Zak Hartman placed first in continuous sparring at the ISKA Australian Open in Sydney on October 23.
Zak Hartman placed first in continuous sparring at the ISKA Australian Open in Sydney on October 23. Callum Dick

Nanango fighter a national champion

NANANGO fighter Zak Hartman returned from his first ISKA Australian Championships in Sydney on Monday with an extra item in his suitcase.

The 14 year-old claimed victory in the continuous sparring classification, progressing through the competition rounds against more experienced opponents to claim the winner's trophy.

By winning, Zak cemented his invitation to the world championships in Italy next year and also the kudos of his instructor Geoff French.

"Zak was competing against taekwondo, jujitsu, kick boxing, muay thai, karate, kung fu - competing against each other in the same ring, under the same rules,” French said.

"It's testing the skill not only of your own ability but the system you've come from and Zak showed both.”

The ISKA competition was the biggest ever to be held in the southern hemisphere, with more than 700 competitors and 3000 spectators walking through the door of the Whitlam Leisure Centre at the weekend.

With so many fighting styles within fighting styles it is difficult to explain the differences, but years in the sport has given French added insight.

"The best way to describe martial arts to people is like religion. Some believe in a god, some believe in many gods and some believe in no gods,” French said.

"Zak is the national champion of ISKA, and the difference between ISKA and other competitions is it's open to any style of martial arts, and it's the biggest martial arts competition circuit in the world.”

For Zak it's just his third year of competing in tournaments, but he already has an extensive trophy cabinet to show for his efforts.

Despite leaving a Cairns competition two weeks ago with six trophies, Zak still entered the competition unsure of how he would compare against the best fighters in Australia.

"I didn't think I was going to get first place straight away, because of how big the tournament was and how many people were there,” Zak said.

"The first three events I went in I didn't place at all, but continuous (sparring) is my favourite event to compete in and I won.

"I enjoy everything about (fighting) - the people you get to meet, the tournaments you compete in, everything.”

With a trip to Italy for the world championships an expensive one Zak is not getting his hopes up about a first adventure overseas, but said it was exciting to think about.

"If we come up with the money and I get some extra training in then I'd like to go,” Zak said.

"(Geoff) has always been there for me with the right training and extra stuff that I need to progress. He hasn't spoken to me about it yet, but he'll get around to it.”

South Burnett

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