Martial Arts Boosts Sports Tourism

48-member U.S. Party Comes for Tournament.

Members of the U.S. team which stayed at the Royal by Rex.
Members of the U.S. team which stayed at the Royal by Rex.

MARTIAL Arts is emerging as a growing area of sports tourism for Saint Lucia. This follows the successful staging of the Piton Open Martial Arts Tournament here in mid March.

Chairman of the Association of Martial Artists of Saint Lucia, Benny Chitolie, says the annual tournament brings together top martial artists from all over the Caribbean and the U.S. and is intended to bring the level of martial arts in Saint Lucia on par with international standards in the sport.

Chitolie says the tournament also gives martial artists on the island the opportunity to showcase their talents and pit their skills against their visiting counterparts.

Chitolie, who is also Chief Instructor of Chitolie’s Martial Arts Institute said: “Our aim is really to raise the bar in Saint Lucia where martial arts is concerned. The tournament creates an atmosphere where martial artists can come together, work together, learn new styles and techniques, and understand the different rules of the sport. Some of our martial artists train very hard throughout the year, and they get one shot every year to become a champion, because they compete against champions.”

St. Lucia dominated this year’s tournament, both in terms of the number of competitors and medals won. Among the stand-outs for Team St. Lucia were 22-year-old Zalika Joseph who was the overall Female Champion, winning in Kata, Kumite and Weapons among the females 18 – 29.

Master Chitolie believes Zalika has a very promising future in martial arts. He says she has won martial arts Championships in the USA, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and across the Caribbean. He said: “This is a young lady with tremendous potential and we are pushing to see that she reaches the top, in the world of martial arts.

Chitolie and Torres.
Chitolie and Torres.

According to Chitolie, the development of Sports Tourism is a major component of this initiative. He says the annual Martial Arts Tournament generates a tremendous amount of business for hotels, taxi drivers, caterers, and other service providers on the island. It was the third consecutive year that Team USA competed in the Tournament and on every occasion they have brought a large contingent comprising athletes, family and friends.

Plans are well advanced for the staging of the North American Federation of Martial Arts (NAFMA) World Championship in St. Lucia in August 2017.

Head of Team USA, Master Jose Torres – a 7th Dan Black Belt in Tang Soo Do – is excited about returning to Saint Lucia to compete in the international tournament next year.

Ahead of the 2017 NAFMA Championships, Torres will return to Saint Lucia in August to work on the action sequences for a short film to be shot here. The film is being directed by Demetrius Charles, a Saint Lucian writer, poet and filmmaker based in the U.S. Filming of scenes in Saint Lucia will coincide with the annual staging of the Piton International Film Festival. Torres will direct the fight scenes in the film, which will feature some of the top martial arts practitioners on the island. Some scenes will also be shot in New York.

Torres and his 48-member contingent stayed at The Royal by rex resorts, which he described as “my second home.” It’s his third time staying at The Royal. Commenting on the experience, Torres said: “The Royal was recommended to me by some friends who had stayed here before. I did a search online, and realized The Royal had very favourable reviews. I wanted to have a great option for the US athletes and their families to get the best Saint Lucia has to offer. The staff here is exceptional. I only come here once a year but the staff remember my name. Their handshakes and hugs make you feel at home, it makes you feel like family, and you wanna come back.”

The Royal by rex resorts has been earmarked as the host hotel for the 2017 NAFMA World Championships.

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