Karate junior world champion Dante Rodrigues made a welcome return to the Cayman Karate Academy, spending two weeks passing on tips to eager students.
Head instructor Bob Daigle, a former world karate champion, was pleased with how well his students responded.
Rodrigues was here for the first time last year, giving seminars with his mother Christine Bannon-Rodrigues, another karate world champion. Both were impressed with how well-trained the students were, and Dante expressed his intention to return.
Although not 18 until September, Rodrigues is not only a martial arts expert, he is also an aspiring actor and accomplished film and TV stuntman.
The tips Rodrigues passed on to Academy pupils last time were quickly absorbed and when he leaves on Wednesday, he will be even more satisfied with how much they have learned this time in their school summer break.
“I really tried to bring things to a next level this time and they did crazy good,” he said. Kids in the Academy’s karate camp got the most benefit from Rodrigues, who is helping Daigle prepare them to compete internationally.
Rodrigues is enthused by their keenness, from 4-year-old prodigies to enthusiastic teenagers.
“All the kids are moving so fast with me,” he said. “I can’t wait to come back down and see what else they’re doing.”
He has just finished high school in Rhode Island with a 3.8 GPA, even though he claims to “not be very good at schoolwork, but I really pushed myself towards the end.”
He will attend the University of Rhode Island in September and then intends to move to New York to study for a double major in acting and business.
His next big karate assignment is in Ireland at the end of November to compete on a men’s team. He intends to be an adult world champion now.
An exciting stunt film job coming up at the end of this month is with Kevin Hart and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in “Central Intelligence,” and hopes to get some acting lines as a breakthrough.
Daigle said that Rodrigues “has really exceeded my expectations” because the level of students’ skills have “risen dramatically.”
There are many aspects of sport karate, including kata, weapons, sparring and “tricking” (acrobatic movements) which Rodrigues has taught them, Daigle said.
“The kids are really eager to learn and Dante is really surprised how fast they are picking things up,” Daigle said. “They don’t want to stop training. They’re learning so much and it’s great to see.
“They’re like kids in a candy store. They have this teenage phenom, a guy not much older than them and a lot younger than me, demonstrating and inspiring them to do it as well.”
The kids were training for eight hours a day at karate camp and still going in on their days off to learn more.
“We have a lot of talent, such as Army Dacosta, who is only 7.” Daigle added. He also mentioned Max Cummings and brothers David and Joshua Steen.
The plan is to organize a club tournament here in October for the students to get some exposure. After another one, Daigle will invite other karate athletes on the island to compete. “Then we’ll invite the world. People from Jamaica, United States … and start putting on international competitions like we did in the ‘80s and ‘90s. It’ll give parents the chance to see their kids compete on home soil.”
Daigle intends to bring in one of the best junior black belt teams in the world. Team Emig is scheduled to visit Cayman in November to give his team master classes. Team Emig members have been in movies and were on ESPN recently.
Daigle added that he was appreciative of BDO for sponsoring Rodrigues’s plane ticket and also for helping to sponsor five children for the martial arts camp. He also thanked Rotary for sponsoring another five Caymanian kids. “It really paid off.”