Building a scene

  • Courtesy Luis Soltren

    Local karate instructors look mean. From left are Rodney Woodward, Jack Markman, Lucky Ventar Jr., Joe Solis, Vance Pascua, Kenn Firestone, Luis Soltren and Adrian Labrador, all involved in the Kauai Open Martial Arts Tournament Saturday at 5 p.m. at Kukui Grove Center.

LIHUE — Local Mixed Martial Arts promoter Vance Pascua vividly recalls the last Kauai Open competition he participated in 20 years ago.

It was initially endorsed by long-standing promoter Pete Gallardo in 1999, but since then, it has lost two generations of on-island tournaments.

He doesn’t know the reasons behind the long-term hiatus of MMA on Kauai, but he does know he’s bringing the Kauai Open back.

Pascua’s latest promotion, the MMA tournament, is this weekend at Kukui Grove Center in the old Sports Authority location. It will feature Kata, open forms, Kumite fighting, and weapons forms competition.

Saturday is the Kauai Open Martial Arts Tournament and Sunday is the “Kauai Cage Match.” Doors open at 5 both nights.

Pascua said he isn’t just a promoter trying to make money off a tournament. More important to him is that he cultivates an MMA scene in Kauai, according to Luis Soltren, of IGK Hawaii.

“People think he makes money on promotions,” Soltren said. “He gets by donations, and what I give him and other people give him. He does this because he wants to stay true to his art.”

All is fair in combat

Soltren has seen several fight promotions go bad. In many cases, fighters can be paired unevenly, which can cause injury or even unnecessary death.

Pascua is running a fair fight, which is why Soltren has linked up to be one of his “cut men” behind his events.

“He doesn’t throw guys to the wolves,” Soltren said. “Just because a fighter is coming from another area doesn’t mean you don’t do anything for the fighter, it doesn’t mean you can’t feed them, provide them with a nice locker, with clean towels, and doctors there.”

Building a scene

Pascua, who also owns Ainofea Kauai, an active lifestyle clothing store at Kukui Grove Center, and Soltren, a contractor, teamed up to allow the MMA scene to grow.

Pascua is hoping tournaments like Kauai Open create an active scene in Hawaii, which he said has a lot of natural MMA talent.

“Through karate, we try to give these kids a goal-oriented approach to competing,” Pascua said. “A lot of these kids lack drive, and when a tournament is announced again, this gives them something to say ‘let’s get ready for it, and everyone benefits from this.”

The emphasis of karate and mixed martial arts is on camaraderie and respect, emphasized in the classroom, Soltren said.

“We need to reach out to other schools and create a brotherhood and support schools, and they can support children, and that is what this thing is all about is the kids,” Soltren said. “By supporting each other, we create something where the parents now have a choice to decide what school is right for their kid.”

Lessons learned

Soltren admits kids that come and train at IGK will not have an easy time earning their rank.

“We are hard on the kids because life is hard,” Soltren said. “That is why we are super hard on them, and we don’t want to baby them if you want your kids babysat, don’t bring them to IGK.”

Soltren and the rest of his IGK crew focus on changing a fighter’s mindset through discipline during combat.

“The parents see, and they appreciate that we are tough on them,” Soltren said. “However, at the end of the class, we never do a type without expressing love, and we bow for each other and greet each other, that is how we end every class. Many kids need that discipline.”

Tickets for the show start at $35 and will be available at the door and in advance at Pascua’s Ainofea Kauai store at Kukui Grove Center. Tickets for the match are also available at Pono Market in Kapaa and Wong’s Chinese Restaurant in Hanapepe.

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