Sunday, 07 June 2020


Whitianga's "Pocket Rocket" wins two Golds in karate competition in Japan

Whitianga resident Dana Vaughan's nickname is the "Pocket Rocket." It’s a well-earned name for the diminutive karate competitor who entered her first ever karate competition in Japan on Sunday 26 August at the All Japan Kei Shin Kan karate competition in Matsumotu.

Dana is part of a group of nine members from the Whitianga Kei Shin Kan dojo, who have just returned from Japan where they combined karate training and participation in the competition with sightseeing in Tokyo and Matsumotu. 

Dana won gold in the Senior Women's kata (forms) and Senior Women’s kumite (sparring) divisions at the 60th anniversary of the competition - which coincidentally was also her wedding anniversary.

Despite her small stature at just 153cm, Dana clearly and convincingly dominated both senior women's events. The kumite final between herself and the leading Japanese competitor, Yutaka Tsuchiya, was fast and intense, with Tsuchiya launching an all-out attack in a bid to overturn Dana's early lead. However, Dana was too quick for her opponent and not only defended herself against the onslaught, but was able to counter attack effectively, winning the match 5 - 2.

Dana said she drew on the strengths of her mixed background of Kiwi and Romanian culture to help her focus. Her determination and skill are highlighted by the fact that, with only four years of training, she is only a purple belt, but all her competitors were black belts with considerably more experience.

It is noteworthy that Dana manages to attend training twice weekly in the Whitianga Town Hall while working, raising three sons and focusing on some tertiary studies. “Winning the competition in Matsumotu was really the perfect wedding anniversary present,” says Dana.

This present was made doubly sweet for Dana by the fact that her husband, Grant Vaughan, won silver in the men's under-black-belt kumite.

Grant has been training in karate for just more than a year, so his performance is also an outstanding achievement given his experience and the fact that his competitors were all brown belts. Fellow teammate Robert Lindsay won bronze in the men's under-black-belt kata, against a particularly strong field.

Following on from the competition, the group went to Tokyo where John Simpson was presented with his black belt certificate by the chief instructor of Kei Shin Kan, Sensei Eichi Yamazaki. John completed his black belt grading in Whitianga a few months ago, but as black belt certificates are issued directly from Japan, this was a memorable opportunity to have the certificate presented by the chief instructor.

“It was a fantastic experience to take part in the tour,” says John. “And to have my certificate presented in such historically rich context in the birthplace of karate was a great feeling.”


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