At 10-years-old, Griffin Toye-Oesch may as well be Prince Rupert’s poster child for karate.
He knows the highs and the lows involved in the sport, the days he had to convince himself to keep going to get where he is today: in love with the martial art.
“I like it because it’s fun and it also teaches you how to become disciplined and it makes you a better person. It’s just good for everything like your spirit, your mental health and your physical health,” Griffin said one Thursday night after his karate class with Prince Rupert Karate Club was finished.
The well-spoken youngster started taking karate with Sensei Wade Wilkins about four years ago. Griffin started it because he wanted to learn self-defence, not because he was getting bullied or anything bad like that, but he just thought it would be good to know.
But the Prince Rupert Middle School student didn’t love karate right from the start. In fact, he would sometimes fight not to go but his mother, Kate Toye, helped convince him to at least reach his goals.
“I said to him ‘Why don’t you just stick it out and see what happens?’,” Toye said.
Griffin originally had a goal to become an orange belt, so Toye convinced him to stay in karate until he reached that goal before deciding to drop out. Fortunately, he fell in love with the sport somewhere along the way, making both him and his mother happy.
“One of the highlights of my time in karate was in the beginning when I joined, I wasn’t so sure about it and I didn’t really like coming. Then the highlight for me was when I started liking it and felt good about going,” Griffin said.
Not only does he now love karate — where he has become an orange belt — but he’s also fallen in love with Japanese culture.
“He’s studying Japanese on Rosetta Stone, he wants to go to Japan, it has added so much more to him,” Toye said.
One reason Griffin may have changed his mind on karate could be Sensei Wade.
“He is funny and he’s strong. You want to be around him, but you don’t want to misbehave. But it doesn’t feel like it’s scary around him. He’s nice to be around and nice to be told what to do by,” Griffin explained.
His mom agrees, she has nothing but good things to say for the karate sensei.
“He’s so good at being both playful and a disciplinarian. This is the purpose of karate and why respect is so important,” she said.
Griffin’s plan is to at least keep doing karate until he has his fifth degree black belt, which will probably take about 10 years. By then, he will feel accomplished in the sport. But that doesn’t mean it will be the end in martial arts for Griffin.
“There’s so many things that I want to do when I grow up and this is definitely one of the things that I would love to do as a living. I would love to be a teacher, I’d love to do competition. I’d love this to just be what I do during my life,” he said.
Karate has been just fun so far, but he plans to start participating in competitions in the next couple of years.
Looking back, Griffin can’t believe he didn’t like karate. The art has changed him as a person and he feels better about himself because of it.
“I love karate because I’m passionate about it. Whenever I enter the dojo, it is sort of like entering a space where I can be a different person. It’s a person that is me, but more self-disciplined and more powerful,” he said.
Karate has taught Griffin discipline, all the more exceptional for his age, and it’s showed him how to be both healthy and happy in life. It’s also given him a confidence he didn’t have before.
His message to anyone on the fence about trying karate is simple: just try it.
“Be prepared to be disciplined and be prepared to also have fun. You’ll learn skills that will help you later on in life,” Griffin said.