More than three years have passed since World Karate Organization Shinkyokushinkai Karate Guam hosted its last major event, so last Saturday’s competition was a positive step forward for the martial arts organization.

More than 30 athletes donning gis and various colored belts, WKO Guam shook off the pandemic blues with the 2023 Guam Full Contact Karate Championship, held at the Northern Sports Complex in Dededo.

“The tournament went well, considering that this is the first tournament that WKO Guam has hosted since 2019,” said Chris Biolchino, WKO Shinkyokushinkai Karate Guam branch chief, “There were over 30 competitors from four different schools and gyms, including a group that came from Saipan. Sensei Taishi Watanabe represented WKO Japan and assisted us in officiating. Overall, I think that the participants had a great experience and we’re looking forward to hosting more tournaments in the near future.”

Joining WKO Guam, Saipan Watanabe Dojo, Guam Shorin Ryu and Steel Athletics each entered students into the competition. For some of the participants, it was their first-ever karate tournament.

“Many of their students were competing for the first time and did very well,” Biolchino said. “We appreciated their participation and look forward to more cooperation with them and other groups in Guam and throughout the region.”

“We were very proud of all of the students that participated,” Biolchino added. “We tell our students that the tournament is a tool to help improve. Some of the first place finishers, such as John Paulo Sacayan, Kurt Gabo and Kota Camacho, had very competitive divisions and they performed well.”

For Biolchino’s locally-based dojo, the effects of the pandemic reduced enrollment and took its toll on operations. In the coming months and years to come, he will focus on rebuilding the program and hosting more tournaments.

“The pandemic impacted us greatly in that it was not possible for us to host large events,” he said. “However, it felt great to host a tournament and our hope is that we will continue to build momentum. Our goal is to grow the tournament and perhaps, one day, host a large international tournament.”

Up next for WKO Guam, they will be holding the Carlos Palacios Memorial Karate Tournament Nov. 18. Biolchino hopes the upcoming tournament will be even-more successful than the last, which received tremendous financial, officiating, and volunteer support.

“Our judges and volunteers did an awesome job and I’d like to extend my appreciation to all of them,” Biolchino said. “I’d also like to thank our sponsors: Guam Visitors Bureau, Graphic Center, and Island Color and Copy.”