Joseph fights his way to the top

PAKENHAM schoolboy Joseph Byrne has fought his way to state and national karate titles this year and has loftier goals in his sights.

Born in England, he will fly to Hong Kong next year for the Asia Pacific Championships, before setting his sights on the World Karate Championships in South Africa two years later.

Joseph also won a silver medal for Victoria in the team sparring event at the recent national championships in Queensland.

“I did a little bit (of karate) in England, because my uncle was a karate instructor,” Joseph, 12, said. “I moved to Australia when I was five and that’s when I started taking it seriously.”

His tremendous results this year come on the back of a bronze medal in the World Karate Championships in the Netherlands last year, an experience Joseph relished.

“It was great, pretty scary, but good,” he said. “It was the best (winning a bronze medal). It’s wicked.”

It is a just reward for the St Francis Xavier College year seven student, who dedicates an enormous amount of time to the discipline.

“I did six months nonstop training heading into the national championships – two hours every day (at Gojukai Karate Club in Pakenham),” Joseph said. “On Tuesdays and Thursdays I do four hours because I’m in the Victorian team as well.”

But he still manages to find time for school.

“It’s a pretty tough schedule but as soon as I get home I just do it (homework),” he said.

Joseph believes most of the credit deserves to go to his sensei, Noel McBride.

“He’s really supportive; he’s a great role model,” he said.

And McBride shares similar sentiments about Joseph. “For a kid his age, the level of commitment and maturity is unheard of even in some adults,” he said. “He trains hard and he’s a great role model. He is like family to me, he has been with me for so long.”

Joseph is realistic about karate’s financial plight in Australia and is unsure whether he would be able to make a living out of it.

“Probably not a living I want to teach,” he said. “I’d like to do (karate) seminars all over the world.”

For now, though, he is content to rack up karate achievements in Australia. He has earned his black belt this year and will continue to work hard towards his goals.

McBride, who has won national and international titles himself, believes Joseph has the ability to continue his success into senior competition and sees juniors such as him as the future of Australian karate.

“(Former world champion) Junior Lefevre has been employed by the Australian Karate Federation to raise the standard in Australia,” McBride said.

“He’s been retired for three or four years now and he can still beat all of our fighters in the Australian Institute of Sport, which is a bit embarrassing. That’s why we are looking to the young kids.”

Can any Aussies comment on this? I haven't heard of any financial difficulties for karate schools in Australia.