WINSLOW — Thirty-two years ago, the first Battle of Maine was held at Winslow Junior High School. Now one of the tournament organizers, Mark Huard was then just another kid competing for the first time.

“I was very young and I was very nervous,” Huard said, as this year’s Battle of Maine got underway at Sukee Arena. “I was actually out in the parking lot, sick to my stomach. Then things changed. Once I did more and more, it got more and more fun.”

Thirty-two years ago, Huard was one of approximately 70 competitors. More than three decades later, participation in the Battle of Maine has just about quintupled, and the event moved to the larger Sukee Arena — which didn’t exist when the Battle of Maine started — years ago.

“It’s continuously growing. Today, we have 340 or so competitors,” Huard said.

The Battle of Maine is as much a celebration of martial arts as it is a competition. Athletes as young as 5 years old take part, along with adults who have practiced martial arts for years. The Battle of Maine drew participants from all over the state, as well as a group that made the trip from New Brunswick.

“It’s popular with the kids, a lot of kids from all over the state. It’s just a really fun competition. The sport of martial arts is really a big thing here in the state of Maine,” Huard said.

Emily Colbret of Cornish is a testament to that. Now 15, Colbret said she started practicing karate when she was 4.

“I go to class an hour a day,” Colbret said.

Colbret was at the Battle of Maine as a member of Team First Strike, out of Windham. One of the highlights of the day was the demonstrations of fighting forms, shortly after 9 a.m. Colbret and a few teammates did the classic break a board with a kick. It hurt a little, Colbret said, but the hurt came with a sense of accomplishment, the way you’d be sore after a run or a strenuous hike.

Alex Crowell, 17, demonstrated his work with a bow. As Crowell’s silver bow spun, it reflected the arena light. Also a member of Team First Strike, Crowell said the team members practiced 20 to 30 hours to get their five-minute production just right, and that didn’t count any time individuals worked on things at home on their own.

Crowell’s practiced with a bow for four years. Breaking the ceiling at his Windham dojo didn’t deter Crowell, nor did the countless times he’s hit himself with the staff.

“Every part of your body will get in the way when you practice the bow,” Crowell said.

Crowell looks forward to these large competitions.

“It’s ridiculously fun,” he said. “You get to compete with people with a bunch of different talents.”

This is the day when all the practice can be put to use.

“Sport Karate is an everyday thing. They have to train every day. They have to train their mind, their body and their spirit. It’s a lot of respect, a lot of discipline, a lot of commitment. Coming back to the dojo time and time again,” Huard said. “Coming from one sport to another, coming from football or soccer or whatever right to the dojo, having that extra discipline to push hard.”

The Battle of Maine is also a day to help some of those in Maine who need it the most.

One dollar of every $10 entry fee goes to the Children’s Miracle Network, and some competitors raise money for the charity, too. Before the start of Saturday’s competition, a handful of athletes were honored for their fundraising. Last year, the Battle of Maine brought in more than $4,500 for the Children’s Miracle Network, and in the last 10 years, the charity has received more than $40,000 from the event.

All the money raised for the Children’s Miracle Network by the Battle of Maine stays in Maine. Recently, some of it was used to help purchase new equipment at the Birthing Center at Inland Hospital in Waterville.

Colbret breaks her board, Crowell spins his bow, and hundreds compete and celebrate their sport on the Sukee Arena floor. All the while, helping ensure another child gets the chance to do the same.

Travis Lazarczyk — 861-9242
[email protected]


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