Grand champions at the International Cobra tournament.

Montreal, Quebec, Canada– On Saturday, April 16, 2011 Pierre Saulnier proudly presented the annual International Cobra Karate Championships in Deux-Montagnes – a tiny suburb within the beautiful city of Montreal. The NASKA Canada AA and NMAC Elite AAA event was held in the spacious Olympia Deux-Montagne boasting 17 rings, including two stages. With a very organized layout and pre-assigned judges at each ring, the event began promptly at 9:45 a.m. and ran smoothly with the main eliminations ending at 2 p.m. With the early finish, the competitors had ample time to rest and relax before the evening spectacle which would take place at 7 P.M. With this type of efficiency and professionalism, it was evident to everyone in attendance why this is gradually becoming Canada’s next premier “go to” event. With the limited number of major tournaments to attend in Canada, this event definitely has the making of becoming one of Canada’s finest tournaments.

Although the attendance overall has been larger in previous years, the tournament drew a record number of competitors from the neighbouring province of Ontario. With a large number of competitors from Mike Bernardo’s school in London, Ontario and John Douvris’ school in Ottawa in attendance, this was the highest turnout of competitors outside of Quebec for this yearly event. Strong support from local area schools included Quebec Open promoter Clermont Poulin and his Studio Unis schools, Team Pro-Am, Pierre Scanzano’s KIXX International, Eric Tremblay’s Karate Sport Action and of course the host school, Karate Sunfuki.

With International Cobra being the first official NASKA Canada event of the year, it came to no surprise that Canada’s top NASKA competitors were in attendance to support this tournament. All representing the 30+ divisions, names such as David Boisinette, Andrew Cabilan and Eric Tremblay displayed their talents in their respective divisions. There was alot of ‘new blood’ as well as recently turned adult Simon Gagnon of Karate Sunfuki handily captured the Mens Japanese/Okinawan division, making a name for himself in Canadian Sport Karate. Also making the trek from Toronto, Ontario was the ever-improving Jamie Kerr who captured top honours in the Mens Traditional Weapons division. Also making a name for herself was Andrea Carey from Bernardo Karate. Earning her Black Belt less than a year ago, Carey has consistently captured wins in her respective Weapons divisions and this tournament was no different. Not only did she win her Open Weapons division, but she also captured her first major victory by capturing the Women’s Weapons Grand over local favourite, Soledad Moncho.

The Evening Finals began without a hitch with a timely start just past 7 p.m. Exclusively with ringside VIP table seating, the setup is very reminiscent of Clermont Poulin’s Quebec Open – with each table filled with spectators and competitors just buzzing with anticipation of what was coming up. Overall, the night displayed the best talent Canada has to offer and one couldn’t help but notice that nearly every Grand of the evening was a battle between Ontario and Quebec. Making a double header appearance this evening was Jeremy Lussier of Karate Sunfuki. Not only did this 17 year old gentleman make two appearances – he also garnered himself two Grand Championships. His first Grand of the evening was in 13 – 17 Weapons Grand where he narrowly edged the formidable routine of Laurence Brochu. Laurence’s dexterity was no match for Lussier’s speed and intensity and it ended with a nailbiting .01 difference between the two fine competitors. Later in the evening, Lussier made it “two for two” by winning the 13-17 Traditional Forms Grand. With this kind of momentum and persistence, this young man will definitely make waves as an Adult in years to come. Capturing the 12 and Under Traditional Forms Grand was Justin Ciccu. Although diminutive in stature, his yells and strong stances wowed the audience and the judges. On the Open Forms side of things, Alex Cousineau kicked his way to a grand championship victory by defeating Karate Sunfuki schoolmate, Sara Gagnon in 13-17 Open Forms Grand. Jeremy LaFlamme from Eric Tremblay’s Sport Action captured the title in the 12 and Under Open Forms Grand. Rounding out the Junior competition was the 12 and Under Weapons Grand which was captured by Justin Liu from Douvris Karate. Liu’s flawless manipulation of the bo received the nod of the judges and was the only Grand from a Junior from Ontario.

The highlight of the evening was the delightful surprise entry of Jean-Francois Robitaille. After a long absence from the Sport Karate scene, Robitaille (commonly known as “Jeff”) flipped and tricked his way to a Grand Championship victory unseating Eric Tremblay and bringing the audience to their feet in jubilation. To those who do not know Robitaille, he is perhaps one of Canada’s leading tricksters and Extreme Form competitors. In fact, he is one of the first Canadians to release tricking samplers on during its prime. Robitaille’s performance at this year’s International Cobra garnered so much attention and buzz in the tricking community that his YouTube video of the evening’s performance suddenly went ‘viral’ on Facebook! Will Robitaille make a comeback to competition? Only time will tell.

Although Eric Tremblay fell short of a victory in Open Forms, Tremblay got his just desserts by garnering himself the Mens Traditional Forms Grand and the $500 prize. Tremblay’s display of strong stances and good linear movement showed why he is the current #1 in the 30+ divisions. The younger Simon Gagnon and local favourite Jacques Deschuymer (both of Sunfuki) trailed behind Tremblay by a very small margin. The Women’s Traditional Forms Grand Championship pitted 19 year old Elizabeth Lafond against Sunfuki’s Soledad Moncho. When the smoke cleared and dust settled, Lafond’s rendition of Bassai Dai received top honours and took home the coveted prize.

Rounding out the Forms and Weapons side of things were the Adult Weapons Grand Championships. As mentioned before, Andrea Carey of Bernardo Karate made sure her eight hour trek to Montreal wasn’t in vain. She smoked through the competition during the daytime eliminations and garnered herself her first major Grand Championship win. The Mens Weapons Grand pitted Montreal’s Eric Tremblay against Ontario veteran Andrew Cabilan as they continued where they left off during the 2010 NASKA World Tour. In the daytime eliminations, Tremblay bested Cabilan in two out of the three divisions they competed in. However, this evening, it would be the pint-sized Cabilan who would walk away with a big win with his traditional oar form. Cumulatively for the evening, Quebec claimed all of the Adult Forms Grand Championships and Ontario would claim bragging rights to all the Adult Weapons Grands.

With the Forms competition complete, the Fighting Grands then ensued. The first set of matches were for the two Women’s Fighting Grands. For the Lightweight title, Candace Thody from Bernardo Karate used her timely precision to outscore Quebec’s Brigitte Boisvert. The Heavyweight Grand was a fierce duel between Team Pro-Am’s Verona Soliman and Team Evolution’s Cindy Cote. Although Cote had a greater reach advantage, it was Soliman’s lightning speed that would prevail to overcome that obstacle, taking the title and monetary prize.

The Men’s Fighting Grands was another major highlight of the evening as three of the four competitors all hailed from Ottawa’s Douvris Karate. The 160 lbs. and Under Grand pitted World Champion Robbie Lavoie from Team Allstars against Anthony Gadouri. The see-saw battle seemed like a re-make of David and Goliath with the smaller Robbie Lavoie blitzing his way to victory. The 162 to 185 lbs. Grand Championship pitted rookie adult Jonathan Ferreira and Nick Douvris, both of Douvris Karate. In another see-saw battle which seemed like it could go either way, it was Ferreira’s tenacity and perseverance which would reign supreme in this match up, taking home the trophy and the $500 prize.

Overall, Pierre Saulnier’s International Cobra is proving to be a very promising event. With the multitude of attractive prizes such as the $500 monetary reward for all Grands (plus a bottle of wine inside the Grand Cup for the Adults) and iPads and cameras for the Juniors, it is evident that this event has the potential to draw competitors from all corners of North America. With the presence of NASKA World teams such as Full Circle, Amerikick and Pro Rank, this event should continue to bring in Sport Karate’s finest to this fine tournament in the future. With Quebec Open setting the standard for Quebec Sport Karate excellence, Saulnier’s event is gradually becoming the next elite not only in Quebec, but in Canada. With NASKA Canada titles on the line and this event serving as a qualifier, this should attract more Canadian competitors to “come out of the woodworks” and claim the titles which are at stake. Montreal also serves as a great tourist city with many historical attractions nearby and an exuberant nightlife. Mark your calendars next year for this event!