Stamshaw karate kid takes national title

Black belt Alfie Cunningham
Black belt Alfie Cunningham
Kenny Jackett. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Alfie Cunningham has been crowned national champion after overthrowing a star-studded karate field.

The Stamshaw youngster triumphed against a number of England performers to claim the title at the JKAE National Championship in Slough.

In only his second competition since becoming a black belt 18 months ago, Cunningham fought off more than 40 opponents to reach the final.

There he captured the 10 to 14-year-olds age group, beating off three England squad members in the process.

The 12-year-old’s performance has since earned him the chance to train with England at Westminster next month.

Cunningham trains twice a week at Havant Karate Dojo under the instruction of Sensei Steve Fife.

And Fife admits the youngster’s outstanding progress has surprised even him.

He said: ‘Alfie is very promising and we thought he might have got second or third in the competition.

‘We never expected him to win it, though, especially in what is his second competition at that level. We are really chuffed for him.

‘Last year he won a few preliminary rounds in the event but didn’t even make the final.

‘This time around he is more well-drilled and more experienced and was rewarded by taking the title.

‘Now England have invited him to train with their squad next month at Westminster, which is terrific for the lad.

‘Alfie has very good potential, we are nurturing and bringing him on and he is a quick learner who takes it all in and really enjoys his karate.

‘But it is important to remember he is still only very young and he can’t be rushed, we’ve got to take our time.

‘The lad never shows any signs of nerves, though, and he definitely has a promising future ahead of him.’

In the nationals, which were held in July, Cunningham won all four rounds to progress to the final.

Those rounds consisted of the judges picking any one of six Kata to perform in the preliminary rounds.

Having reached the final, the youngster was able to select and went for Bassi-Dai, an advanced Kata.

In front of more than 500 spectators, he maintained his composure to take the title in style.

Having been nominated by the Japanese instructors to train with the England squad, it puts him in contention to go to the World Championships in Japan in 2014.

It suggests a massive future for Cunningham.

And for Fife, he may not be the last from the family to make an impression in Karate.

He added: ‘Alfie’s brother William is aged five or six and has been along a few times.

‘He looks good potentially as well, as does his sister, Ruby.

‘Mind you, Ruby is more into her dancing, so we’ll see.

‘There may be more of them yet, though.’