What is karate? Yes, it’s a sport about fighting, but once opponents enter the ring it’s a lot more complex than that.

“Karate is a lifelong journey, it teaches you discipline, builds character and improves you as an individual.” – Chris de Sousa Costa

De Sousa Costa is a kumite karate fighter and team captain of the Canadian Pan Am team competing this summer. As an 11-time national champion and three-time North American Champion, de Sousa Costa knows what it takes to win. “In the ring it’s about being able to adapt to the person in front of you. You have to be adaptable to any situation,” he shared.

Related: Team Canada 2015 athletes list including karate

Chris De Sousa Costa, in Finals of the 2013 Commonwealth Karate Championships. (Photo by: Karate Canada)

Chris De Sousa Costa, in Finals of the 2013 Commonwealth Karate Championships. (Photo by: Karate Canada)

In kumite karate, competitors head into the ring for a ‘bout’ which lasts two minutes for women and three for men. Once in the ring, each fighter battles to land punches, kicks and strikes on their opponent. Every blow must be executed with good form, timing, vigour and awareness in order to achieve the highest scores.

However, it isn’t just about landing a hit, in order to win strategy is key.

A game a of chess

Strategy is a key component for a successful karate fighter. In the ring, karate becomes a mental game of reading and responding to your opponent in order to complete an effective strike.

Kate Campbell, in Finals of the 2013 Commonwealth Karate Championships. (Photo by Karate Canada)

Kate Campbell, in Finals of the 2013 Commonwealth Karate Championships. (Photo by Karate Canada)

“In the ring it’s more about a game a chess, it’s strategy driven and tactical. At a certain level everyone is in good shape, everyone is fast, everyone is strong. It becomes about who is mentally strong enough to play the game.” – Kate Campbell, national team member.

The Pan Am ring

Playing the game is exactly what team Canada plans to do in July as they take on some of the best kumite fighters. Since Karate is not an Olympic sport, this is one of the highest levels of competition for Canada’s top fighters. “This is my Olympics. Being giving the opportunity to compete against some of the best on my home turf is a surreal feeling,” added Campbell.

Sarmen Sinani, at the 2014 North American Cup (Photo by: Karate Canada).

Sarmen Sinani, at the 2014 North American Cup (Photo by: Karate Canada).

Ten Canadians will step into the international ring including Jasmin Landry (three-time national champion), Kamille Desjardins (two-time US Open champion) and Sarmen Sinani (four-time Pan American Championship medallist). The national team is prepared to fight its way onto the podium at the Mississauga Sports Centre from July 23-25.

 Get tickets to karate at TO2015