Igorot karateka makes annual pilgrimage home

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IGOROT KARATEKA’S DRAWING POWER – Cordillera martial artist Julian Chees is shown with two of his special students in Germany where he is now based. The master as he leads a blind student to the nuances of the traditional “kata” or formal exercise of karate.

In an annual humanitarian pilgrimage of sorts, former world karate champion Julian Chees has been coming home to the Cordillera to personally reach out to the sick and needy.

Last December, the sixth-dan blackbelt of the Japan Karate Association was in Baguio and his native hometown of Bontoc, Mt. Province where he distributed toys and school supplies to kids and eased the financial burden of indigent patients.

“It’s the least a native son coming can do with the support of our martial arts students in Germany who annually pool stuffed lions and dolls and whatever they could, thereby giving substance to my coming home,” Chees saud.

He recalled how his students led by Dr. Martina Thaller, Dr. Christiane Schmidt, Kirsten Petro and Arawasi Bottrop collected medicines, ballpens and toys to give substance to their teacher’s homecoming.

With the help of his students, Chees was able to pool over P100,000 this year as fund support to patients here and at the Mt. Province General Hospital in Bontoc town.

“Our support is, of course, never enough, but it sure does give meaning to a native son’s coming home,” Chees said.

The biggest support from his Julian Chees-Shoshin Foundation came in wake of the devastation wrought by super-typhoon Yolanda at the end of 2013.

In the aftermath of the devastation, Chees personally distributed over P800,000 worth of rice and cash to typhoon victims in Dumalag and Tapaz towns in Capiz.

As in his previous homecomings, Chees,upon arrival at the Manila Airport, called on his aging teacher, Shihan Kunio Sasaki, the missionary master who, in the 1960s established the Japan Karate Association branches in Manila and here in Baguio.

“Without Master Sasaki, I and many other Filipino practitioners of Shotokan karate would not be where they are now,” the student noted.

Chees spent three years as assistant to Sasaki in the latter’s gym in Manila, an experience that prepared the Igorot student for his exposure in international competitions.

Chees eventually migrated to Germany where he was recruited as a member of the German national karate team. His stint with the squad proved fruitful as he kept on winning the kata event in international competitions.

This string of victories in the international martial arts scene was capped by his topping the kata event in the 1993 World Shotokan Championships in Germany.

“For that tournament, I would spend winter days in the forest perfecting the basic movements Master Sasaki taught and I was only too glad it paid off with that victory for the German national team which adopted me,” he recalled.

“Wherever I am now, I owe it to Master Sasaki and to Master Edgar Kapawen Sr.,” he said, referring to his mentor and fellow Bontoc who heads the Northern Luzon headquarters of the JKA./Ramon Dacawi.


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