Nyim Wilkie’s Black Belt Journey

Seventeen-year-old karateka Nyim Wilkie doesn’t like being in the spotlight. But when he does get caught in it, he shines brilliantly, and has done so for the past twelve years.

Sensei Oliver Lawrence (right) presents the certificate to Nyim at the conferment ceremony moments before he received his black belt.

Nyim took up karate while attending Castries Anglican Infant School and has been in it ever since. He’s competed in many competitions, including locally and in Martinique. Most of the time, he’s won gold. He says his much of inspiration comes from his instructor, Sensei Oliver Lawrence, and other Dojo members.

“I’ve always been inspired by my Sensei,” the soft-spoken youngster says. “He has a passion and drive for the sport. My fellow Dojo members are also an inspiration because they’re like family. I also love to see the younger members excel.”

Nyim says the sport has helped him build character and foster a sense of spirit and diligence. Ultimately, he wants to be able to allow the younger ones in the Dojo to get that same drive and character building.

A former Junior Male Karateka of the Year, Nyim was a gold medalist at the Karate Federation of St. Lucia Open Championship. He previously attended Leon Hess Comprehensive Secondary School and is currently enrolled at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College studying Information Technology. But he’s not ready to hang up his Gi just yet.

“Sports give you a sense of purpose and something to aspire to,” Nyim shared. “It gives you that drive to do better and achieve more. Too often we see young men with emptiness and without ambition. So I would advise young people to try out any sport that allows them to improve themselves.”

Nyim and his proud mom, Gloria, following the ceremony.

Gloria Smith, Nyim’s mother, has been his number one fan from day one. She’s been at every tournament and exam he’s had, cheering him on from the sidelines. On April 30 this year, she watched on proudly as Nyim shed his brown belt and received his black belt.

The ceremony was held in the auditorium at Dame Pearlette Louisy Primary School, where veteran and novice karatekas witnessed another crowning achievement of Nyim’s years of dedication and hard work.

“He started karate at five years old,” Gloria recalled. “One day, after school, we were passing by the Dojo and he saw the children training. He told me he wanted to join, so when I found out about it, they told me he had to be at least five years old. He told me that’s what he wanted for his birthday gift.”

Gloria said Nyim won his first tournament at five years old against children who were ranked higher than he was. She described him as a very humble and disciplined child.

“He doesn’t like to show off, but would instead always be ready to help people and get frustrated when he cannot,” she explained. “So I have to keep telling him that he cannot save everybody, but he still tries.”

Gloria advises parents to always support their children by not forcing them into anything they don’t want to do.

“Encourage them to get into something good that they want to do, not what you want them to do,” she said. “I’ve stood by Nyim at every tournament to cheer him on. That’s a very good thing for a child to see — his or her parents supporting them.”

Sensei Ezra Jn. Baptiste is President of Karate Do Federation of Saint Lucia and Chief Instructor and Technical Director of Shotokan Karate Do Federation of Saint Lucia. He still recalls Nyim starting karate and seeing his potential.

“He was a serious and dedicated student and very helpful in the Dojo,” Sensei Jn. Baptiste said. “He’s always willing to teach and assist in any way he can. I looked at him and knew he was going to be a very productive individual.”

He added: “I think Nyim is a good example of what we would like to see young people aspire to. The fact that he’s been very well supported by his mother is important because some children often move away from sports as they move through secondary school.”

Sensei Jn. Baptiste said the conferment ceremony was testimony to the fact that Nyim has taken a journey that has taken him somewhere that many young people would like to go, but don’t have the opportunity to do so. This is why, he added, his federation is trying to make karate-do interesting and worthwhile.

“Karate might not have the dividends and profile that many of the other sporting disciplines have, but there’s a lot more in karate than these other disciplines. It teaches you discipline, virtues and values, even self-defense,” he explained.

Given the progressive trend that Nyim has charted for most of his life in the sport, there are positive signs that karate will continue to have a meaningful impact on many lives, especially youngsters searching for their true purpose. Nyim’s journey to a black belt has been a long one, but the uphill climb continues.

“When you get the black belt in karate it symbolizes that you’re just beginning to understand it,” Sensei Jn. Baptiste explained. “Sometimes you might know, but don’t understand.  So, for him. It’s like going back to the beginning but in a more sophisticated way. That’s where he begins to learn the intricacies of the movements.”

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