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Picture letter: Why can't we have our wheelchair karate in Wales?

MY son Blue Balmforth, who suffers from cerebral palsy in his lower half, has been practising karate at St Pat's Club in Grangetown since early 2010 and is now a brown belt.

He has over the past two years competed in British Karate Federation-run national competitions such as the Four Nations in Glasgow, winning silver last year and gold this year, when he was one of eight athletes competing in the wheelchair category.

He has also won gold in two local competitions this year, one in Swansea and the other at a Bushi-Kai event in Bridgend.

Our problem is that in all this time he has not been able to compete in any tournaments run by the Welsh Karate Governing Body (WKGB) as they do not have a wheelchair specific category in their competitions. We have for two years been trying to get the WKGB to include such a category.

Both Blue's teacher and others have tried to effect such a change internally with no success. In fact Blue's teacher has faced censure from the WKGB board for his efforts.

Since May this year, I have sent several letters of inquiry to the WKGB, copied to their parent organisations, the British Karate Federation and the European Karate Federation, and even delivered one in person. These have had no response.

I believe some members of the board are unaware of the existence of my letters.

To summarise, wheelchair athletes can go to England, Ireland and Scotland and compete in official tournaments run by the national bodies or the BKF which have specific wheelchair categories and have been doing so for two years.

They cannot, however, compete in their own country as the WKGB has a block "no wheelchairs" policy.

The WKGB has raised issues over training and safety, but I am an ex-H&S officer for corporate play areas and from my own knowledge I can say no extra equipment nor H&S training is required.

As to refereeing, the tournaments my son won his medals in were judged by WKGBtrained referees (Bushi-Kai). The national competitions were partstaffed by WKGB officials. How can this then be a reason to deny provision in Wales? We recently demonstrated outside the WKGB's headquarters in Cathedral Road, Cardiff, to publicise our case.

My son Blue and many others have been denied opportunities to participate at national level in a sport they love. Wales could be at the forefront of this rapidly growing sport and as there are very few athletes in the UK practising this discipline, Blue and his team-mates have a good chance of going far.

| Chris Dudley Cardiff

CAPTION(S):

Wheelchair karate enthusiasts, including Blue Balmforth, front left, protest at the WKGB headquarters in Cathedral Road, Cardiff
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Title Annotation:Letters
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 28, 2013
Words:454
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