The small historic town of Meissen just outside the German city of Dresden was the destination for 15-year-old Matthew Tainsh to reclaim the under-16 European Wado Cup Karate title for an impressive third time.
A regular competitor in domestic and international performance, his return home this year from the continent was a distinct contrast from his previous expedition. Disheartened by finishing third in the Romanian capital of Bucharest and surrendering the 2010 title to one of his rivals, he boarded the flight home this time around full of content after regaining one of the sport’s most prestigious accolades.
The youngster said: “I’m very happy to have won the title for a third time as these things don’t come along every day and shows just how good you can be. Last year I picked up the bronze medal and was a bit disappointed so it was great to win it again and get my confidence back. To win it for a third time in the space of four years is just brilliant.”
A focal member of Ainslie Park Karate Club, which also saw Sarah McMillan claim silver in the Female Over 16s kata event, Matthew first displayed an interest in martial arts when aged just six. The ‘karate kid’ who specialises in wadokai kata, a specific style that utilises a combination of attacking and blocking techniques of karate, progressed in such a fashion where by the age of ten, he had accomplished his goal of being awarded with his first level black belt.
“I went into it as a hobby just for something to do. I didn’t even really know what karate was all about. To get to black belt was great but to be competing now at such a level is unbelievable. I’ve been to places I would never have expected to have visited so it’s great to experience so many different cultures.”
A fourth-year pupil currently undertaking his standard grades at the Royal High School, he admits his career aspirations remain unclear at this stage. He does, however, in a sporting capacity, possess ambition that resembles one of a true champion. Not satisfied to rest on his European laurels, Matthew’s desire to take on the world is nothing short of inspirational. “I’d love to win the world championships,” Matthew says with a large grin. “I think they are in August next year so I’d love the chance to be able to compete there. But I’d also like to go into coaching the style. If Allan (Spence) ever retires then I’d certainly like to keep it going! I’m not looking to take coaching up as a career though but it would be good to have it on the side.”
The style of wadokai was first recognised in this country during the 1960s with Ainslie Park mentor Allan Spence beginning his long relationship with the sport in 1967. His classification of seventh Dan chief instructor has proved invaluable to Matthew’s development but the 60-year-old reveals he had earmarked the three times European champion as a star in the making from a very early age.
He said: “I’m over the moon for Matthew. To win this title for the third time in four years is an unbelievable achievement. I believe he’s got a long future ahead of him but I could see the potential he had from when he first started almost ten years ago.”
The Edinburgh star’s father, Neil, has also been overwhelmed by his son’s success in a sport, he admits, he knew very little of prior to Matthew’s involvement.
“It’s just fantastic for what he has managed to achieve in such a short space of time. To know now what I do about the sport is quite phenomenal,” he said, adding that the Blackhall Sports committee provide some funds every year which helps with things like travelling costs. “But for what Matthew has achieved at his age, I am a very proud dad to say the least. A special mention must also go to Allan who has been so inspirational in Matthew’s development.”
A member of the Scottish Karate Federation elite squad, Matthew is most certainly destined to be draped in the national flag for many years to come.