SWORD FIGHTING: Danyel and Ashley Degenhardt form the main engine of Whakatane’s Haidong Gumdo Club, which has recently started fundraising for a trip to Korea in July. Photos Troy Baker D8320-080

NEW Zealand’s biggest Haidong Gumdo club is hoping to raise $30,000 so it can send competitors to Korea in July.

Whakatane Haidong Gumdo Club instructor Danyel Degenhardt says the club has seven members who will be representing Team New Zealand at World Mulimpia on July 11 to 19 in South Korea.

“We are training hard to compete in a variety of events, including individual and team patterns, individual and team paper cutting and bamboo cutting,” he says.

“This is only the second time New Zealand will be represented in World Mulimpia.”

Originally from Alberta in Canada, Danyel and wife Ashley immigrated to New Zealand on Anzac Day, 2015.

“We are both physiotherapists and we applied for jobs across all of New Zealand,” he says.

“We were both offered positions in Whakatane.”

Having done taekwondo, another Korean martial art, for one year in Canada, the couple joined the Whakatane Haidong Gumdo Club when it was started by Sean Cromwell in June 2016.

When Danyel joined the club, it was not without hesitation as he suffers from a painful and rare disease that has deformed a finger on his right hand.

“It started when I was 10 years old and later on the disease made me want to learn more about the body,” he says. “I worried about my ability to hold a sword for long periods of time.”

His search for a cure to the pain led him to study human kinetics and physiotherapy.

“I later developed a pain relief system through my work with the Bay of Plenty District Health Board,” he says. “Haidong Gumdo translates as ‘the enlightened sword,’ and it is the unification of the mind, body and spirit expressing itself through the use of the sword,” he says.

“By fully embracing and accepting my condition, it allowed me to focus on what I could do, instead of what I couldn’t do.”

Danyel took over the club in November 2018, one month after he got his black belt, when Sean moved to Gisborne. The club has recently become incorporated.

The students are now busy preparing for the international competition by performing sword patterns, paper cutting and bamboo cutting.

“We also do meditation and breathing exercise,” Danyel says. Both choreographed and competitive sparring are also included in the training.

“There are three gradings a year, with eight levels to black belt,” he says. This means the minimum required time for black belt is about three years.

People can assist the sword fighters with getting to Korea by donating money on the gogetfunding.com website, whkhaidonggumbo.