JACOB STEWART has the World Eskrima Championships in his sights.
The 15-year-old Royds Hall student has picked up five national gold medals en route to selection for the British team.
Now, he is hoping to attract sponsorship to help him meet the £3,500 costs of travelling to the Philippines next July, where he has qualified to compete in the three different World Championships which are being staged concurrently in Cebu City.
It’s a fantastic achievement for Jacob – who has dyspraxia, affecting his co-ordination and speech – but he underlined his ability by recently passing his senior instructor grade.
This grade is normally taken only by people over the age of 16, because of the skill level required and the physical demand it puts on the body, but Jacob passed well ahead of schedule.
This year has been a continual story of success for the Lowerhouses teenager, who has been competing since the age of seven in the Philippine martial art, where people fight and train with 28in rattan sticks.
Earlier this month, Jacob starred at the British Eskrima Championships in Luton.
Despite his age, he entered the adult’s forms division and the cadets (16-18 years), fighting in both single and double sticks.
Forms is the routine where a competitor demonstrates their knowledge of the sport and their skills. To compete at adult level, where most of the competitors are instructors, it is very demanding, requiring a high level of technical skills, but Jacob put in the performance of his life and beat the field to take the gold.
In both fighting divisions, he had to compete against people who were older and a lot bigger than himself, but after a gruelling session of qualifying rounds he again won gold in both sections.
The success followed on from his appearance in the British Championships for a related variation of Eskrima, where instead of fighting in padded armour they compete without armour, but with padded sticks.
He entered two divisions, the forms and single stick, and again won gold in each.
Not surprisingly, he has once again been selected to compete on the British team next year, even though official selection for the World Championships does not take place until after the second qualifying competition next March.
He is hoping 2008 will be even better than this year, but much will hinge on whether he can get the backing needed to help cover costs of travelling to the Philippines.