Christine Bannon-Rodrigues of the Don Rodrigues Karate Academy in Warwick has had herself quite the summer.
Bannon-Rodrigues, who is a former world champion martial artist and is currently a trainer, official and product designer, received two major awards in the sport. She was given the Classic Award as well as a special Woman of Distinction Award at the US Open in Florida, recognizing the impact that she has made in karate in her 39-year career in the sport.
“I was very surprised to get these awards. It’s always nice to receive an award for beating someone and having the challenge of competition, so to be recognized by your peers and people in the sport in another way is great. I’m going on 40 years in martial arts and many of these people have been here longer than I have, so it’s nice to know that they respect you and admire what your accomplishments are,” said Bannon-Rodrigues.
Martial Arts have traditionally been a male-dominated sport, however, women have begun to be recognized more frequently in the past decade for their accomplishments. Bannon-Rodrigues was proud to part of that group, and to help build a strong foundation for female martial artists moving forward.
“It’s great to be able to say that you were the first to do something … but it’s even a little more special being able to say that you were the first female to do something and to pave the way for others. It’s great to be able to show these girls that they can accomplish these things and that this isn’t just a male sport,” said Bannon-Rodrigues, who is also happy to reach women of other countries and cultures as well.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a prejudice against women, but there are more men that compete. When there are issues regarding the women’s side of the sport, they will look to me for my opinion, but if it’s anything else then it’s a battle because you are dealing with men that don’t want to hear from women. The equality is better than it used to be, but it still feels great to go out there and show that women can be strong too, especially women from other countries.”
Bannon-Rodrigues’ husband, Don, who is the owner and founder of the academy, is also among those who have received the Classic Award. The pair became the first husband and wife to each receive the honor, as well as being the first married couple to be inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame.
“We’ve received many awards, but it still feels very nice knowing that we’re still being recognized after all of these years. She is starting to feel (the recognition) now. She went from being a great competitor, to a great teacher, a great promoter, a great product designer, she’s judging now … what greater impact could she make,” said Don.
Christine continues to be extremely active in the karate community, and plans on staying involved for a long time.
Although she has some personal goals that she hopes to achieve for herself, her ultimate goal remains the same: helping others through the sport.
“I enjoy it so it’s not like work. When I come here and do what I do, it’s work but I enjoy doing it. I work a lot of hours, it can be exhausting, but I truly love what I do. People always ask me, ‘what’s your next goal?’ I am still interested in doing stunt work, I’ve always wanted to write a book. Helping the students win titles though, that’s just as rewarding as when you are winning them yourself,” said Christine. “Watching kids transform into better people, those are nice goals to reach.”