An Interview with Melchor Berceles
On June 29, 2020, Vancouver BC, Canada
Melchor at the age of 10 with Erwin and Shihan Tats
At the 2019 International Friendship Tournament with Sempai Risa
Performing in the 2018 Vancouver Cup
Q1. When and how did you join our club?
I began training with Vancouver Seiyu Karate when I was 8 years old back in September 2005. At the time, my mom and dad were looking to enroll my brother, Erwin, and I in some extracurricular activities and having the Killarney Dojo was perfect for us, since we lived in the neighbourhood.
Q2. What do you remember from training in the dojo when you were a child?
I have so many memories of training as a child! Too many to even list! But the thing I remember the most is the fun and supportive atmosphere Shihan Tats provided in the dojo. As a child, karate was never boring because Shihan had so much energy and brought so much love into his work. Yes, he always called me out for having the worst flexibility in the class (and he still does!), but I know he only did it to push me to improve. I also have a lot of fond memories of the other kids I trained with, from us fooling around in the back of the dojo to the little inside jokes we made throughout our training, we were some pretty naughty kids!
Q3. Now you’ve grown up to be an adult. What aspects of Karate do you enjoy?
Having grown up in the club, the thing I enjoy the most about karate is the strong relationships I have made with my fellow karateka. Yes, the physical and mental training is always a plus, but I have made so many great friends through training at Vancouver Seiyu Karate. Many of the people I train with come from so many different backgrounds and have so many interesting stories to share, and I feel so fortunate to have been able to get to know them all. I have come to know our karate club as a family. One of my closest friends is actually Sempai Risa, who came to visit and train in Vancouver from Japan a couple times.
Q4. You competed in the international tournament last December. Tell us about why you decided to take part in such a high caliber competition.
What inspired me to take part in the world tournament last December was seeing the original Team Vancouver participate the year before. I have a close relationship with Jeremy, Jesse, Simone and Sempai Sasha, so seeing them represent Vancouver Seiyu Karate at the world stage made me want to be with them at the next one.
My parents were also very supportive of my decision to compete. They always shuffled our family schedules to accommodate for my extra training and pushed me to train on my own at home. They even came with the team to Japan and were the unofficial cheerleaders of Team Canada!
Q5. How did you prepare for the tournament?
The preparation for the tournament was a very long and hard process. I decided to compete in January 2019 and had the entire year to prepare. But training for kata is very different from training for kumite. For the entire year, the only kata I practiced was Kanku (my competition kata), and I would practice segments of it over and over again for weeks before moving on to the next steps. I remember being so frustrated in the beginning because I practiced the opening segment for almost three months before moving on. I was in the dojo four days a week and would stay behind after teaching class to practice, sometimes alone, sometimes with my fellow teammates and coaches.
As the tournament came nearer, I began to train more with Sempai Sasha in the New Westminster Dojo in kumite to help increase my endurance and strength for the tournament. I also took every chance Shihan Tats gave to perform my kata in front of an audience.
With Jesse, Erwin, and Serena ~ Vancouver Kata Team
Teaching Children at Killarney Dojo
The brothers pushing each other
Q6. You captured the Silver Medal in the Men’s Open division. How did you feel and perform throughout the event?
Leading up to the tournament day, I remember feeling pretty relaxed. It was my first time being in Japan and for three days before, my family and I were sightseeing around Osaka, so my mind was at ease. But as soon as we entered the arena, I was suddenly super nervous. The line up in my division consisted of mostly older black belts and that was extremely intimidating.
I was one of the first performances that day and stepping onto the mat was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. But I put on my game face and performed my Kanku. I was so relieved when it was over, and I remember hearing my mom screaming so loud from her seat in the stands, it was such an amazing feeling to have finished. But it didn’t end there, I actually had to perform a second time! I found out I had tied for second place with a black belt from Japan and had to go through the whole process again. I remember standing at the edge of the mat waiting to go on again and I was shaking and breathing so hard, I had to close my eyes and said a little prayer before going on. When it was over, I didn’t want to look at the final decision, I let my mom’s scream let me know I won the silver medal!
Q7. We know you teach and lead children’s classes on a regular basis. What benefits do you receive from the teaching?
One benefit I get from teaching the children’s classes is having that extra day in the dojo! Though the training isn’t as intense as the adults’ classes, it's a fun way to get some extra training (and some stretching) into my weekly schedule.
But the best thing that comes from teaching has to be the children. I never imagined that I would become an instructor, but now being in the dojo with my classes brings me so much joy. I’ve been teaching for almost three years now, and seeing my students grow in karate and even win at the Vancouver Cup Kata Tournament makes me one proud instructor! I love teaching the children’s classes so much and I have so much love and appreciation for all the students that come through my classes because they push me to be a better instructor and person overall.
Q8. It has been fifteen years since you first joined us. What motivates you to keep training for so many years despite a busy life you live?
I just recently started my first full-time job after graduating from university last May. But I think what really helps me keep up with my training while balancing a busy schedule is the fact that everyone knows how important karate is to me. Even at work, my boss asks me how my karate is going because I made it very apparent to them from the beginning that karate plays a very big part in my life.
Q9. What are your short- and long-term goals in Karate?
Getting my black belt is definitely my top priority when it comes to short term goals. Our Dan grading was supposed to take place this past spring, however, because of the Coronavirus, it was postponed indefinitely. I trained really hard with a team of other really great Dan grading candidates, so it would be nice to finally celebrate the work and progress we made in our training.
As for my long term goals, bringing home the gold medal from Japan is what comes to mind first. I have a feeling that the next world tournament won’t be for awhile, so I have a lot of time to prepare and perfect my kata!
One last thing, I don’t know if this should be considered a short-term goal or a long-term goal, but being able to do the splits and get my chest to the floor is something I wanna be able to do!
Q10. Please give a message to Kohais.
Having been a member of Vancouver Seiyu Karate for more than half my life, I have come to develop a strong love for the club. Vancouver Seiyu Karate truly is a special place and I hope that everyone in the club realizes it, too. I know that we are in the middle of a difficult and confusing time, but I am sending out positive vibes to everyone at home. Keep training hard so that when we all see each other again in the dojo, we can pick up where we left off.
To the students of the children’s classes, I really miss seeing your bright faces at our Sunday classes. Keep stretching at home so you don’t end up like me, and don’t forget how to tie your belts! See you all real soon! OSU!