Martial artist Rohan Surujdeo triumphed over his opponents at the Dragon Cup Caribbean X tournament held in August at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya.
Surujdeo, 17, captured the prized championship with a dazzling performance involving kicks, punches and concrete blocks, The black-belt holder took the top spot in the weapon category with a choreographed sequence of moves using the Bo-staff – a stick that is five-feet long. He also won the sparring category and placed third in the open kata event. Open kata is a choreographed sequence of moves using the hands and feet.
The Dragon Cup Caribbean X is an annual martial arts competition with a decade-long legacy. Spearheaded by Sifu Ronald Ramlochan, this event has evolved into a pivotal platform for martial artists to demonstrate their skills and compete at the highest level.
Surujdeo, who is a form-six student and head boy at Vishnu Boys’ Hindu College, Caroni, gets his skill training at Pandolin’s Martial Arts Academy at Rock River Road, St Helena Village, Piarco.
The academy, founded in 1987 by Gordon McAlpin, a seventh-degree black belt holder, has been an integral part of the Dragon Cup Caribbean X tournament since its inception. Pandolin specialises in Tiger System Karate which involves kicks, punches, blocks and more.
Speaking about his performance Surujdeo who is from Piarco said, “This is a momentous achievement for me, as it marks the first medals and trophies I’ve earned as a black belt.”
His motivation to participate in the competition stemmed from a desire to challenge himself against the best martial artists in the post-covid19 era.
“Given the unique circumstances posed by the pandemic, this major event provided an opportunity to test my skills and embrace the challenge. My primary goal was to push my own limits, with winning not being the sole objective. These accomplishments fuel my drive to pursue even more competitive endeavours,” he said.
The competition proved to be a formidable test, pitting Surujdeo against national-level competitors from both TT and the United States. He praised the calibre of the competitors and the judges who meticulously assessed their performances.
Beyond the dojo, Surujdeo pursues a range of interests and is focussed on academic excellence. He earned grade one in mathematics, add maths, physical education, biology and chemistry, and grade two in English, literature and physics in the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations.
His CAPE results include grade one in pure maths and physical education, with grade two in biology and Caribbean studies.
He has a passion for reading religious scriptures and medical books, and wants to become a physiotherapist. His cultural interests include performing bhajans, local classical songs, and traditional folk songs in temples and at Hindu religious events throughout the country. He began performing at St Helena Hindu School when, encouraged by his parents and teachers, he participated in the Baal Vikaas competition hosted annually by the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha. Surujdeo said his passion for singing is due to "the love of my culture.” He is also a member of the Vishnu Boys’ choir.
In his spare time, he instructs beginners at Pandolin’s academy in karate, and during school breaks he tutors other students through his involvement with the Sixth Form Association Services. This programme which was set up by the Ministry of Education is aimed at assisting students from standard three to form five in various subject areas.
Surujdeo said his grandfather is a major guiding force in his life. “I have no regrets; I am grateful for his guidance, which has sculpted the person I am today,”
His is thankful too to others who have contributed to his life. “My heartfelt thanks to God, my parents, my grandparents, and my instructors, Jerome McAlpin and Gordon McAlpin.”
Jerome, the head instructor of Pandolin’s Martial Arts Academy and a fifth-degree black-belt holder, commended Surujdeo on his winning performances. “His unwavering consistency is a testament to his remarkable skill,” Jerome said. The contest was fierce, he said, particularly in the division of Junior Black Belts (Under 18), but said Surujdeo stood out.
Looking forward, Jerome envisioned a future brimming with accomplishments for Surujdeo.
“His boundless potential extends to every endeavour he embarks upon. In the realm of karate, I foresee him continuing to excel, potentially representing our country on international platforms.”
In the pursuit of his goal to further excel in martial arts, Surujdeo's gaze is fixed on international competitions and also his personal growth.
“I am not beholden to any particular role model; my aspiration is to be the best version of myself.”