at Huard’s Ju-Jitsu and Karate School which sponsors the tournament.
Two of the more popular divisions are Chanbara and fusion fighting. Chabara is a point fighting competition that involves full contact padded weapons ranging from swing swords for younger kids to bo staffs, nunchucks, spears and double swords for older competitors.
“The kids love it,” Huard said. “It’s based out of Japan. It’s pretty exciting to watch.”
Fusion fighting is a more recent addition to the tournament and is a form of mixed martial arts, but a little more subdued. It’s open to males and females 14 years of age and up.
“We’re expecting 20 to 30 people,” Huard said. “You’re allowed to do so many strikes and so many hits. It’s a mixture of kick boxing and grappling with ground fighting. We try to keep it so it’s not just an MMA event.”
Admission to the all-day event is $10 with $1 from each ticket donated to the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, a group of 170 hospitals throughout the country, including Maine, which treat one of every 10 kids in North America each year. Over the years, Huard’s has raised more than $50,000 for the cause.
“I think it’s a healthy thing for the kids to think about, not just to think about themselves,” Huard said.
Huard said martial arts remains popular and although his school has seen no major growth of late, it remains steady.
“We’re enrolling students regularly,” he said. “It’s more of an individualized sport and an outlet for kids.”