Students at the Cayman Karate Academy got a rare chance to meet one of their screen heroes when a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle gave a series of seminars and demonstrations over the weekend.
Matt Emig is the character Master Splinter in the latest Turtles film and he came to Cayman from his California base with girlfriend Nikki Stanley for the classes. Like Emig, she too is a multiple world karate champion, in extreme forms, and is a much in demand stunt woman.
They were brought to Cayman by Bob Daigle, master instructor at the Cayman Karate Academy, with the help of Cayman’s business community.
Students as young as 6 trained for three hours learning new nunchucks combinations and dynamic kicking combinations. The introductory classes attracted little ones as young as 4.
“I saw dramatic improvement in many of my students,” Daigle said. “Telisha Barnes – our top nunchucks performer – had a one-on-one training session with Matt.
“She learned several advanced combinations and shared them with other students a few days later in class.”
Daigle said that another standout was Ajene Davis who learned the Wushu butterfly kick after only 15 minutes of training.
“We will take everything we learned and drill it over and over until everyone has it down pat,” he added.
Daigle was immensely proud of his children’s demo team that performed at Camana Bay on Saturday.
Students as young as 5 worked flawlessly in front of a huge crowd at Camana Bay.
Spectators were also treated to a spectacular demo by Flo-Motion Parkour and Freerunning team, Stanley, and two demos by Emig.
“Special thanks to Camana Bay for providing the venue for Saturday spectacular demos and Villas of the Galleon for providing accommodations for our special guests,” Daigle said.
Emig, 27, is from Long Island and is now based in North Hollywood. He was destined to become a Ninja Turtle from the age of 5, when after watching them on TV, he was inspired to take up karate.
Emig never lost that initial love and eventually won more than 100 karate grand championships and 42 world titles.
A specialist in nunchucks, he is renowned for his acrobatic skills and blurring speed using the deadly sticks. He showed the kids some basic tricking techniques and at Camana Bay did his signature “900 double,” involving jump kicks and spins.
Emig said that he thoroughly enjoyed his first time in Grand Cayman, especially scuba diving, Stingray City, snorkeling and hanging out on the beach.
Teaching the kids some extreme martial moves, such as adding a jump to a basic front kick, gave him immense satisfaction.
“Teaching them nunchucks, which is my favorite weapon that I specialize in, was fun,” Emig said. “I tried to introduce new techniques and movements and inspire them to continue training, pushing and challenging themselves.”
Stanley, 23, was born into a karate family – her parents own a school in the U.S. – and like Emig has been rising up the ranks since she was 5.
“It’s been great and afforded me a lot of opportunities,” she said. “I’ve been able to travel the world and compete, teach and perform.”
In demand as a TV and film stunt woman, she recently featured in the Mighty Med TV shows for the Disney Channel and Switched At Birth, another hit TV series.
Emig’s main advice to anyone considering taking up martial arts is “not to be afraid because you’re shy or bashful.”
He encourages parents to introduce their children and once they sign up, don’t quit easily because there are immense opportunities.
“It’s more than just the physical side, there’s the mental aspect and the discipline. There is so much you get out of martial arts training besides just learning how to defend yourself.
“You can take it beyond just being an instructor and do like I did and do stunts.”